Swollen lips


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By Medicover Hospitals / 08 Mar 2021
Home | symptoms | Swollen lips
  • Swollen lips are caused by an underlying inflammation or fluid buildup under the skin of your lips. Many factors can cause lip swelling, from minor skin conditions to severe allergic reactions. Read on to learn more about the possible causes and their additional symptoms, and when you should seek emergency treatment.
  • Article Context:

    1. What are Swollen Lips?
    2. Causes
    3. Treatment
    4. When to visit a Doctor?
    5. Home remedies
    6. FAQ's

    What are Swollen Lips?

  • Swollen lips are the enlargement or distension of one or both lips because of a buildup of fluid or inflammation in the tissue of the lips. The swelling of the lips can also be called lipedema.
  • A variety of mild to severe disorders, illnesses, and conditions can cause swelling of the lips. The swelling can result from infections, inflammation, trauma, or malignant tumors.
  • Depending on the cause, the swelling of the lips may brief and go away quickly, for example, when you have sunburned and chapped lips. Swelling of the lips that develops over time and is accompanied by additional symptoms may be a sign of widespread infection or inflammation.
  • Since the swelling and swelling of the lips can be a sign of a life-threatening illness, such as an anaphylactic reaction, see an emergency doctor if you experience swelling of the lips accompanied by difficulty in breathing, hives, or rash, severe distress, fever, and redness or heat.
  • Causes:

    Allergies That Cause Swelling of The Lips:

    • An allergic reaction by the immune system occurs when the body responds negatively to a particular substance.
    • When a person has an allergic reaction, certain cells in the body produce and release a chemical known as histamine.
    • People can be allergic to a lot of things, but some common allergies that can cause lip swelling include:

    Environmental Allergies:

    • Environmental allergies are allergic reactions to substances in the environment.
    • Common allergies include pollen, mold spores, dust, and animal dander.
    • Signs of an environmental allergy include:
      • Swelling of the lips and other areas of the body
      • Wheezing
      • Urticaria
      • To sneeze
      • A stuffy nose
    • Depending on the severity of the allergic reaction, an individual may often treat the allergy with an over-the-counter antihistamine. In more severe cases, a person may be given a series of allergy shots, also called immunotherapy, to help the body get used to the allergens.

    Food Allergies:

    • The ACAAI reports that between 4 and 6 percent of children and about 4 percent of adults have a food allergy.
    • Allergies occur in families, but it is impossible to predict whether a parent will pass an allergy on to their child.
    • About 90% of food allergies involve the following foods:
      • Eggs
      • Milk
      • Peanuts and nuts
      • Fish and shellfish
      • Wheat
      • Soy
    • In addition to swollen lips, the ACAAI lists the following symptoms of food allergies:
      • Vomiting
      • Stomach cramps
      • Urticaria
      • Shortness of breath
      • Wheezing
      • Cough
      • Swollen tongue
      • Difficulty swallowing
      • Weak pulse
      • Pale or blue skin
      • Dizziness
    • The major way to deal with a food allergy is to avoid the food that triggers it. This may involve carefully reading labels and asking questions about restaurant ingredients.
    • A dietitian or nutritionist can often advise you on the best course of action for a specific allergy diet.

    Other Allergies:

    • Insect bites, stings, and allergies to specific medications can also cause the lips to swell.
    • Some people are allergic to certain medications; with antibiotics, especially penicillin, being the primary culprit.
    • Other common symptoms of a penicillin allergy include:
      • Rashes
      • Itchy eyes
      • Urticaria
      • Wheezing
      • Swelling of the tongue or face
      • Feel sick
      • Vomiting
      • Diarrhea
      • Headache
    • If a person experiences these symptoms after taking a medicine containing penicillin, they should immediately stop taking it and consult their doctor. Other drug options are often available.
    • Other drugs that can cause an allergic reaction that may be like this include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, anticonvulsants, and drugs associated with chemotherapy.


