Cut in the mouth

We can Rid You of that Lump in Your Mouth you Keep Biting

Biting the inside of your cheek is high on the list of minor but painfully irritating occurrences like paper cuts or tongue scalding from hot coffee. A mouth bite, though, has an additional tormenting feature — there’s a good chance you’ll bite the same spot again.

This kind of repeated mouth injury results in an enlargement of the soft tissue that has been traumatized. They’re often diagnosed and referred to as a traumatic fibroma. When you bite your cheek, lips or tongue, you create a small wound that usually heals quickly. This healing process, though, can be interrupted if you bite the area again, which can then cause excess scar tissue to form.

The fibrous scar tissue, made up of a protein called collagen, is similar to a callous. You can often feel it with your tongue — a knot of tough skin that protrudes from the otherwise flat cheek wall. Because of this prominence, it tends to get in the “line of fire” during eating or biting, so you’ll bite it again — and again. If this cycle continues, then even a more prominent scar tissue forms that you’re more likely to bite again.

The wound will heal most of the time, unless you continually bite it. If it becomes a nagging problem, we can surgically remove the lump. After numbing the area with local anesthesia, we’ll either use a laser or scalpel to remove it. The area is easy to fix and will flatten out the cheek surface. The entire procedure takes fifteen minutes or less and in a few days to a week you won’t even notice it had been there.

While the vast majority of these lesions are harmless, it’s still standard protocol to biopsy the removed tissue: a pathologist examines it under a microscope for cancer cells. This is a routine part of any medical practice and not a cause for alarm.

If you’ve had a lump for awhile that you always seem to be biting, see us for an examination. With a simple procedure, we may be able to remove that irritation once and for all.

If you would like more information on treating mouth lumps and other sores, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Common Lumps and Bumps in the Mouth.”

What Are Mouth Lesions?

Sores on your mouth, lips, tongue and inner cheek are often caused by viral infections or minor injury.

Mouth lesions and sores rarely require immediate emergency medical attention, but they can be painful and embarrassing, especially if the sores are visible. A person with a mouth or tongue lesion has lumps, bumps, little ulcers, or cuts or sores inside or outside the mouth and lips.

The first thing to do if you have a painful mouth is to identify the source because there are many different kinds of mouth sores. Open your mouth and take a look inside, preferably in bright light with a magnifying mirror.

Sores can occur anywhere in the mouth, including the bottom of the mouth, inner cheeks, gums, lips, tongue, and the back of the throat. The sores may be very red, swollen, bleeding, oozing pus, or may have small white patches in the middle. Pull your tongue out to check for lacerations or swelling on the top, bottom, and sides.

Symptoms of mouth problems include pain and soreness, as well as a mouth and gums that look red, shiny, or swollen. You may notice small ulcers or sores in the mouth, on gums, or on or under your tongue. You may also see white patches or pus in your mouth or experience a sore throat or dryness of the mouth and throat.

What causes mouth sores and lesions?

Viral and fungal infections are the main cause of mouth sores. Two of the most common causes of recurrent oral lesions are fever blisters (also known as cold sores) and canker sores. Cold sores on the mouth are likely caused by the herpes simplex virus 1, or herpes, which affects nearly two-thirds of all adults worldwide. Canker sores are small mouth ulcers that usually go away by themselves.

Sores on the tongue or inside the mouth may also be caused or exacerbated by other infections, inflammation, stress, or, very rarely, cancer. Sometimes mouth sores ooze pus or bleed. Bleeding may sometimes occur if the ulceration is severe, irritated by an external agent or treatment, or infected.

If you are experiencing mouth cuts and sores and don’t have an underlying condition, try troubleshooting your dental care and hygiene habits. Some mouth sores and lesions are caused by sharp or broken teeth, dentures that don’t fit correctly, or braces with protruding wires.

Gritting or gnashing your teeth, especially while sleeping, can cause tiny bites on the inside of your cheeks. Gum disease and inflammation can cause bleeding in and around the gumline, and the blood might travel to your lips and the corners of your mouth.

