Patients will often describe how perleche feels as though the corners of their mouths almost crack as they open their mouths to yawn. Perleche, also known as angular cheilitis, is the term for dry cracked corners of the mouth. There are several reasons this can occur. Understanding why it happens can help determine the best treatment as well as preventative options to reduce the chances of it recurring. Read more...
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What is perleche?
Perleche, also known as angular cheilitis, is the medical term for cracked corners of the mouth. It is relatively common and can be really uncomfortable. There can be varying degrees of how inflamed the corners of the mouth can get. Patients will describe it as though they go to open their mouths to yawn and the corners of their mouths just crack or feel really sore.
Who is at risk for developing dry cracked corners of the mouth?
“Mouth breathers” sleep with their mouth slightly open at night. Saliva can build up at the corners of their mouth and start to break down or macerate this delicate skin. If this goes on long enough, a yeast infection can develop called perleche. This is a form of candidiasis.
In my experience, the following patients tend to be at risk for perleche.
Patients that wear a mouthguard at night.
Patients with braces.
Patients with allergies.
Patients on Accutane (Isotretinoin).
Patients with dentures.
Patients that consume a high-sugar diet.
How can perleche be treated?
The treatment for perleche depends on its severity. Early on, barrier methods such as white petrolatum or Desitin can help. However, once it has progressed it is important to treat both the yeast as well as the inflammatory component. Talk to your Dermatologist as a prescription option will likely be more effective to clear the area quickly.
How is it best to prevent perleche?
The key to preventing perleche is anticipating the problem. If you are a mouth breather, try applying Vaseline, Aquaphor, or a diaper rash cream to the corners of your mouth before bedtime. This can serve as a barrier to protect your skin from breaking down and getting irritated.