    • Serious allergic reactions can present as an acute allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. When anaphylaxis is severe, a person can have an anaphylactic shock
    • This reaction can be dangerous and, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (AAAAI), even fatal. Some people may not even realize that they are allergic to something until they have anaphylaxis.
    • The AAAAI lists five groups of symptoms of anaphylaxis:
      • Breathing: wheezing, tight throat, chest pain, difficulty swallowing, stuffy nose.
      • Circulation:pale or blue skin, weak pulse, dizziness, low blood pressure.
      • Skin: hives, swelling, itching, warmth, redness, rash.
      • Stomach (abdomen): nausea, cramps, vomiting, diarrhea.
      • Other: Symptoms include anxiety, a headache, and itchy red eyes.
  • Anaphylaxis requires immediate medical treatment. The first course of action is to inject a dose of epinephrine, for example through an EpiPen, and then go to the emergency room.
  • Other Causes of lip Swelling:

  • Aside from allergies, some other things can cause lip swelling. These include:
  • Angioedema:

    • This is usually a short-term condition that occurs when there is swelling under the skin.
    • It often occurs as an unwanted side effect of a drug or in response to a trigger that causes an allergy.
    • Angioedema often affects the lips and other parts of the body, including:
      • Hands
      • Feet
      • Around the eye
      • Language
      • Genitals
    • Angioedema is not considered a serious disease and will usually go away on its own within a few days.
    • If the angioedema is caused by an allergy, an antihistamine is the usual method of treatment.
    • If it is caused by a medication, a person may need to stop the current treatment and see their doctor for an alternative.


    • Minor cuts, sores, and lacerations to the lips can cause them to swell. The lips have a rich blood supply and are therefore prone to swelling.
    • To treat lip injuries, clean the area and stop any bleeding with a clean cloth or bandage. It is also possible to reduce the swelling by applying an ice pack to the affected area.
    • If the injury is large, has been caused by an animal bite, is extremely painful, or shows signs of infection, then the person should seek the help of a healthcare professional.

    Rare Medical Conditions:

  • Granulomatous cheilitis is a rare disease that can cause swelling of the lips.
    • Granulomatous cheilitis is a rare disease that can cause swelling of the lips.
    • Miescher-Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome is a recurring and lasting swelling of one or both lips (granulomatous cheilitis) with facial muscle weakness and a cracked tongue. There is no known cause, although genetics could be a factor.
  • Both conditions can usually be treated with prescription medication, although sometimes surgical reduction may be necessary. If there is an underlying cause, treatment should address it.
  • Treatment:

    • Depending on the reason for the swelling, medical treatment may be needed. If you have swelling because of angioedema, epinephrine is usually recommended. It is safer to take a single-use syringe and the medicine with you in an emergency.
    • If an inflammatory condition is causing the swelling, your doctor may recommend an anti-inflammatory drug that does not contain steroids (NSAIDs) or a corticosteroid to reduce the swelling. NSAIDs can also help if the swelling is because of an injury.
    • If there is an injury, if there is a lot of swelling and bleeding, the doctor will probably clean and heal your wound. Sewing the cut may not be an option. But medical treatment is necessary for such swelling of the lips.

    When to visit a Doctor?

  • Swollen lips often return to normal without any treatment, but if you experience more severe signs, like difficulty breathing or heavy bleeding, see a physician immediately. Other reasons to see a physician include if the swelling persists for more than a few days or if it is accompanied by pain or fever, which may mean that your lips are infected. Also, see a physician if the swelling has no clear cause or if it comes and goes for no clear reason.
  • Home Remedies:

    • Applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to swollen lips can often reduce inflammation. Never apply ice directly to the skin, as this may cause further damage.
    • You can find some relief from swollen lips caused by sunburn by using aloe lotion. Severe dryness or cracking can improve with a mild moisturizing lip balm.
    • Avoiding food and medication that has allergic reactions.

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    If you develop a burst or cut lip from an accident or injury, the healing process can vary from a few days to a few weeks depending on the severity of the lip sore. If the swelling does not improve within 48 hours, or if your lip continues to bleed excessively, you may need to see a doctor.
    Anyone with swollen lips should see a doctor if they have severe signs, such as those associated with anaphylaxis. However, most cases of swollen lips do not require emergency care and often go away on their own within a few days.
    In renal and hepatic insufficiency, the swelling of the lips is usually isolated, inconspicuous, and less severe. It is difficult to diagnose without a complete physical examination. Lip enlargement in these cases requires causal treatment. One of the most serious enlargements of the lips occurs in acromegaly.
    There is a vast assortment of autoimmune diseases that can cause lip swelling. In people with certain autoimmune diseases, such as Crohn's disease or lupus, sores, and swelling of the mouth and lips can occur during active disease flares.


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