Biting your tongue or chewing your lips can cause pain, swelling, and even small cuts. So can drinking hot liquids, ingesting acidic food and drinks, smoking cigarettes and cigars, and consuming alcoholic beverages. Brushing or flossing too vigorously or using a hard toothbrush can cause painful bleeding of the gums and mouth tissue.

Exposure to ultraviolet rays can also cause damage to the lips and skin around the mouth. Dry, cracked lips are prone to bleeding, especially in the corners, so always use a lip balm or lotion with SPF 15 or higher to create a moisture barrier and avoid sunburn.

Most mouth sores and blisters can be treated at home, either by avoiding the offending behavior or changing your habits. Self-treatment for mouth or tongue lesions may include swapping your hard toothbrush for a soft one, brushing and flossing more gently, or wearing a night guard to protect soft cheek tissue skin from teeth.

If you are prone to canker sores or bleeding cuts in your mouth area, try avoiding hot, acidic, or abrasive foods until they heal. Saltwater rinses, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin), or ice on the affected area can help alleviate pain. Medicated lip balms, especially those formulated for herpes 1 and canker sores, can also help. If these treatments don’t work and you are still experiencing persistent painful sores in your mouth area, see your primary care doctor or dentist. You may need antibiotics, stronger antiviral medication, an antiseptic mouthwash, or surgery.

We’ve all been there. You’re having a meal or a snack, chewing on something while having a conversation with a friend or loved one when suddenly you find that you’ve bitten your cheek or lip! There’s nothing quite like that initial bloom of pain. Maybe it’s not quite as bad as a stubbed toe or stepping on a Lego in the middle of the night, but it’s definitely up there.

Fortunately, while your mouth may be painful for a few days, it usually won’t bleed much, and the saliva in your mouth actually helps most such injuries to heal pretty quickly. There are also a few things that you can do to help reduce discomfort and speed the healing process along. In certain cases, you might require medical attention. So here are a few tips from your friendly Overland Park dentist on what to do in the event that you bite your lip, cheek, or tongue:

First things first: Seek medical help if the wound is big enough that food particles or other debris can get stuck in it, if bleeding doesn’t stop after you’ve applied ice or light pressure, and if you have broken or loose teeth or signs of swelling or infection in the days following the initial injury. If you aren’t facing any of that, then you’ll simply want to take steps to keep yourself comfortable and reduce the risk of infection until the body can heal itself.

For injuries to your cheek, lips, or tongue that aren’t so serious, the first thing to do is to wash your hands. Always wash your hands thoroughly before touching a wound or performing first aid of any kind. Next, apply a little pressure to the area with ice or a cold compress. This can help stop bleeding and reduce pain and swelling.

To help with pain and prevent infection, you can rinse your mouth with mouthwash. The same antibacterial qualities that help mouthwash clean your teeth and gums can also help to prevent infection in the event of an injury. Listerine is particularly good at helping small mouth wounds and sores to heal. You can also rinse with salt water. Combine one cup of warm water with one teaspoon of salt and swish the concoction around in your mouth for 15 or 20 seconds. Repeat as needed.

If the pain is still bothering you, you can sometimes take an over-the-counter pain reliever, if it’s been okayed by your doctor. But perhaps the most important thing to do is to contact your dentist or physician right away if the wound gets infected or becomes more serious.

Any time you have an injury in your mouth, it’s probably a good idea to see your Overland Park dentist, or at least give us a call at (913) 338-3384 to let us know what’s up. While small bites and other injuries may not be anything serious, Watts Family Dental is concerned with your total oral health, and we always want to hear about anything that may be bothering you.

Cold Sore or Pimple? How to Spot the Difference

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If you notice that you have a small bump growing on or near your mouth, you might be tempted to pick at it and try to get rid of it. But before you try to pop it, it would be a good idea to first find out what type of skin condition it is. Learning how to tell the difference between a cold sore and a pimple is a good place to start.

How to Tell if It’s a Cold Sore or a Pimple

Cold sores and pimples do share certain similarities in appearance, which can sometimes make it difficult to tell which one is which. But actually, pimples and cold sores have very little in common:

A pimple is caused by the buildup of bacteria and overproduction of oils within your pores. When a pore gets clogged up with dead skin cells and excess oil, you get a pimple that sometimes fills with pus. Pimples aren’t contagious though, and they aren’t caused by any kind of virus.

