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Cheilitis Glandularis Follow-up

  • Author: Ellen Eisenberg, DMD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
Updated: Feb 22, 2016

Further Outpatient Care

Monitor patients with documented actinic cheilitis with clinical observation once or twice a year for an indefinite period. This is because, in some cases, cheilitis glandularis has the potential for the development of lip carcinoma. Also, some patients with cheilitis glandularis may be at risk for the development of suppurative episodes if trauma to the lip surface is continuous. This can result in chronic ulceration or erosion, leading to portals of entry for bacterial invasion and inflammatory sequelae.

Clinical evidence of disease progression mandates biopsy and an appropriate treatment plan (topical chemotherapy with 5-fluorouracil or vermilionectomy, or in cases of squamous cell carcinoma, lip wedge resection).

Decisions concerning the advisability and timing of surgical cheiloplasty or vermilionectomy can be challenging in patients who exhibit clinical evidence of persistent habitual or deliberate factitial injury. Undertaking surgery is ill advised if the source of irritation or trauma is perpetuated. Patients who are highly symptomatic and/or functionally compromised by lip enlargement and its complications should be offered the option of surgical debulking, regardless of the cause. Whether or not the surgical approach is ultimately successful depends on factors unique to the patient.



Where relevant, patients who habitually lick their lips should be advised to avoid this behavior.

Sun-protective measures (eg, wearing a hat with a visor, lip balm with sun-blocking agents, avoidance of direct and protracted sun exposure) must also be instituted.



Cheilitis glandularis has been associated with a heightened risk for the development of squamous cell carcinoma. In many cases, dysplastic (premalignant) surface epithelial change is evident histopathologically, and frank carcinomas have been reported in 18-35% of cases. Rarely, cases of chronic persistent or recurrent suppurative infection may result from inappropriate antibiotic treatment.

A case of persistent suppurative cheilitis glandularis, confirmed by punch biopsy, in a 52-year-old African American woman with a 15-pack year smoking history responded to a 4-week course of oral penicillin at 1 g/d combined with oral fluoroquinolone at 1 g/d. Two weeks into the therapy, the swelling was significantly reduced. The antibiotic regimen was continued for 2 additional weeks, with resolution of the lip lesions and continued normality at 1-year follow-up.[23]


Patient Education

Reinforce instruction in measures for sun protection.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Ellen Eisenberg, DMD Professor and Section Chair, Section of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, Division of Oral and Maxillofacial Diagnostic Sciences, Department of Oral Health and Diagnostic Sciences, University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine; Associate Professor, Division of Anatomic Pathology, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Connecticut School of Medicine, University of Connecticut Health Center

Ellen Eisenberg, DMD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology, American Association of University Professors, American Dental Education Association, Connecticut Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, Connecticut Society of Pathologists, Eastern Society of Teachers of Oral Pathology, International Academy of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Michael J Wells, MD, FAAD Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Paul L Foster School of Medicine

Michael J Wells, MD, FAAD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Drore Eisen, MD, DDS Consulting Staff, Department of Dermatology, Dermatology Research Associates of Cincinnati

Drore Eisen, MD, DDS is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Academy of Oral Medicine, American Dental Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

William D James, MD Paul R Gross Professor of Dermatology, Vice-Chairman, Residency Program Director, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

William D James, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Mark W Cobb, MD Consulting Staff, WNC Dermatological Associates

Mark W Cobb, MD is a member of the following medical societies: Alpha Omega Alpha, American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatopathology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

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A 56-year-old woman with an 18-month history of chronic swelling and a dry, burning sensation in her lower lip. She reports intermittent increases and decreases in size of the lip with painful episodes of erosion, crusting, and rare instances of drainage. History reveals medication-induced xerostomia plus a tendency to compulsively lick the lip to maintain hydration. Note eversion of the mucosal surface, which appears erythematous and dry, and narrowing of the vermilion border. The lower labial mucosa appears nodular; however, on palpation, it is diffusely soft. The composite features are consistent with a clinical impression of cheilitis glandularis. A lip biopsy sample was obtained.
Medium-power photomicrograph. Note mildly atypical epithelial maturation, modest lymphocytic infiltrate within the lamina propria region, and the striking basophilic collagen degeneration within the superficial stroma plus telangiectasias. The composite features are consistent with a diagnosis of actinic cheilitis (hematoxylin and eosin, original magnification, X100).
Low-power photomicrograph. Deep submucosa of the lip. Several minor salivary glands demonstrate ductal ectasia, interstitial inflammation, atrophy, and fibrosis. No evidence of salivary gland hypertrophy is seen (hematoxylin and eosin, original magnification X40).
Note the fullness of the lower portion of the lip and the indistinct junction between the vermilion border and the skin.
Lip biopsy specimen. Low-power photomicrograph reveals focal surface hyperkeratosis accompanied by vascular congestion and fibrosis of the underlying stroma (hematoxylin and eosin, original magnification X40).
High-power photomicrograph of the minor salivary glands. Note ductal ectasia, acinar atrophy, interstitial fibrosis, and inflammation (hematoxylin and eosin, original magnification X100).
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