Angular Cheilitis: Is it a One-sided Battle?

When I used to be plagued by acne (yes, I had that skin condition, too), I would always say a small prayer that it would not spread. The right side of my face was much more prone to pimples but I was always concerned that the left side would follow suit and also become a zit magnet. Although I was very self-conscious about the right side, of course, and did everything in my power to clear the area, at least I could do my best to show the world my left profile whenever possible although it was difficult to always talk on an angle.

So you may be looking at your reflection, noticing angular cheilitis on one side of your mouth, and wondering whether you’ll soon have a matching pair of inflamed lesions. Let me reassure that the ‘damage’ may stay limited to one side, and need not simultaneously relocate to the other side. However, for containment purposes, be aware of the 3 primary ways that angular cheilitis, and its underlying baneful microorganisms, can gleefully spread its wings:

1) Licking lips – Do not allow your tongue to roam outside its orifice. It must remain in the mouth because the tongue, while it contains some beneficial substances, such as electrolytes, enzymes, and even antibacterial compounds, also contains some unsavory microbes. These germs can continue to wreak havoc on that one affected side and find another home on the other side of your mouth.

2) Touching – Once you see angular cheilitis on one side, you have to do everything possible to refrain from touching it. In fact, the only time you should make contact with the area is if you decide to use a topical treatment, and before such application, make sure you follow physician-like antiseptic procedures, such as scrubbing your hands. It may even be preferable to use a cotton swab or sterile gloves. Touching a contaminated surface, like angular cheilitis (sorry to be blunt) will make germ transfer so much easier – and you don’t want that to transpire. Moreover, your hands have their own germs, and placing them on any side of your lips can lead to cross contamination.

3) Gliding lip balm and similar products across the lips – Transporting those sinister bacterium or fungi does not seem sensible. While you may find such products comforting, capable of relieving some of the pain of perleche, you must realize that germs can be transferred to the topical and hitch a ride to the other side of the mouth. This is why we are all given the warning not to share lip-related items, tooth brushes, and even drinks because of the likelihood of germ transfer.

You need not become a germaphobe and develop an obsessive-compulsive personality pertaining to potentially harmful microorganisms. Exercising grounded common sense and implementing smart hygiene habits will go a long way in minimizing perleche pervasiveness.

In summary, there may only be one side of the mouth that angular cheilitis affects, and your modus operandi will either encourage or discourage the spread of bacteria and fungi. And remember, it’s easier to defeat one-sided angular cheilitis than two-sided perleche, and I’m not speaking out of both sides of my mouth when I make that declaration.