Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Recurrent Cheilitis in a 37 yo Woman

Abstract: 37 yo woman with 18 year recurrent cheilitis

HPI: This 37 yo woman has had recurrent cheilitis for 18 – 20 years. She works as a medical assistant. At one time, she was thought to be latex sensitive because blowing up balloons makes her feel sick, but a RAST test was negative. The episodes last five to six days. The day before the present episode she had eaten a “Mediterranean Dip” which included cucumber, garlic, feta, tomato, and horseradish. She noted nothing till the next morning when there was mild erythema of upper lip. She may have a history of mild atopic dermatitis. She can recall no meds she took before this or other episodes.

O/E: Erythema and mild crusting of lips and adjacent glabrous skin. Remainder of exam normal. Occasionally she’ll have mild erythema around outer canthi.


Lab/Path: N/A

Diagnosis: ? Allergic Cheilitis. Role of Foods? Doubt Fixed Drug Eruption. To me this looks like an allergic contact cheilitis.

Questions: What would be the best way to work this up? This woman has 3 - 4 episodes per year, so it is unlikely that her cheilitis is related to something whe uses daily, and she does not recall anything she applies only intermittently.

Allergic contact cheilitis in the United Kingdom: a retrospective study.
Strauss RM, Orton DI.

Am J Contact Dermat. 2003 Jun;14(2):75-7.
Abstract: Environmental and Contact Dermatitis Unit, Amersham Hospital, Whielden Street,
Amersham, Buckinghamshire, HP7 0JD, United Kingdom.

BACKGROUND: To date, only a few cohorts of patients with allergic cheilitis have
been described, most of them from Australia and Asia. OBJECTIVE: To establish the
prevalence of cheilitis in a UK specialist contact dermatitis clinic and to
identify the most common allergens. METHOD: We analyzed our patch-test database
in a tertiary referral center in the United Kingdom, retrospectively. All
patients presenting with cheilitis over a 19-year period (1982 to 2001) were
included. RESULTS: Data were available from a total of 146 patients. A positive
allergic patch-test reaction was thought to be relevant in 15% of the patients (n
= 22) and to be of possible relevance in 6.8% (n = 10). Of the 22 patients with
relevant allergic results, 95% (n = 21) were women. The most common allergens
included fragrance mix (mainly cinnamaldehyde, oak moss, and isoeugenol) in 41%
of patients, shellac in 18%, colophony in 18%, and Myroxylon pereirae in 14%. For
half of the patients, the allergen was believed to stem from lipsticks or lip
products. Eighteen percent of patients with allergic cheilitis reacted to only
their own products. CONCLUSIONS: Patients should be tested to extended
lipstick/cosmetic vehicle series in addition to standard series. As a significant
percentage of patients react to their own products only, a thorough clinical
history and testing to patients' own products are important.


  1. This contact dermatitis in a patient with atopic tendency.The relapses could be related to to irritant or sensitizer in foods.Even seasonal variation could have a role

    khalifa sharquie

  2. Ashok Kumar SharmaApril 04, 2008

    Although it is good to rule out sensitivity to potentially sensitizing agents like latex and food items in this case, I personally feel she may be having 'Lip-lick eczema'. The atopic background supports sensitivity to various allergens and also lip-lick eczema. Try counselling her to stop this habit which she may deny in the first place.

  3. Don't forget about toothpaste allergy. Are you going to patch test?

    Steve Higgins

  4. does she have acanothis nigricans ?
    although its not typical , inoticed some vegetative lesions on the lips?

  5. Definitely would patch test to flavorings, standard tray, etc. But "liplickers cheilitis" seems most likely.

  6. lip-lick dermatitis seems to be a good possibility here. I have seen similar presentations in young children, especially girls. the patient needs to be counselled, and management with emollients should help her out.


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