Dry lips are a common complaint during the winter months. The condition can be embarrassing and distressing when it is prolonged. The skin on the lips is very thin and does not contain many glands which secrete lubrication. Thus the skin is easily dehydrated and prone to dryness. In most cases the cause of dry lips is obvious but in some cases, the cause is never found.
The common features of dry lips are:
Cracked lips. Lines and fissures along the lips indicate that the lips are dry. Many times the lines are only present in the corner of the mouth but in severe cases, the lines may be visible along the entire lip.
Lip licking. Frequently licking the outer lips with your tongue is a sign of drying (unless you are trying to covey a sexy message). Most individuals with dry lips will continuously lick the lips to prevent them from drying up.
Peeling: When drying is moderate to severe, the skin on the lips will start to peel; this usually starts off in the center of lips where the skin is the most fragile
Cracking: Cracking of the skin along the corners is a common feature of lip dryness
Bleeding: Frequently, the lips will tend to bleed during the drying; the lips also become tender at this point
Open ulcers or sores are also common feature of prolonged skin dryness.
Causes of lip dryness
The causes of lip dryness are many and in most cases the dryness is only of a transient duration.
The major causes of lip dryness include:
Weather: Dry and cool weather with low humidity is one of the major causes of dry lips. Even very hot weather with low humidity can cause the same problem
Dehydration: Individuals who do not drink enough water are prone to dehydration; this is more common in the elderly and sports athletes.
Sun: Excessive exposure to the sun can cause damage to the skin and lips. The lips can develop thinning and fine lines mainly from the evaporation of the water from the skin
Winds: Winds can cause excessive dryness by evaporating the water from the skin.
Smoking- this universal evil not only dries the lips but prolonged exposure can cause lip cancer
Chewing: Constantly chewing tobacco, gums or candy eventually leads to dryness of mouth and lips
Vitamin deficiencies: Lip dryness is associated with a deficiency of multiple nutrients, the most common of which are lack of vitamin B and Vitamin C
Allergy: Lip dryness is often associated with the use of numerous cosmetic creams and skin care products. It appears that the adverse reactions of these chemicals causes itching, redness and dry lips.
Ill-fitting dentures: many elderly individuals have ill fitting dentures and develop not only lip dryness but trauma to the inside of the oral cavity.
Foods: there are some spicy and hot foods that can cause lip dryness in some individuals.
Medications. There are numerous medications which can cause lip dryness. The most common are the anti psychotics, anti depressants and some medications used to treat high blood pressure (diuretics)
Diabetes can cause an increase in urination and thirsty. When the individual fails to replenish the fluid, sever dehydration can occur. Often the lips in diabetic individuals re very parched and dry.
Collagen vascular disorders: there are various disorders like Sjogren's, scleroderma and Crest syndrome which can damage the tear glands and cause drying of the eyes, nose, and lips
Herpes infections produces pain vesicles and also causes drying of the skin
Eczema: contact dermatitis and dryness may either be a localized feature or part of a systemic illness