Cold sores, on the other hand, are caused by a virus called herpes simplex one (HSV-1). It’s a very common infection that is generally acquired in one’s childhood and has no cure. These sores form in a single painful sore or a cluster of sores that are filled with clear liquid. With a cold sore, you’ll start to feel a tingling or burning sensation even before it appears.

Causes of Cold Sores and Pimples

Pimples – There is a bacterium called Propionibacterium acnes that contributes to the cause of your pimples or acne. Pimples like whiteheads or blackheads that either have a pocket of white-looking pus or a pinpoint of black at the top are known as noninflammatory acne. If you have inflammatory acne, the pimple will look like a much bigger painful bump that is surrounded by redness and filled with pus.

Cold Sores – You can get a cold sore by becoming infected from someone who has the HSV-1 virus. Transmission can occur by direct contact such as kissing someone, or by touching a contaminated item such as a drinking glass, a utensil, or sharing a towel that has remnants of the infection on it.

Triggers and Risk Factors for Cold Sores

Not everyone who has the HSV-1 virus gets cold sores. Sometimes the infection lies dormant in your body and remains inactive after the initial infection. Sometimes, however, periodic outbreaks do occur. These outbreaks can be triggered by certain risk factors such as:

  • Stress
  • Lack of sleep
  • Poor eating habits
  • Dehydration
  • Illness such as a cold or a flu
  • Fever
  • Hormonal changes or menstruation
  • Exposure to the elements like hot or cold weather
  • Auto-immune health issues

Can a Pimple Turn into a Cold Sore?

No. A pimple can’t turn into a cold sore. This is because they are two completely different skin conditions that don’t have a common connection. Although a pimple may resemble a cold sore, especially during the blister stage, they are not related to each other and have a different origin.

Prevention for Cold Sores and Pimples

Preventing pimples and cold sores have many things in common. Steps you can take to prevent either from occuring include building up your immune system, avoiding the harsh elements of the sun and wind, and taking good care of your skin.

To prevent blackheads and whiteheads, keep your face clean and moisturize your skin daily. You can also try steaming your face to expand your pores and open up any potential blockages.

For cold sores, essential oils such as tea tree oil or the use of aloe vera can help soothe and protect an active blister.

Other preventative measures include:

  • Cleaning your face with an oatmeal/honey scrub
  • Keeping your lips healthy and avoid dryness, cracking, or lip damage
  • Limiting use of makeup or use a water-based foundation that doesn’t clog pores
  • Not touching your face to avoid contaminating it with potentially harmful bacteria
  • Reducing stress that can cause breakouts

Experiencing pimples or cold sores? PlushCare doctors can help! Book an appointment with a PlushCare physician and get your prescription today.

Lip Cancer

When diagnosed early, lip cancer has an excellent prognosis and can potentially be cured by either surgery or radiation therapy. Later stages may also be treated with surgery or radiation or a combination of the two. Chemotherapy and targeted therapies may also be used, particularly for more advanced disease.

Emergency treatment is rarely needed for lip cancer, unless the cancer has spread and is interfering with the function of a vital organ. During chemotherapy, however, the white blood cell count can fall. Since white blood cells fight off infection, this can increase your risk of getting an infection and having it become serious. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as high fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit), excessive bleeding, change in level of consciousness, rapid heartbeat, or lethargy.

Seek prompt medical care if you are having difficulty eating or drinking; have a sore that does not heal, produces pus, or bleeds easily; have a lump on your lip, in your mouth, or on your neck; have a thickened or discolored area on the lip; or if you have any other symptoms that concern you.

What are the symptoms of lip cancer?

The most common symptom of lip cancer is a sore on the lip that does not heal. Other symptoms, such as lumps or discolored areas, can occur on the lips. Lip cancer that has spread can cause symptoms in the mouth, neck and other areas of the body.

