We outline how to treat swollen lips, the causes, symptoms, when to see a doctor and how to cure swollen lips.
The lip is a paired organ. In most cases, the lower lip is larger than the upper lip. The size of the lips and their shape and color are culturally and individually different. While many women want to know how to make your lips look fuller, it is a different matter when there is problem swelling.
One speaks of lip swelling when the individual normal range of the lip is exceeded. This is usually not only annoying due to the appearance, but also unpleasant accompanying complaints and sometimes severe pain. Due to the fine, sensitive skin of the lips, it is particularly at risk for injuries and swelling. This is also the case with the skin around the eyes, so you may want to know How to reduce eye swelling: with easy methods and expert tips
How to treat swollen lips: causes
There can be many swollen lips causes …. Through injury, by an accident, a bacterial infection, virus such as is behind cold sores, or allergies may cause lip swelling.
Even during an epileptic seizure, the person affected can bite their lip and it can swell as a result. Many of these injuries can create open spots on the lip that can also bleed. In addition, the vacancies provide a gateway for bacteria, which can cause inflammation in the lip. One of the signs of inflammation is swelling – in this case on the lip.
Swollen lips with bumps can also be triggered by an insect bite directly on the lip or in the surrounding area of the lip, as the puncture site can become inflamed and the lip can swell. This is often shown by swollen lips on one side only.
Bacteria and inflammatory
Furthermore, a bacterial inflammation of the skin of the face and lips , so-called erysipelas, can trigger lip swelling. Inflammations of the hair follicles are usually deeper and are called boils, which can also lead to lip swelling.
In addition, neurological-inflammatory diseases such as Melkerson-Rosenthal syndrome can cause swollen lips. In this case, the lip swelling arises from an unknown cause and Melkerson-Rosenthal syndrome is still being researched which makes how to treat swollen lips with this syndrome only something that should be done by a doctor.
Swollen lips with cold sores
In addition, a viral infection can lead to lip swelling. Often it is a herpes infection , which belongs to the so-called herpes simplex. A cold sore can develop, which is known as herpes labiales. Swollen lips cold sore treatments can include ointments available over the counter as well as prescription medicines.
In addition, allergic reactions can cause lip swelling, and this will often show in both lips and across the entire lip area. Various allergies can cause lip swelling:
- Allergies to an insect venom can occur with an insect bite.
- In the case of a food allergy, a certain food triggers a swollen lip.
- In the case of a contact allergy, lip swelling is usually caused by contact with certain ingredients of a cosmetic or lip ointment.
- But the latex found in balloons and disposable gloves can also trigger allergies if it comes into contact with the lips.
- Furthermore, drug allergies can cause lip swelling.
- With all these allergies, the body of the person concerned recognizes the “foreign substance” as dangerous and reacts with defense in order to protect the body.
However, a distinction is made between different types of allergies in how to treat swollen lips. Allergies to insect venom, food or drugs are usually type I or immediate type allergies. The reactions happen immediately, within a few seconds. Different cells in the body ensure that a large amount of antibodies is released. These are known as IgE-type antibodies. They bind to the “docking points” of the so-called mast cells. Then tissue hormones such as histamine, heparin and serotonin are released. Vascular dilatation occurs and then, for example, lip swelling.
Contact allergies are of the allergy type IV or delayed type. The allergy reaction only shows up after about 24-48 hours. When so-called antigens have overcome the skin barriers, they are bound to the body’s own proteins. Special cells present the antigen. Then other cells of the body’s own defense system become active. So-called granuloma formation occurs. As a result, you can see redness and swellings on the (lip) skin. In addition, some allergies, including allergies to pharmaceuticals in tablet form, can occur very delayed. In some cases, they may take 48 hours to show.
Fluid retention is common in women during pregnancy. This can also manifest itself as lip swelling, among other things. Even with a possibly weakened immune system during pregnancy, the lips can react more sensitively and cause lip swelling.
In addition, changes in the immune and hormonal systems of pregnant women can increase their susceptibility to cold sores, for example . If the woman had a herpes infection before pregnancy, it is usually not dangerous for the unborn child, as it already has antibodies against it itself.
In how to treat swollen lips from this cause, the herpes infection should then be treated as usual, with an antiviral ointment and compliance with hygiene measures. If the woman becomes infected with the herpes virus for the first time during pregnancy, caution is required and should be discussed with the gynecologist.
