From an allergic reaction to oral cancer, there are many possible causes of lip bumps. Lip bumps can visually range from red and irritated, to flesh-toned and hardly noticeable to anyone but you.
Recognizing potential causes of lip bumps can help you determine if a condition is cause for concern or simply a harmless skin variation.
Bumps on the lips can range in size, color, and texture. Causes may include acute and chronic conditions. Examples of causes of bumps on the lips include:
- allergic reaction
- bacterial infections
- canker sores (or cold sores)
- Fordyce granules, harmless white spots
- hand, foot, and mouth disease
- milia (a tiny benign cyst or “milk spot”)
- mucoceles, or bumps that form when the salivary glands are blocked
- oral cancer
- oral herpes
- oral thrush
- perioral dermatitis, a face rash due to skin irritation
While many lip bumps are harmless, conditions like oral cancer can have serious health risks.
When to seek help
Seek emergency medical care if you experience the following symptoms along with bumps on your lips:
- bleeding on your lips that will not stop
- difficulty breathing
- sudden swelling of your lips
- breaking out into a rash that spreads rapidly
Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience these symptoms:
- bumps that are very painful
- bumps that bleed
- bumps that worsen over time or seem to be enlarging
- jaw swelling
- a soft, white patchy area on your lips
- tongue numbness
A doctor will conduct a health history when you seek medical treatment. Your doctor will likely ask if you have risk factors for lip bumps, such as smoking, sun exposure, taking new medications, or any allergens you may have been exposed to.
A physical examination typically follows. A doctor will look at your lips and ask you about your symptoms. You may be asked when you first noticed the bumps, your pain level, and any changes you may have noticed.
Your doctor may recommend further testing, including:
- taking a blood test to detect viruses or bacteria
- testing the skin cells (by a biopsy) for the presence of cancer
- X-ray imaging to view the mouth and jaw to detect abnormalities
In the cases of simple conditions like thrush and oral herpes, a doctor can often make a diagnosis solely through a visual examination.
Treatment for bumps on the lips depends upon its cause. Doctors can prescribe medications to treat infections. These include anti-fungal and anti-viral medications along with antibiotics.
Allergic reactions and dermatitis may be treated with antihistamine medications to reverse inflammatory reactions. These can include pills or creams to reduce discomfort.
While conditions such as canker sores and oral herpes can be treated, they can’t be permanently cured. You may get them again at a future time.
Oral cancer can involve more extensive treatments, like surgery to remove the cancerous lesion. Further medications and radiation treatments may be needed to prevent the cancer from spreading.
Do not neglect good oral hygiene habits when you have lip bumps. This includes brushing your teeth at least two to three times a day and flossing at least once a day. If you have an infection that’s causing the bumps on your lips, replace your toothbrush once the infection has healed.
You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers to minimize pain and discomfort associated with bumps on the lips. Rinsing and spitting with a warm saltwater solution can also help minimize inflammation and irritation.
Refrain from irritating or picking at the skin on your lips. This can affect your healing time and make you vulnerable to infection. Follow your doctor’s directions for treating the bumps and be sure not to disturb the affected area.