Swollen lips are caused by inflammation or fluid buildup, ranging from being slightly uncomfortable to very painful. Lip swelling has many causes, from external factors such as injury, irritation, allergies, and infection to underlying conditions that may need medical attention.
When exposed to an irritant or allergen, swollen lips can occur suddenly. Your lip swelling may also progress slowly or come and go over time. A swollen lip on one lip or swelling in your mouth may also occur.
There is no single cause of swollen lips, so there is also no "swollen lips cure" or timeframe for when the swelling will subside. If you apply chapstick to chapped lips, your lip swelling may subside. The swelling may last until antihistamines kick in if an allergy causes your swollen lips.
While many cases of swollen lips aren't severe, you should get medical attention if you're experiencing prolonged swollen lips. Besides helping you determine the cause of your swollen lips, your doctor can suggest the best treatment.
An inflammatory response or fluid buildup in the lip tissue can cause lip swelling, sometimes called lipedema. In some cases, swollen lips can accompany other symptoms that indicate an underlying cause or condition. Swollen lips can cause the following symptoms:
It depends on what causes swollen lips and how long they last. Swollen lips may appear suddenly and disappear with time or treatment. Swollen lips can also develop slowly over time, which may indicate inflammation or infection.
There are several causes of swollen lips, each with its symptoms and treatment options. Infections, allergies, and injuries are the most common causes of swollen lips.
Swollen lips due to infection
There are several causes of swollen lips, including viral, bacterial, or fungal infections.
The symptoms of infections, especially more severe ones, can include redness around the infected area and slight, flu-like symptoms such as a low-grade fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes.
Swollen lips due to allergies
Swollen lips can result from an allergic reaction when the immune system responds inappropriately to a foreign substance. Mild to severe allergic reactions can include:
An allergic reaction to ace inhibitors, a class of high blood pressure medications, can cause swollen lips. These reactions can result in swelling only on one side of the lip, while the swelling can be dramatic and worsen rapidly. The airway can become occluded if the tongue also becomes swollen, so if you take this medication and develop lip swelling, you should see a doctor immediately.
Anaphylaxis, or anaphylactic shock, is another severe reaction associated with allergies. Anaphylaxis usually occurs within minutes or hours after encountering an allergen and can be life-threatening. The following symptoms should be looked out for:
Swollen lips due to irritation
Lip swelling can also be caused by trauma or irritation to the mouth area. External triggers include:
The swelling on one side of your lip is more likely caused by injury to that side than by a systemic issue like allergies.
Swollen lips can also be caused by:
Lip swelling may be diagnosed based on the swollen appearance of your lips; however, your provider will likely want to determine what is causing your lips to swell. A K doctor can help you determine why your lips are swelling and how to get rid of swollen lips if you experience swollen lips.
During your physical exam, your practitioner will likely ask you the following questions:
Your doctor may recommend keeping an allergy journal to help narrow down the source of your swollen lips. To avoid triggers, your doctor may also recommend skin-prick allergy testing.
Infections, allergies, and other reasons for swollen lips can be uncomfortable and frustrating, but several treatments are available. The best way to treat swollen lips is to identify what's causing them.
The type of infection you have determines how your doctor treats it. While oral or topical antibiotics can treat bacterial infections, viral and fungal infections cannot, although antiviral medications can treat herpes simplex infections. Your provider will work with you to determine the most appropriate treatment for your infection.
Depending on the cause of your swollen lips, your doctor may recommend an over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription antihistamine, such as:
As a long-term treatment for environmental allergies, allergy shots can help decrease sensitivity to allergens in more severe cases. A food allergy can only be prevented by avoiding the foods you're allergic to. Your doctor may recommend an EpiPen prescription if you have a severe allergy.
It is impossible to prevent most forms of irritation and trauma. Talking to your doctor can minimize swollen lips caused by an external factor (not allergies). Among the recommendations they may make are:
Your doctor will work with you if another cause of swollen lips is identified. The treatment may consist of anti-inflammatory medications (such as NSAIDs or corticosteroids) or treating the underlying cause.
People with known or unknown allergies are more likely to develop swollen lips. Swollen lips can also be caused by:
To avoid any potential complications, seeking treatment for swollen lips is important. There are a few possible complications associated with swollen lips, though they are rare:
A doctor can identify the underlying cause and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan for swollen lips that are causing you discomfort or interfering with your life. Please call 112 if you have any of the below symptoms, which may indicate a severe condition such as an anaphylactic reaction:
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