If a herpes develops in the genital area shortly before birth, a so-called genital herpes, the newborn is at risk and serious damage can occur. Moreover, eclampsia, a so-called pre-eclampsia, in addition to high blood pressure, altered urine, also strongly swollen lips be noted in how to treat swollen lips. This should be discussed immediately with the gynecologist.
Through the sun
Too intense or too long exposure to the sun can lead to sunburn on the lips with lip swelling, pain and possibly blisters. The skin of the lips does not form any substances that would turn brown when exposed to the sun. They lack what is known as melanin. As a result, the lips are exposed to the sun unprotected and particularly prone to sunburn. The lips do not have natural sun protection and if they dry out you need to know How to fix chapped lips: complete guide.
Lip balm sticks with sun protection factor are controversial with regard to their effectiveness in how to treat swollen lips. In the event of sunburn on the lips, direct sunlight should be minimized as far as possible. As with any other sunburn, sufficient fluids should be taken in and the burned area should be adequately cooled, for example with quark or with damp towels.
Ice cubes should be avoided as a method for how to treat swollen lips. If drinking is painful, drinking through a straw can provide relief. The healing time is very individual and can take longer than with sunburn on other skin areas. If in doubt, a doctor should be consulted.
The use of antibiotics can lead to allergic reactions , which can manifest as swelling of the lips, among other things. Penicillins belong to a group of antibiotics that can trigger allergies more frequently than other antibiotic groups.
Since the split pieces of the penicillins can act as so-called haptens, the risk of an allergy is greater. Haptens are small molecules that cannot trigger an immune reaction on their own, but together with a protein. An immune reaction of the body is triggered when the body classifies the substance, in this case penicillin, as dangerous.
As a result, allergic reactions often appear as hives or swelling of the eyes and lips with penicillin. There is a risk of anaphylactic shock and should therefore be discussed with the doctor immediately.
The antibiotics to which the affected person is allergic must be put down in writing. The person concerned should always carry this with them, ideally in the form of an allergy certificate. In particular in the case of food allergies to molds, for example to mold cheese or in the case of mold asthma, the risk of a penicillin allergy is greater. Due to so-called cross allergies, an antibiotic should be chosen that corresponds to a different mechanism of action.
There is also a group of antibiotics called tetracyclines , which are phototoxic. This means that the skin and thus also the skin of the lips can react more sensitively to UV radiation when taking tetracyclines. According to this, sunburn on the lips with corresponding swelling and pain can develop more quickly.
The hives, also known as urticaria, can be shown in different ways. It typically shows up as a rash with red and pale wheals of various sizes . The appearance is similar to that of grabbing a nettle. The hives can also show up as lip swelling .
Hives are based on a disturbed regulation of the immune system, so that the so-called mast cells release excessive messenger substances in certain situations.
As a result, the permeability of the vessels is increased, which can lead to the rash or swelling of the lips. This can be harmless, but it can also lead to a life-threatening situation. In the context of allergic reactions, hives should be given urgent attention. If the hives are accompanied by swelling of the lips, tongue and throat, this can lead to shortness of breath and is life-threatening!
If this occurs for the first time, a doctor should be consulted immediately. Those affected are provided with an emergency kit after which this has been discussed in detail with them. This set usually contains an antihistamine , a drinking bottle, a drug containing cortisone and an adrenaline-containing spray.
Hives can have a variety of causes, such as allergies, chronic infections or autoimmune diseases. But heat, cold and pressure can also trigger these excessive immune reactions. In addition, the causes can also remain unknown.
In a baby
Lip swelling in a baby can have many causes, just as it can in an adult. Accordingly, it could be an allergic reaction , for example against ingredients in baby milk. In addition, allergic reactions to components of a baby pacifier or to other toys that are put in the mouth can occur. Inflammatory reactions in the context of infections can also lead to lip swelling. These should definitely be clarified by a pediatrician.
If the baby cries a lot and refuses to eat, it is usually a sign that he is in severe pain . In particular, if other complaints and changes in the baby’s behavior occur, a pediatrician should be consulted immediately. Since babies first have to develop their body coordination and their body awareness, they fall more often and then usually land on the face due to a lack of support reactions. They can also bump into something with their face (uncoordinated) more often.
