Exfoliative cheilitis is a reactive skin condition characterized by chronic peeling of the outer lips, as stated by DermNet NZ. The rare condition may affect one or both lips, but it is most common on the lower lip.
With exfoliative cheilitis, excessive keratin formation occurs on different areas of the lips at different rates, so there is always some degree of peeling, according to DermNet NZ. A hemorrhagic crust may also form, causing bleeding. Other associated symptoms include dryness, tingling, itching, fissuring and ulceration of the lips. If the cheilitis is painful, patients may have trouble speaking or eating. More severe episodes may be triggered by stressful events. Affected individuals may avoid social situations due to the unpleasant appearance of the condition.
Exfoliative cheilitis appears to affect men and women equally, and it is most common in individuals under age 30, as confirmed by DermNet NZ. It may be instigated by self-damaging behaviors such as biting, licking, picking or sucking the lips, or breathing through the mouth. The condition is common in individuals with personality and mood disorders.
Poor oral hygiene may also be a contributing factor, suggests DermNet NZ. One form of exfoliative cheilitis occurs with HIV infections and is associated with candida. These cases may benefit from antifungal treatments, but most cases of exfoliative cheilitis are resistant to treatment unless a predisposing condition can be addressed.