Common symptoms of lip cancer

Lip cancer symptoms commonly involve the lip, but may involve other areas as they spread. Common lip cancer symptoms include:

  • Bleeding from the lip

  • Discoloration of an area of the lip

  • Enlarged lymph nodes

  • Lip sore that does not heal

  • Lump in the lip

  • Numbness, tingling, or pain of the lip

  • Swelling in the jaw or mouth

  • Thickened area on the lip

Symptoms that might indicate a serious condition

Left untreated, lip cancer can result in serious conditions. Seek prompt medical care if you, or someone you are with, have bleeding that does not stop, persistent or unusual symptoms, or trouble eating, drinking or swallowing. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms including:

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  • Change in level of consciousness

  • Excessive bleeding

  • High fever (higher than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)

  • Lethargy

  • Rapid heartbeat

What causes lip cancer?

The specific cause of lip cancer is unknown, but several factors, such as tobacco and alcohol use, are associated with its development.

Squamous cells cover the lip, and are the most likely cells to develop into lip cancer, although lip cancer can also be caused by other types of cells found in the area. On rare occasions, cells from other parts of the body will travel to the lip. While these cancers form on the lip, they are not considered lip cancer; rather, they are considered metastases from the original cancer.

What are the risk factors for lip cancer?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing lip cancer. Not all people with risk factors will get lip cancer. Risk factors for lip cancer include:

  • Age over 40 years

  • Alcohol use

  • Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) infection


  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection

  • Male gender

  • Occupational exposure to known toxins

  • Oral sex, which may spread HPV infection to the mouth area

  • Sun exposure

  • Tobacco use

Reducing your risk of lip cancer

Individually, alcohol and tobacco each contribute to the risk of lip cancer. When combined, the risk is even greater. Some risk factors for lip cancer are modifiable.

You may be able to lower your risk of lip cancer by:

  • Adverse effects of anticancer treatment

  • Avoiding excessive sun exposure

  • Avoiding unprotected sexual contact to decrease your risk of HPV infection

  • Quitting smoking and use of tobacco products

  • Reducing your alcohol consumption

  • Wearing sunscreen on your lips

How is lip cancer treated?

Early lip cancers may be treated by surgical removal of the cancer or with radiation therapy. More advanced cancers require more aggressive surgery, which also involves removing lymph nodes and other tissue from the same or both sides of the neck, radiation therapy, or a combination of the two. Chemotherapy and targeted therapy may be used in addition to other treatments.

The goal of lip cancer treatment is to cure the cancer permanently or to bring about a complete remission of the disease. Remission means that there is no longer any sign of the disease in the body, although it may recur later.

Common treatments for lip cancer

Depending on the spread of disease, one or more of the following treatments may be used:

  • Chemotherapy, often with cisplatin (Platinol), alone or in combination with other drugs, to attack cancer cells

  • Radiation therapy to attack cancer cells

  • Surgery to remove the cancer and evaluate how far it has spread

  • Targeted therapy to attack cancer cells

Some people with lip cancer participate in clinical trials in which promising new therapies and treatments are studied.

Other treatments for lip cancer

Other therapies may be added to help with your general state of health and any side effects of treatment:

  • Antinausea medications if nausea occurs

  • Blood cell growth factors to increase the number of white blood cells if these get too low during treatment

  • Blood transfusions to temporarily replace blood components such as red blood cells that have dropped to low levels as a result of treatment

  • Dietary counseling to help maintain strength and nutritional status

  • Occupational and physical therapy to help with swallowing problems

Complementary treatments

Some complementary treatments may help some people deal with lip cancer and its treatments. These treatments, sometimes referred to as alternative therapies, are used in conjunction with traditional medical treatments. Complementary treatments are not meant to substitute for traditional medical care. Be sure to notify your doctor if you are consuming nutritional supplements or homeopathic (nonprescription) remedies as they may interact with the prescribed medical therapy.

Complementary treatments may include:

  • Acupuncture

  • Massage therapy

  • Nutritional dietary supplements, herbal remedies, tea beverages, and similar products

  • Yoga

Hospice care

In cases in which lip cancer has progressed to an advanced stage and has become unresponsive to treatment, the goal of treatment may shift away from curing the disease and focus on measures to keep a person comfortable and maximize the quality of life. Hospice care involves medically controlling pain and other symptoms while providing psychological and spiritual support, as well as services to support the patient’s family.

What are the potential complications of lip cancer?

