Causes Of Actinic Cheilitis: What Are Its Symptoms And Treatment?

Actinic cheilitis is caused due to long exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun over the period of time. Hence people such as farmers, construction workers or labourers who work in sunlight for a long time for many years are more likely to develop actinic cheilitis.
Other contributing factors which play a vital role in the development of actinic cheilitis are tobacco addiction,  ill fitting dentures and irritation of the lips that may last for a long period of time. Poor oral hygiene is also responsible for actinic cheilitis.

Signs And Symptoms Actinic Cheilitis

  • White discoloration of lips is noticed.
  • Thickening of lips.
  • Border between lips and skin loses it’s sharpness.
  • Lip becomes scaly and sometimes indurated.
  • Lower lip is more affected than upper lip.
  • Older males and fair people with history of sun exposure are more prone to develop actinic cheilitis.
  • Lesion is painless and persistent.
  • Affected lip becomes dry and may be cracked.
  • Perioral tissue can get affected.
  • Non-healing ulcerative lesions can be seen.
  • Lower lip appears swollen with the absence of vermilion border. (The sharp border between lip and skin is called vermilion border).
  • White striations are seen on lower lip.
  • There may be pigmentation.

Complications: Actinic cheilitis is a premalignant condition which may result in squamous cell carcinoma. If left untreated about ten percent of patients develop squamous cell carcinoma.

Diagnosis: Doctor will advise biopsy of the affected tissue. Histological examination is done to rule out squamous cell carcinoma and to confirm the diagnosis of actinic cheilitis.

Treatment For Actinic Cheilitis

Consult your dermatologist or oral surgeon immediately to start prompt treatment. Early detection and treatment will help you to prevent development of squamous cell carcinoma.

Actinic cheilitis is an irreversible condition. It is treated with medication or vermilionectomy or laser therapy or cryosurgery.

  • Avoid long sun exposure if possible. Stay in shaded areas.
  • Wear broad brimmed hat while working in the sun.
  • Apply sunscreen lotion generously after every four hours.
  • Apply protective lip balm.
  • Cover your face with cotton cloth to protect it from ultraviolet rays.
  • Avoid smoking and tobacco abuse.
  • Examine your lips regularly. If you notice any changes then consult your doctor.
  • Apply lip moisturizer and then apply ghee or butter or coconut oil on lips before exposing yourself to the sun which will protect your lips to some extent and keep them soft. One can also apply aloe vera gel.
  • Eat diet rich in antioxidants which help prevent cancer. Fruits like blueberries, strawberries, guava and plum are rich in antioxidants. Vegetables such as cabbage, spinach, beetroot and broccoli should be included in your diet.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep yourself well hydrated.
  • Local application of vitamin E oil will soften the lips.

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