Are dry lips a sign of a major health problem?

Personal Hygiene ­Image Gallery Lip dryness is often caused by dehydration or climate conditions, but is it ever a sign of a serious health problem? See more personal hygiene pictures.
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Most of the time dry lips are just that -- lips that have lost moisture because of dehydration, too much wind or too much sun. Occasionally, however, dry lips may signal a more serious condition. When a health problem exists, dry or cracked lips could be one of many symptoms.

For example, if dry lips are accompanied by a fever, red eyes and tongue, swollen lymph nodes, and swollen, red skin on your hands and feet, they could be an early symptom of Kawasaki disease [source: Mayo Clinic]. This disease is most common in young children between the ages of 2 and 5, but doctors aren't quite sure what causes it. Even though children typically see a full recovery, heart problems can result.


Dry, cracked lips have also been associated with a deficiency of certain B vitamins. For example, although it is not a typical symptom, cracked lips (especially at the corners) can sometimes signal a folic acid deficiency [source: WebMD]. They also can be a symptom of a riboflavin (vitamin B2) deficiency. Those at risk for this condition include people who are elderly or have a chronic illness or alcohol dependence. A riboflavin deficiency can typically be remedied with a balanced, healthy diet or a vitamin supplement [source: Mayo Clinic].

For more information about dry lips , read Dry Lips: Fast Facts.

Only a medical professional can determine whether dry lips are a symptom of an underlying health condition. Being aware of dry lips that won't heal and additional symptoms is important. Often catching a serious ailment early on can be beneficial in the healing process. Consult your doctor if you are concerned about your dry lips.

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Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • Mayo Clinic. "Kawasaki Disease." Feb. 3, 2009 (Accessed Oct. 3, 2009)
  • Mayo Clinic. "Riboflavin (vitamin B2)." Sept. 1, 2009 (Accessed Oct. 3, 2009)
  • WebMD. "Folic Acid Deficiency Anemia." March 8, 2005 (Accessed Oct. 3, 2009)