Complications of untreated lip cancer can be serious, even life threatening in some cases. You can help minimize your risk of serious complications by following the treatment plan you and your health care professional design specifically for you. Complications of lip cancer include:

  • Altered physical appearance

  • Interference with the ability to eat, drink, talk or breathe

  • Spread into nearby structures, such as the skin around the lip, mouth, tongue and mandible (lower jaw bone)

  • Spread to distant areas of the body

  • Spread to lymph nodes in the neck

  • Do you have a red, painful sore at the corner of your mouth? It could be angular cheilitis
  • Angular cheilitis is often mistaken for a cold sore or chapped lips, but it’s usually caused by a fungus
  • Licking your licks excessively can contribute to angular cheilitis

If you have dry, cracked lips, and rubbing on chapstick doesn’t do the trick, then the culprit might not be chapped lips. You could have a skin condition most people don’t actually know about: angular cheilitis.

“Angular cheilitis is a skin condition that causes painful inflammation in one or both corners of your mouth,” says Dr. Sonia Batra, a dermatologist and co-host of the television show The Doctors. Batra estimates that angular cheilitis affects about 0.7% of the population, so while it’s not exactly super common, it’s not rare, either.

What causes angular cheilitis?

An extreme example of angular cheilitis. Getty Images

Basically, angular cheilitis is caused by saliva building up in the corners of your lips, which can cause them to become dry and cracked. “When saliva breaks down and inflames skin at the corners of the mouth, the inflamed patches can become colonized by bacteria or yeast that usually reside in the mouth,” Batra says.

The inflammation and cracking at the corners of the mouth can lead to painful sores. “As a result, this can make it difficult to open your mouth wide and some may experience a burning feeling on their lips or mouth,” says Batra. In more severe cases, some people may experience a bad taste in their mouth or difficulty eating, particularly if the irritation develops into open, bleeding blisters.

Often, people may lick their lips to try to alleviate the pain, but this actually might make it worse. “Doing so causes more saliva buildup, which creates an ideal environment for bacteria or a fungus like yeast to grow,” she says.

Angular cheilitis is often mistaken for a cold sore, but there’s a primary difference, Batra says: “Visually, angular cheilitis appears in the corner of the mouth as cracked, scaly skin, while cold sores can occur anywhere around the mouth. Usually, it looks like a cluster of small blisters that become crusted over a course of days,” she says.

“In addition, cold sores have life cycles, so you will often feel a burning or itching on a certain area of the lip before a blister forms. Angular cheilitis does not have warning signs until a sore appears.”

Who’s at risk?

Well, everyone, but some people are more susceptible to angular cheilitis than others. For instance, if you have deep lines around the corners of your mouth (also known as a “marionette lines”), saliva is more likely to pool in those deeper crevices, putting you more at risk of inflammation.

Angular cheilitis is also more common in people with recurrent oral thrush (fluffy white spots on the tongue or inner cheeks) due to an imbalance in a fungus called Candida, which can be caused by an immunodeficiency or frequent use of corcitosteroids or antibiotics, says Batra.

Smokers, people with braces, and people with sensitive skin are also more vulnerable to fungal infections. It’s also especially prevalent in the elderly: “elderly people often have excess saliva due to dentures, loss of teeth, and vitamin deficiencies that increase their risk,” Batra says.

How to treat angular cheilitis

getty images

“If you develop angular cheilitis, keep the inflamed area clean and dry to prevent the infection from worsening,” Batra says. “Your doctor may also prescribe a topical steroid cream to promote healing.” For more serious cases, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medication.

If the sore is relatively minor, you can also heal it with a few at-home hacks, including applying lip balm, petroleum jelly, or coconut oil to soothe and moisturize the irritated areas, Batra says. But be careful: if left untreated, the infection could worsen and spread to the surrounding skin or cause oral thrush.

To prevent angular cheilitis from occurring, stay hydrated, keep your lips dry, apply chapstick regularly, and practice good oral hygiene, Batra says. Also, stop licking your lips, because not only does it spread saliva, it also looks incredibly gross.

Isadora Baum Isadora Baum is a freelance writer, certified health coach, and author of 5-Minute Energy.