Mouth-hand coordination also has to be learned first, so the target can often be missed and the lip can be hit roughly. Since the lip is very sensitive, the result – from all the everyday accidents – is swollen lips.
Immediate cooling can relieve pain and aid in lip swelling. A chilled baby pacifier can be used for this. A cold, wet washcloth that the baby is suckling on can also provide relief. Depending on the baby’s age and preferences, creative cooling methods can be used to make swelling and pain tolerable for the baby. After these “accidents”, the swelling of the lips usually disappears after 2-3 days – until the next accident. However, if the lip becomes infected, a pediatrician should be consulted.
If cortisone is taken for a long time or permanently, this can lead to various side effects. Lip swelling may also be one of the side effects. The cortisone causes more sodium and water to remain in the body and swellings, so-called edema, develop.
In addition, the long-term intake of cortisone weakens the immune system and thus the lips can react more sensitively or be more susceptible to herpes infections with accompanying lip swelling.
In the morning / after getting up
In particular, lip swellings appear in the morning / after getting up in the context of an allergy. But lip swelling caused by stress or infections also often occurs in the morning , as the body regenerates at night. In these regeneration phases of the body, processes can then take place in which vascular dilation can occur, which can then lead to lip swelling.
After injecting hyaluronic acid
After the lips have been injected with hyaluronic acid, the procedure can lead to a harmless swelling of the lips. The reaction of the lips to the active ingredient is very individual, depending on the size of the puncture, the filling material, the subsequent measures such as cooling the lips and many other individual factors play a role.
Before each procedure, possible side effects and follow-up treatment measures should be sufficiently discussed. In the case of lip injections with hyaluronic acid, the swelling can last up to 10 days and may reappear at irregular intervals. In rare cases, the injection site can also become infected. In addition, in rare cases, incompatibility with the filler can occur.
If the lip swelling persists for more than 10 days or if there are accompanying symptoms, the doctor who performed the injection should be consulted.
When a pimple is near or on the lips, the lip usually swells because it is very tender. It is important not to press on the pimple, as this can increase the swelling of the lips. Squeezing the pimple can also lead to complications. If the pimple becomes infected, the lip swelling does not go down or even increases, a doctor should be seen.
When inflamed or sensitive gums, it can, on the inside of the lip, progress to lip swelling. These can have various causes. It can cause inflammation, inadequate dental and gum care, intolerance to the ingredients of the toothpaste, lack of nutrients, a weakened immune system or stress, gum problems.
In addition, gum problems with associated lip swelling can be hereditary . This is known as what is known as a genetic disposition.
The lip swelling caused by diseased gums can also show itself in different types and forms. Sometimes in the form of aphthous ulcers . If the gums are permanently inflamed and swollen, this should be examined by a dentist. If the cause is suspected to be an infection or a lack of vitamins and minerals, a blood test should be performed by a family doctor. Accordingly, when the exact cause is known, measures should be taken to prevent permanent damage to the gums and teeth.
How to treat swollen lips: Different locations
Swelling of the lower lip
Due to its shape and size, the lower lip is particularly vulnerable to sunburn . As part of this, the lower lip can swell. Any event that happened directly to the lower lip, such as an insect bite , an injury , such as a bite on the lower lip, can trigger lower lip swelling. A lower lip piercing can also swell for up to two weeks during the normal healing process. A doctor should be consulted if the swelling persists or if accompanying symptoms occur.
Swelling on the inside of the lip
In the context of an allergic reaction , the inside of the lips may swell . This swelling is only present when there is contact with the triggering substance, the so-called allergen. If the lip swelling is permanent, a mucous cyst , a so-called mucocele, may be the cause. In this case, an ENT specialist should be consulted.
Inflammatory changes in the oral mucosa can also cause swelling of the lips on the inside of the lips. The mucous ulcers, so-called aphthous ulcers, are usually 2-4 mm in size and round. Most of the time, those affected report pain. The cause of these ulcers can be caused by viral infections , trauma , but also by stress , hormonal imbalance or vitamin and mineral deficiencies and due to unknown causes. The symptoms should have subsided after 1-2 weeks. If this is not the case or if the mucous lip ulcers occur more frequently, a doctor should be consulted.
Swelling of the lip on one side, right or left
In addition to the manifold causes of lip swelling, which often only occurs on one side , for example an insect bite, it can also occur in the context of the so-called Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome. This inflammatory disease can occur like attacks at irregular intervals. It is characterized by swelling of the lips, a wrinkled tongue and facial paralysis.
