Actinic Cheilitis

Actinic Cheilitis is also called as Actinic Cheilosis or even ‘Sailor’s lips’. This is a type of cheilitis which can be considered as the counterpart of skin Actinic Keratosis which gets developed into squamous cell carcinoma. This condition is associated with lips. In this disorder, the person affected with it suffers from whitish discoloration of lips particularly at its border-skin. Usually the sharp border line between lips and surrounding skin region is lost due to the condition. This irregularity is referred to as vermillion border. As the condition aggravates, the skin becomes hardened and scaly. Actinic Cheilitis is more common in older males and light-skinned people due to prolonged sun exposure. The skin lesion is often painless and persistent.

Sponsored link


Causes of Actinic Cheilitis

The primary cause of Actinic Cheilitis is considered to be chronic exposure to UV rays or Ultraviolet rays from the sun. The radiation is potent enough to stimulate chemical reaction in the body particularly the cutaneous tissues which may lead to subsequent photobiological changes. Apart from solar radiation the condition may also arise due to other reasons such as:


  • Regular tobacco use
  • Applying lip balm or other products that contain allergen and may cause irritations
  • Poor hygiene of mouth and denture
  • Improper maintenance of facial skin


Symptoms of Actinic Cheilitis

The condition highly affects the lower lips. Initially the border of the lips that separate the pinkish lip skin from other facial skin starts to fade. It paves way for a prominent lesion which is often painless. Eventually the lips become harder and scaly texture begins to appear. These are common characteristics of actinic cheilitis. However, there are also some other symptoms of the condition that are deemed inclusive to the condition –


  • Drier lips which appears to be cracked
  • Redness
  • Discoloration of lips as they appear whitish
  • Border of lips becoming faded and merge with surrounding skin
  • Crusty bumps appearing on the affected skin
  • Lasting erosion
  • Swelling or puffiness



Patients who have been exposed to sunlight for prolonged time are at higher risk of developing the condition. Doctors may also doubt it to be a pre-cancerous issue in individual who are habituated to use of tobacco. It is essential for the patient to inform the doctor about any underlying condition. It is also important to bring any allergic issues and dental disorder under your doctor’s notification. The condition is basically diagnosed through crusty lesions that appear near discolored, faded border with other manifestations on the affected lips. Doctor may suggest biopsy of the affected area. It is important to send a sample for microscopic test of the lesion as the condition has greater risk of turning into a more serious malignant issue. If necessary the doctor may also suggest some more examination to confirm the cause of the condition. According to the result of diagnosis doctor will suggested suitable treatment.


Actinic cheilitis treatment 


5 –fluorouracil or 5-FU is a topical medication which is applied directly on the affected skin region. It is applied in thin coat on affected region of skin. 5-FU has the potential to enter into deeper layer of the skin and subsequently obstruct the DNA synthesis. Malignant cells of the condition require DNA to develop further after they undergo proliferation. In the process they accumulate higher amount of 5-Fluorouracil and die. To obtain optimum results at least 2 weeks to 4 weeks of treatment is necessary. In around 50% of individuals affected with Actinic Cheilitis the condition cures completely; however, there may be some side effects such as burning, inflammation, exudation, ulcers, etc.

Sponsored link



This remedy is an immune system stimulator that can cause death of tumor cells. Immune system undergoes modifications wherein monocytes are released to attack epidermis causing erosion. T lymphocytes play a considerable role in this phenomenon. Most people are completely cured of the condition with minimal scarring.



Electrosurgery is a treatment technique in which electric current of high frequency is passed to the affected skin region which demolishes the premalignant lesion. Electrosurgery may include destruction of adjoining tissues and scarring. However, local anesthesia is given to the patient before the procedure.



This method of treatment is beneficial in case of small lesions. The treatment involves applying liquid nitrogen on the affected area. Usually application of local anesthesia is not preferred; however, it may be needed if the procedure involves treatment of the entire lips.


Scalpel vermillionectomy

This is an invasive procedure wherein the vermillion ridge is eradicated without hampering the muscles.  However, lips scarring is unavoidable but it can be decreased to considerable level through massage and steroids. This is a highly effective method that requires lesser recovery time.



This is a treatment which involves use of a chemical composition which includes 50% trichloroacetic acid. This solution is directly applied to the affected skin region. This causes the hardened skin region to becomes blistered and peel away. However, the condition may cause the lips to become more sensitive.

Carbon Dioxide Laser Vaporization

 This is another therapy that can be suggested for Actinic Cheilitis. The procedure is a laser therapy specific to the border of the lips and helps in remission of the irregularity. It is also recorded that patient become prone to secondary infection as well as scarring after undergoing treatment. It may take around three weeks form complete cure of tissues.


If you experience any of the aforementioned complications or any skin anomaly then consult a doctor and get yourself diagnosed. If not treated timely Actinic Cheilitis may aggravate and/or may turn into a cosmetic concern.

Actinic Cheilitis Pictures

actinic cheilitis pictures 2

actinic cheilitis pictures


Sponsored link

Be the first to comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.