Cracked Corners of the Mouth

Understanding angular cheilitis or perleche

A Consultation with Dr. Jacqueline C. Dolev

Dear Doctor,
I have noticed cracking at the corners of my mouth, which lately won’t seem to go away. What is it and what should I do?

Dear Joan,
Cracking of the corners of the mouth is a common condition that is frequently seen in both the offices of dermatologists and dentists. It is known as perleche or angular cheilitis (“angular” – angles; “cheil” – lip; “itis” – inflammation). Perleche is derived from the French word, “lecher,” meaning to lick, and is characterized by excessive licking of the affected areas — either as a result of irritation or because of it. This condition is further characterized by redness and cracking of the skin at the corners of the lips.

There can be a variety of causes with the majority of them being “local,” meaning they arise from inside or around the mouth. Although uncommon, systemic (bodily) diseases may predispose to perleche as well. Once the corners of the mouth are fissured or cracked, saliva accumulation and contamination can lead to infection. The most common infection is from yeast called, “candida albicans.”

Outside The Mouth Going In

Perleche is found most often in children and younger adults who drool during their sleep and/or have orthodontic braces. In older adults, part of the aging process causes skin wrinkling with superficial or deep lines extending from the mouth and down the chin called, “marionette lines.” Wrinkling is the result of skin thinning from sun damage and constant exposure to the environment over the years, and with fat and connective tissue loss, the lips thin as well. Perleche may be more evident in the winter with colder weather and drier air. Cracking of the corners of the mouth, and subsequent licking to keep them moist, sets the stage for infection.

Inside The Mouth Going Out

Conditions inside the mouth leading to perleche include anything that affects normal and healthy saliva flow or causes mouth dryness that in turn leads to infection.

Other causes include:

  • Denture stomatitis (“stoma” – mouth; “itis” – inflammation) is an inflammation of the tissues under a denture. If dentures are not removed and cleaned regularly, dryness and subsequent chronic yeast infections can develop.
  • A lack of teeth, especially the back teeth that support the face, cheeks and lips, can lead to bite collapse with subsequent cracking or fissuring at the corners of the mouth, also giving rise to a prematurely aged look.
  • Systemic (general body) conditions like iron-deficiency anemia, B vitamin deficiency, diabetes and cancer can also lead to changes in the health and integrity of the oral mucous (mouth) membranes.

These conditions can predispose people to yeast infections, and perleche at the angles of the mouth.

Fixing The Cracks At The Corners

Chronic yeast infections may cause only minor discomfort while acute infections can affect the whole mouth and throat. In either case, they can be treated with a course of oral or topical antifungal (yeast) medication. Nystatin may be used as a troche (a small medicated lozenge designed to dissolve) that is rinsed with and then swallowed so that it works in the mouth and throughout the body. Antifungal ointments can also be applied liberally to the corners of the mouth several times a day to clear infection. They may be used in combination with a steroid ointment to control redness and inflammation, as well as zinc oxide paste or ointment, which is a barrier (skin) repair agent that has antifungal properties.

If infection arises from inside the mouth, it is likely to recur if only the corners of the mouth are treated. Chlorhexidine rinses can also be used to treat minor oral yeast infections. It is also effective for cleaning and scrubbing dentures; however, it is important to leave them out at night.

Optimal oral health and proper lip support from within the mouth can lessen or remove the cracking and wrinkles at the lip corners.

Although not as common, any systemic conditions that cause perleche will also need to be treated. Your dentist should also replace any missing teeth and ensure that dentures are properly fitting. Optimal oral health and proper lip support from within the mouth can lessen or remove the cracking and wrinkles at the lip corners. He/she should verify that oral hygiene is good, gum tissues are healthy and teeth decay free.

Modern dermatology can provide a variety of ways to treat lip wrinkles and marionette lines associated with perleche, and improve skin quality in general. This ranges from proper skin care to laser resurfacing. Facial fillers and fat may be used to replace the loss of connective tissue in the lips and provide support due to aging. Laser, fillers and other techniques can be used to remove both superficial and deep wrinkles and result in a healthier, rejuvenated appearance. This subject will be covered more fully in an upcoming issue of Dear Doctor magazine.

