R is for Rhagades

July 21, 2014

Rhagades is a term used to describe cracks that occur in the skin, usually around the mouth. Occasionally you see the term used to describe cracked heels in the foot, especially in European countries.


Rhagades, also known as rhagades fissures or perleche, refers to deep cracks or fissures that develop in the skin, typically in the corners of the mouth. These fissures can be painful, uncomfortable, and may cause discomfort during eating, talking, or opening the mouth.

Location: Rhagades most commonly occur at the angles or corners of the mouth, where the upper and lower lips meet. However, they can also develop in other areas, such as the lips, around the nostrils, or in the folds of the skin.

Causes: Rhagades can have various causes, including:

Fungal or bacterial infections: Infections, such as candidiasis (yeast infection) or bacterial infections, can contribute to the development of rhagades.

Dry or chapped skin: Dryness or chapping of the skin, often due to environmental factors, can make the skin more prone to developing cracks and fissures.

Nutritional deficiencies: Certain nutrient deficiencies, particularly deficiencies of B vitamins, iron, or zinc, can weaken the skin and make it more susceptible to fissures.

Irritation or trauma: Frequent licking of the lips, exposure to harsh weather conditions, or mechanical trauma to the area can irritate the skin and lead to rhagades.

Medical conditions: Underlying medical conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, or autoimmune disorders, can contribute to the development of rhagades.

Symptoms: Rhagades are characterized by deep, painful cracks in the skin. The fissures may bleed, crust over, or become inflamed. They can cause discomfort, pain, and a burning sensation, particularly when the mouth is opened, during eating, or while speaking.

Treatment and Prevention: Treatment for rhagades aims to alleviate symptoms, promote healing, and address any underlying causes. This may include:

Topical treatments: Applying moisturizing creams or ointments to the affected area can help hydrate the skin and promote healing. Antifungal or antibacterial creams may be prescribed if an infection is present.

Nutritional supplementation: If a nutrient deficiency is suspected, supplementation with B vitamins, iron, zinc, or other relevant nutrients may be recommended.

Protection and hygiene: Avoiding excessive licking of the lips, protecting the area from harsh weather conditions, and practicing good oral hygiene can help prevent further irritation and promote healing.

Addressing underlying conditions: If rhagades are related to an underlying medical condition, treating or managing that condition may be necessary to prevent recurrence.


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