What Health Problems Do Chapped Lips Indicate?

Chapped lips can lead to the skin on your lips cracking, bleeding and peeling. Everyone gets chapped lips at one time or another. Chapped lips can also indicate underlying illnesses or conditions that you may not know about, such as dehydration, vitamin deficiency or more serious conditions, if they’re very persistent and do not respond to home treatments. If lip balm or lip ointment doesn’t seem to help, consult your physician as you may have a more serious condition.


Pellagra results from a niacin, or vitamin B3, deficiency, according DermNet NZ 1. Pellagra is typically marked by diarrhea, mental confusion and dermatitis. If left untreated, the condition can lead to death. Pellagra can occur from not receiving an adequate amount of niacin or from having a chronic condition such as ulcerative colitis, which prevents your body from absorbing niacin. This condition can affect your lips, tongue and gums. Your skin may become thick and hardened, resulting in cracking and bleeding. Oral and intravenous niacin effectively treats pellagra, while vitamin B3 supplements are required for a complete recovery 1. Secondary pellagra, which arises from chronic conditions, is harder to treat because the causative issue needs to be addressed, too, before you can begin recovery.

Angular Cheilitis

Angular cheilitis, a common inflammatory condition, affects the corners of your mouth, according to DermNet NZ 2. This condition is caused by several factors such as chapped lips, dribbling saliva, overhang of your upper lip or proliferation of viral infections such as cold sores or bacterial infections such as impetigo and yeast. Generally, those with sensitive skin, the elderly and those who are malnourished are at the most risk of developing angular cheilitis 2. Licking your lips in hopes to restore moisture only make the condition worse, as your saliva quickly evaporates on your lips, causing more dryness. You may experience cracked, bleeding lips, blisters and redness. Most of the time this condition will go away on its own, according to DermNet NZ, but you may need to frequently apply lip balm or use a topical anti-fungal cream or steroid ointment.

Kawasaki Disease

Kawasaki disease primarily affects children under the age of five, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians, and can lead to heart damage if it’s not caught right away or left untreated 3. The exact cause of this condition remains unknown. Kawasaki disease can cause fever, chapped lips, irritation of the throat, swelling of the neck and redness in the whites of the eyes. Some children have no symptoms at all. If your child experiences symptoms of Kawasaki disease, she must be tested to rule out other conditions before a proper diagnosis can be made. For treatment of Kawasaki disease, your child will need to stay in the hospital for a few days while doctors deliver high doses of aspirin and a special drug named IVIG.