Perleche, also known as angular cheilitis, is a disease characterized by sores or "crusts" at the labial commissure or corners of the mouth. The irritation is usually associated with a fungal or bacterial infection. Perleche is not contagious.
Perleche affects people of all ages but particularly the elderly as the drooping of the corners of the mouth causes pooling of saliva - a moist environment that is ideal for the proliferation of fungus. A variety of other conditions can also promote the development of perleche including:
- high sugar diet (candy, sweet beverages etc.)
- dry mouth
- repeatedly licking one's lips
- injury (dental work, surgery, etc.)
- poor oral hygiene
- immune disorders
The symptoms of perleche are most commonly associated with extreme dryness which causes cracking, fissuring and bleeding at the corners of the mouth. This may cause a crust to form as well as redness. It may also become difficult to open one's mouth in a normal fashion and some individuals even experience difficulty eating.
Perleche is diagnosed by a medical professional. A physician will be able to visually diagnose the infection but may also take a sample to determine whether the source of the perleche is bacterial or fungal.
Treatment typically includes a mouthwash and the application of an antifungal or antibacterial gel or cream on the lesions. Oral medications are occasionally prescribed. Treatment differs slightly based on the origin of the perleche. It is important that you not lick or wet the lesions on the lips, as it may worsen the irritation.