Why Chapped Lips Could Be A Sign Of Something More Serious

Dry skin is one of the most frustrating skin problems we face. Dry face, dry eyes, but worst of all, dry lips. Peeling and cracked dry lips are not only frustrating in how they look, but also because of how painful they can be. Burning, bleeding, and constant peeling are just a few of the painful side effects that people with chapped lips experience.

Dry lips are often caused by environmental factors such as a change in the weather, low humidity in your home, or even excessive lip licking and biting. These reasons for chapped lips are common and often fixed with a hydrating lip moisturizer and by increasing water intake. Unfortunately, there are some conditions much more serious that can cause chapped lips that do not go away with traditional hydration methods. Prolonged chapped lips with no relief can be the first warning sign on your face that something more serious is happening or has happened to your body.

Serious reasons your lips could be chapped

Chapped lips are a common condition, but when they are constantly chapped without relief or reason, it may be a sign of something much more serious happening to your body. According to Healthline, dry lips are one of the most common side effects of cheilitis. Cheilitis is a severe condition "often attributed to infections and inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn's disease." Along with dry lips, people with cheilitis often experience red lips, lumpy lips, ulcers, and white plaques on the surface. If you experience these symptoms together, it is best to see a doctor to confirm if you have an underlying inflammatory disease or infection.

Another serious condition that often first outwardly appears as chapped lips is thyroid disease — in the form of low thyroid function. Low thyroid function causes drier skin and lips overall, but lips usually take the brunt as the skin is more delicate. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism include tiredness, weight gain, constantly feeling cold, and general weakness. If you experience any of these along with chapped lips, head to the doctor to get your thyroid levels checked.

Severely chapped lips with little relief can also be a warning sign of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. These can be determined through blood tests. According to Healthline, some of the most common nutrient deficiencies that cause dry lips are iron deficiency, zinc deficiency, and lack of B vitamins.

When to be concerned about your chapped lips

The lips are much more delicate than the rest of your skin as "the wet shiny part of our lips is covered, not with normal skin, but with a thin delicate mucous membrane" that is much more susceptible to dryness, says Kaplan MD. This is why they tend to be one of the first places on your body that can become affected when your body is fighting something internally. If your lips are staying chapped for long periods of time with little to no relief from hydrating ointments, it is time to see a doctor. 

This also goes for if your chapped lips seem to be getting worse for no reason (no changes in weather, products, or hydration levels). Be urgently concerned if your chapped lips are in conjunction with other symptoms such as ulcers, headaches, constipation, lightheadedness, and weakness. These are all common symptoms of more severe conditions.

What can be done about severely chapped lips

Oftentimes, for minorly chapped lips, you can use an at-home lip balm or ointment while increasing your water intake to help solve chapped lips fast. Unfortunately, in severe cases that stem from deeper problems, this will not help the problem — though it may lessen the severity. Depending on what is causing your severely chapped lips, the best remedies will be different.

For example, if you are diagnosed with cheilitis (which is the most common reason dry lips will not go away), the doctor will need to determine what treatment is best for you depending on the reason behind the cheilitis. If the underlying cause of your cheilitis is Crohn's disease, it cannot be completely cured — as there is no cure for Crohn's. Instead, the National Institutes of Health says that cheilitis is treated through a therapeutic temporary relief option of oral or locally injected corticosteroids. If your cheilitis is caused by an infection, it can be treated with an antibiotic to cure the infection, hence curing your lips.

Other common reasons for chapped lips include vitamin deficiencies and low thyroid function. Both have daily routines that can improve the condition in total, therefore improving the condition of your lips. Specifically, there is no cure for low thyroid function either, but it is a treatable condition that can be managed and symptoms (fortunately) can be controlled. Luckily, no matter what is causing your severely chapped lips, once doctors can get to the bottom of the cause, there's a good chance they can nip it at the source.