The Drugstore Cure for Cracked Corners of the Mouth

There is nothing more annoying than dry, cracked corners of the mouth. Recently, I had a bout with this issue and it had me over-moisturizing my lips, to the point where it became an obsession. Those cracked corners instantly made me feel self-conscious whenever talking face to face with other people, but the truth is, it probably felt worse than it looked. But dry, cracked corners of the lips, called angular cheilitis, is a common condition, especially during times of the year when the weather is changing.

Just to make sure I wasn’t doing more damage by slathering on balms, creams and Chapstick to make it go away, I reached out to experienced dermatologists to give me the lowdown on how to get rid of this pesky problem. “Cracked corners of the mouth are most commonly caused by dry weather or excessive saliva in the form of drooling or lip licking. Sometimes it can be related to medical conditions like eczema or allergic contact dermatitis, which can come from a reaction to lip balm for example,” says Rochester, NY dermatologist Lesley Loss, MD. “In fact, lip balms or Chapstick can sometimes worsen the condition.”

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Refusing to believe I’m a chronic drooler, I chose to chalk it up to the weather. It made sense, because the skin on my face seems to freak out whenever the weather acts schizophrenic, why wouldn’t the skin on my mouth follow suit? Although, I am prone to excessive lip licking, as I commonly lick my lipstick off throughout the day, so that could also be the culprit.

Charlotte, NC dermatologist Gilly Munavalli, MD advised me to immediately hit the pause button on the over-treatment of my lips: “If you have dry, cracked corners of the mouth, the goal should be to minimize this irritation and to help the skin restore its natural barrier. Adding skin care products to this area may only intensify the problem, so I would say this is a bad idea.”

So, what’s the right thing to do when you’re dealing with angular cheilitis? Both derms agree that the best course of action is applying some good old-fashioned petroleum jelly or lanolin. “Regular application of petroleum jelly can help,” says Dr. Munavalli. “The key things to consider would be to avoid products with fragrance or dyes (which can be irritating), and to try something very simple such as Vaniply Ointment or Aquaphor. You want to protect the skin from the vicious cycle of excess moisture, skin drying, more moisture, and so on.”

“To prevent cracked corners from occurring in the first place, plain Vaseline at bedtime is my go-to,” said Dr. Loss. Great advice, as it immediately became my go-to nighttime ritual too, and in just a few days my mouth was back to normal. Thankfully. I was able to say goodbye to cracked corners and am no longer a slave to lip products.

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Here’s what actually hides inside your pimples

  • Pimples are clogged with dead skin cells, oil, and bacteria that lives on the skin.
  • More severe pimples are inflamed and filled with pus.
  • Experts say popping pimples at home can make acne worse and cause infections.

Pimple popping videos are disgusting. Period. And yet — for the millions of people who can’t stop watching them online — they’re also deeply satisfying. There’s just something cleansing about seeing so much gunk removed from the human body.

But even if you’re a seasoned popaholic, you might not know where all that pimple gunk comes from — or what’s it’s actually made of.

It turns out that what’s inside a pimple actually depends on what type of pimple you’re talking about. Here’s the full breakdown.

Blackheads and whiteheads

A smattering of blackheads. ThamKC/

Blackheads and whiteheads are both clogged with the same thing: Dead skin cells (which your skin is always shedding), Propionibacterium acnes (a bacteria that lives on your skin), and sebum (an oily substance secreted by tiny glands inside your pores).

A lot of people think blackheads are clogged with dirt, but that’s not true. The color difference between these two types of pimples actually has to do with oxygen, the National Institutes of Health explained.

In whiteheads, the clog stays below the surface of the skin and remains white. But in blackheads, the clog is open to the air. It turns brownish-black when it’s exposed to oxygen.

Both whiteheads and blackheads can stay in your skin for a long time if you don’t pop them. Lovers of popping videos know that sometimes they get really big.

Papules and pustules

This is what a pustule looks like. Shaynepplstockphoto/

Sometimes, a clogged pore gets so irritated that its walls break, and the body sends white blood cells — the fighters of your immune system — to start addressing the damage. This causes redness, pain, and inflammation.