Most often the facial paralysis is one-sided. The corner of the mouth and the cheek usually hang down. Facial expressions cannot be performed on the entire affected side. A frown is also not possible, as it is a so-called peripheral facial paralysis. This means that the cause of the damage is unlikely to be in the brain. The symptoms of paralysis in Melkerson-Rosenthal syndrome can often disappear spontaneously and, if they occur again, may affect the other side. The lip swelling can affect one or both lips and is compressible. The cheek and eye, as well as the cervical lymph nodes, can also be swollen.
Young adults are often affected. The exact cause is still unknown. Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome can occur in connection with a chronic inflammatory bowel disease called Crohn’s disease. Therefore, appropriate examination measures should be carried out by a specialist in order to rule out Crohn’s disease.
How to treat swollen lips: Diagnosis
In order to establish a diagnosis for treating swollen lips, it is important to first interview the person concerned in detail. The doctor looks closely at the lips.
Often the cause can already be deduced by sight. Thus, an insect bite is clearly recognizable through the puncture site. In the event of injuries caused by an accident or as part of an epileptic seizure, the cause quickly becomes apparent through the questioning.
In both cases it is important to rule out further invisible injuries. If fractures are suspected, an X-ray examination is required, and in some cases computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging are also advisable.
In the case of a herpes infection, the characteristic vesicles are usually clearly visible. In the case of lip swelling that was triggered by an allergy , an allergy test may have to be done in addition to the so-called allergy history .
Accompanying symptoms and what they may mean
Depending on the cause, characteristic accompanying symptoms such as blisters and bleeding spots can occur in addition to lip swelling. Other accompanying symptoms often indicate complications and should always be evaluated and treated by a doctor.
In the context of an allergy, what is known as angioedema can also occur. It is also known as Quinke’s edema. This is a sudden, painless swelling, usually in the face area, often on the eyelids, tongue or lip. In some cases, feet and hands also swell. But the tongue and throat can also be affected. If this swells, it can lead to life-threatening shortness of breath. In the worst case, a so-called anaphylactic shock develops with a drop in blood pressure and increase in heart rate. This is an emergency and needs to be dealt with immediately! If it is diagnosed as an allergy, you need to identify what you are allergic to so you can know how to stop lips swelling in the future.
If the swollen lips were caused by an injury, there may also be injured vessels, nerves and bones in the face.
If swelling of the lips caused by a herpes infection, changes in consciousness or symptoms of paralysis occur, an emergency doctor must be consulted immediately! In this case, the herpes viruses may have migrated to the brain and caused an inflammation of the brain . In the worst case, the viruses spread systematically in the body and lead to sepsis. This is an absolute emergency and needs to be dealt with immediately!
Lip swelling and painful, white blisters that appear at the same time, which form so-called erosions and tingle, usually speak for a herpes infection, a so-called herpes labiales.
But blisters can also develop as part of a sunburn on the lips or with a fever. However, these burn blisters are rather transparent . They often cause severe pain. But they usually do not trigger the characteristic tingling sensation that occurs with a herpes infection.
In the context of allergic reactions or infections, lip swelling can occur due to the overreaction of the immune system. Often there are also swollen eyelids. These can be painless, but they can also be painful. Depending on how strong these swellings are, it can be difficult to open your eyes completely. If swelling of the eyelids occurs in addition to swelling of the lips, this should always be clarified and treated by a doctor.
A swollen lip with associated numbness can develop , for example after dental treatment with local anesthesia . However, lip swelling after dental treatment is rare. If both of these do not recede in a reasonable period of time – depending on the treatment, after a few hours or 1-2 days – the dentist should be visited again.
Swollen lymph nodes
If lip swelling occurs in combination with swelling of the lymph nodes , inflammatory reactions are usually hidden behind it. Swollen lymph nodes are a reaction of the immune system and show that the body is fighting against bacteria, viruses or a substance that is “classified as dangerous”. Depending on which accompanying complaints also occur, appropriate measures must be taken.
In the context of allergies, lip swelling can occur in combination with itching . The itching can be restricted to one part of the body or throughout the body. The itching is caused by the excessive release of messenger substances from the body’s mast cells. Among other things, histamine mediates itching.
Allergic reactions should be clarified by a doctor and appropriate measures taken.
Lip swelling with pain
Lip swelling due to a viral or bacterial cause or due to an allergy is usually painful . In inflammatory processes, histamine, among other things, can ensure that not only swelling but also pain occurs. Furthermore, the branches of the so-called trigeminal nerve in the area of the face and lips are responsible for the perception of touch, temperature and pain .
If damaging stimuli act on the lips, the unpleasant sensation of pain can be triggered. Different body reactions occur and different messenger substances are released by the cells in the body. This then manifests itself, for example, as lip pain. Tension pain can also occur due to the swelling.
Lip swelling without pain
A swollen lip can be painless as part of Quinke edema, which can be caused by certain medicines, such as ACE inhibitors. Quinke edema can also have genetic causes. In these cases, the painless swelling is due to a congenital deficiency of a protein, the so-called C1 esterase inhibitor.
This protein plays an important role in controlling and regulating part of the body’s immune system. Quinke edema can last for hours to days. Usually due to an allergy, the lip vessels suddenly become more permeable and the lip swells as a result.
Treatment of lip swelling
A swelling of the lips caused by an allergic reaction should be responded to quickly . If it first occurs, a doctor should be seen. If an allergy caused the lip swelling, it is very important to find out what the person is allergic to. If the allergy is known, trained measures such as cooling the lip , taking rescue medication and inhaling should be taken immediatelybe made. If the lip swelling is not so pronounced and there are no further symptoms, a visit to the doctor is not necessary. However, if the swelling has not subsided after two days or has worsened, it is advisable to consult a doctor.
If the lip swelling is caused by an injury , there are also often open areas on the lip. These wounds should be cleaned. In the further course, sufficient hygiene should be ensured. An antiseptic ointment is usually recommended to prevent infections .
In the case of a herpes infection , a special ointment containing acyclovir is recommended . Ointments that contain antibiotics will not work for a herpes infection. The herpes infection is contagious . If you suspect a herpes infection, you should immediately refrain from touching your lips with your hands, kissing someone or practicing oral sex. You should also avoid sharing glasses, bottles, cutlery and anything that comes into contact with your mouth with anyone. In addition, towels should only be used by the person concerned.
How to treat swollen lips: Home remedies
In some cases, home remedies can also help with swollen lips . Depending on the cause, different home remedies can provide relief. If the lip swelling develops due to a minor injury or an allergy, without any side effects, immediate cooling can alleviate the swelling. Depending on what is within reach, a cold spoon, an ice cube or an ice pad can be used for this.
If the lips are damaged by sunburn and have blisters, the lips should be carefully cooled. In this case, wet, cold towels or washcloths are recommended. The application of olive oil or marigold ointment is then recommended. Quark can also be used to cool and apply to burned lips and can have a soothing effect. If the lips swell for no apparent reason after a strenuous day, chewing lemon balm helps some sufferers. The lemon balm juice has a calming effect and soothes puffy lips. In addition, lemon balm oil or honey can have a soothing effect on swollen, easily bleeding lips.
It is recommended that you gently apply the oil or honey to your lips with a clean cotton swab. Afterwards, boiled, cooled black tea bags can soothe the lips further. Some sufferers also find garlic and olive oil effective. Lip swellings caused by herpes viruses are sometimes soothed with Manuka honey.
Some sufferers report relief from cold sores by carefully dabbing with sage or black tea . However, if the herpes infection has progressed, it is absolutely advisable to consult a doctor to avoid complications. If other symptoms occur in addition to lip swelling, a doctor should always be consulted.
Therapy with heat or cooling
The best way to swell the lips is to cool them as soon as possible. After a few hours, cooling measures no longer have a decongestant effect, but only relieve pain.
Warm compresses are advisable for further swelling of the lips. Dip a clean cloth or washcloth in water so hot that it can just about be touched.
Of course, the comfort and burn limits should of course be taken into account. The hot compresses can be placed on the lips for about 10 minutes. This action can be repeated about every hour several times a day until the swelling has subsided.
The duration of lip swelling depends on the cause. If there are no accompanying symptoms and the causes are harmless, lip swelling can go away in a short time. If the cause is harmless, the lip swelling will subside after a few days at the latest .
If the lip swelling persists or occurs repeatedly, a doctor should be consulted