That’s when you can end up with pimples called papules or pustules. Papules are closed red bumps that are hard and sometimes painful the touch. Pustules are what most people think of as a zit: Red and inflamed with a white head at the center. The stuff you squeeze out of them is pus, which contains dead white blood cells.

Cysts and nodules

Cystic acne is considered severe. frank60/

Cysts and nodules — the most severe type of acne — are essentially just bigger, angrier, more irritated versions of papules and pustules, the American Academy of Dermatology explained. Both are inflamed, painful, and lodged deep in the skin, but cysts contain pus.

Squeezing stuff out of your pimples on your own is usually a bad idea

Most authorities, including the AAD, say you should always let a dermatologist pop pimples for you. The DIY approach might make for awesome YouTube videos, but the bacteria on your hands can get into pimples and give you an infection. Plus, at-home popping without proper technique can make a pimple worse or leave you with permanent scarring.

Doctors can extract smaller pimples using tools like the comedone extractor (just like Dr. Pimple Popper!). More severe acne, like nodules and cysts, can be injected with medicine that makes swelling go down, or they can be cut open and drained.

But if you can’t make it to a dermatologist, the AAD recommends patience. Avoid popping or picking at your skin, use ice to quell pain and swelling, and try over-the-counter treatments to speed up healing. Here are 18 products that really work.

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Pimple on Penis

Is it a pimple or an STD?

Penis pimples can be caused by many conditions, not all of which are STDs. Learn the various types of pimples or bumps that can form on or around the penis.

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STD signs that get confused for penis pimples:

Some signs and symptoms of STDs can be mistaken for just being a pimple or ingrown hair at first. It isn’t until symptoms escalate that individuals realize that there is more going on down there than a zit or two. Because it is difficult to inspect the area by oneself, signs of an STD may go unnoticed or ignored. Genital herpes outbreaks cause cluster-like patches of blisters to occur that can be confused for pimples or acne. Certain strains of HPV, human papillomavirus, can cause genital warts in the groin area. These warts are often first thought to be pimples by many patients. Other STDs can cause rashes, sores or lesions.

What are penis pimples?

Bumps and pimple-like lumps on the genitals, whether singular or a few, tend to cause alarm. Do not freak out until you know what it is, because it (or they) could be harmless. Skin problems are common, and skin problems on the genitals are no exception.

Types of pimples or pimple-like bumps that may affect the penis:

  • Pimples – Pus-filled white bumps that can that occur when bacteria that is commonly found on the body infect the area.
  • Folliculitis – A condition caused when hair follicles become infected, resulting in inflamed pimples. Sebaceous cysts are yellowish pimple or bumps that are caused by blocked or clogged oil glands. They typically go away on their own without medical care.
  • Hirsutoid papillomas (Pearly penile papules) – Flesh-colored papules that are spiny in shape. They often are found in a ring around the sulcus coronarius (the edge of the head of the penis just above the shaft). They are benign, harmless, and don’t disappear, but are not the result of an STD or contagious.
  • Razor burn (Razor bumps) – Small, irritated red bumps that pop up due to bacteria or ingrown hairs on or near the genitals after shaving.
  • Staph infections – While the staph bacteria (Staphylococcus) is carried by about 25 percent of people and lives on the body, a genital staph infection is a rare occurrence. Tiny nicks or cuts caused by razors allow the bacteria to enter the body, causing a pus-filled boil to form. Staph is a contagious infection, but is not an STD. Treatment with antibiotics is necessary as staph can spread and cause serious health problems (including death).

What should you do if you find a penis pimple?

There are many types of penis pimples and bumps, but they all have one thing in common: they should not be popped or squeezed. Popping a pimple on your penis can lead to infection or scarring. It’s important to keep the penis pimple and the surrounding area clean and dry, but avoid scrubbing or using harsh cleansers that can cause irritation. If the pimple doesn’t go away or show signs of being infected, visit a doctor or dermatologist for treatment.

Penis pimples can be caused by many conditions, not all of which are STDs. Learn the various types of pimples or bumps that can form on or around the penis.

Learn your status, order testing online or call 1-800-456-2323 today!


Medically Reviewed by J. Frank Martin JR., MD on Jun 18, 2019

Written by Lauralei Like on Jan 9, 2018

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