What Causes Tingling Lips?

Medically reviewed by Alana Biggers, MD on June 22, 2017Written by Dorothy L. Tengler and Ashley Marcin on June 22, 2017

Is it Raynaud’s syndrome?

In general, tingling lips are nothing to worry about and will usually clear up on their own. However, in Raynaud’s syndrome, tingling lips are an important symptom. There are two main types of Raynaud’s syndrome, also known as Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Of the two types, primary Raynaud’s syndrome is the most common. In primary Raynaud’s, tingling lips usually result from stress or exposure to cold temperatures. No medication or urgent care is needed.

Secondary Raynaud’s is caused by an underlying condition, and symptoms are more extensive. Blood flow to the body, especially the hands and feet, is often affected. Reduced blood flow can cause the affected areas to turn a blue color. In those with this form of Raynaud’s, the condition typically develops around age 40.

When to seek immediate medical attention

Although tingling lips typically result from something minor, it can be a sign of a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is also known as a mini-stroke. Both a stroke and a mini-stroke occur when blood flow to your brain is interrupted.

Other symptoms of stroke include:

  • blurred vision
  • trouble sitting, standing, or walking
  • difficulty speaking
  • weakness in arms or legs
  • numbness or paralysis in one side of your face
  • pain in your face, chest, or arms
  • confusion or difficulty understanding what other people are saying
  • bad headaches
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of smell and taste
  • sudden onset of fatigue

Even though a TIA may last just a few minutes, it’s still important to seek help.

If you think you’re experiencing a stroke, you should immediately call your local emergency services.

If you aren’t experiencing these severe symptoms, continue reading to learn what may be causing your lips to tingle.

1. Allergic reaction

Your tingling lips may be a sign of an allergic reaction. Although minor allergic reactions are typically nothing to worry about, more severe allergies can lead to anaphylaxis.

This is a potentially life-threatening reaction. Symptoms generally occur immediately after contact with the allergen.

You should seek immediate medical attention if you have:

  • trouble breathing
  • difficulty swallowing
  • swelling in your mouth or throat
  • facial swelling

Keep reading: How to handle anaphylaxis »

Food allergies

Food allergies occur within a few hours after eating the trigger food, although sometimes the reaction can occur within a few minutes.

Although allergies can be caused by any food, most food allergies are from:

  • milk
  • peanuts
  • tree nuts
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • wheat

Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome is a delayed food allergy reaction that may occur two to six hours after drinking milk or ingesting soy, some grains, or other solid foods.

Oral allergy syndrome, or pollen-food syndrome, usually causes feelings of itchiness after eating some raw fruits, raw vegetables, or tree nuts. Oral allergy syndrome can occur in people who may also have allergies to birch, ragweed, or grass pollens.

Drug allergies

If your immune system has become very sensitive to a substance in a particular medication, you may have developed a drug allergy. Your body sees this substance as foreign and releases chemicals in an effort to defend itself against the invader.

In addition to tingling lips, you may experience:

  • wheezing
  • hives or skin rashes
  • itching
  • vomiting
  • dizziness

Chemical allergies

The chemicals in makeup or cosmetics applied to the lips may also cause an allergic reaction.

In addition to tingling lips, symptoms include:

  • itching
  • dry patches
  • blisters

2. Food poisoning

There are cases when food poisoning may cause tingling in your lips, as well as in your tongue, throat, and mouth. You’re more likely to get food poisoning from events where food is left out of refrigeration for long periods of time, like picnics and buffets.

Symptoms may develop soon after you eat contaminated foods. In other cases, it may take several days or weeks for you to get sick.

Other symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • stomach pain and cramping
  • fever

Fish and shellfish are common causes of food poisoning. They may contain different bacterium and neurotoxins. For example, the most common food poisoning related to seafood is called ciguatera poisoning. It’s caused by sea bass, barracuda, red snapper, and other bottom-dwelling reef fish that include a certain poisonous food in their diets. Once ingested, this poison stays in the fish even if it’s cooked or frozen.

Your sickness may last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks. Contact your doctor if you’re unable to keep down liquids or you experience diarrhea for more than three days.

You should also let your doctor know if:

  • your fever is over 101°F (38°C)
  • you experience severe stomach pain
  • there’s blood in your stool

To avoid food poisoning from fish, consider skipping varieties like grouper, snapper, king mackerel, and moray eel. With seafood like tuna, sardines, and mahi-mahi, proper refrigeration is the key to safety.

3. Vitamin or mineral deficiency

If you aren’t getting enough nutrients, your body is unable to produce enough red blood cells. Red blood cells help move oxygen throughout your body.

In addition to tingling lips, you may experience:

  • fatigue
  • loss of appetite
  • dizziness
  • muscle cramps
  • irregular heartbeat

Common deficiencies include:

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies often result from eating a poor diet. If your diet is lacking in meat, dairy, fruits, or vegetables, talk to your doctor about how you can better meet your nutritional needs.

Vitamin deficiency may also be caused by:

  • certain prescription medicines
  • pregnancy
  • smoking
  • alcohol abuse
  • chronic illnesses

4. Cold sore

Cold sores often cause tingling lips before the blister develops. The course of a cold sore usually follows a pattern of tingling and itching, blisters, and finally, oozing and crusting.

If you’re developing a cold sore, you may also experience:

  • fever
  • muscle aches
  • swollen lymph nodes

Cold sores are usually caused by certain strains of the herpes simplex virus (HSV).

Check out: The 7 best cold sore remedies »

5. Hypoglycemia

In hypoglycemia, your blood sugar (glucose) is too low, resulting in symptoms that include tingling around the mouth. Your body and brain need a certain amount of glucose to function well.

Although hypoglycemia is typically associated with diabetes, anyone can experience low blood sugar.

Symptoms of low blood sugar often come on suddenly. In addition to tingling lips, you may experience:

  • blurry vision
  • shaking
  • dizziness
  • sweating
  • pale skin
  • rapid heartbeat
  • trouble thinking clearly or concentrating

Drinking juice or soft drinks or eating candy may help raise your blood sugar level and cause the symptoms to stop. If your symptoms are persistent, see your doctor.

SPONSORED: Dealing with hypoglycemia »

6. Hyperventilation

Hyperventilation, or breathing very heavily and rapidly, often occurs with anxiety or during panic attacks. When you hyperventilate, you breathe in too much oxygen, which lowers the amount of carbon dioxide in your blood. This may cause numbness or tingling around your mouth.

To increase the amount of carbon dioxide, you need to take in less oxygen by covering your mouth and one nostril or breathing into a paper bag.

Learn more: 11 ways to stop a panic attack »

Less common causes

Sometimes, tingling lips can be a sign of an underlying condition that’s more severe. See your doctor if you think you’re experiencing any of the following conditions.

7. Shingles

Shingles is caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. The condition is typically characterized by a painful red rash along your torso. Fluid-filled blisters break open and crust over, causing itching.

The rash can also appear around one eye or around one side of your neck or face. When shingles appears on your face, tingling lips are possible.

Other symptoms include:

  • fever
  • headaches
  • fatigue

It’s possible to experience shingles without any rash at all.

If you have a weakened immune system, you may be more likely to develop shingles. The older you are at onset, the more likely you are to develop complications. If you’re age 70 or above, see your doctor immediately.

Keep reading: 6 natural treatments for shingles »

8. Multiple sclerosis

The cause of multiple sclerosis (MS) is still unclear, but it’s thought to be an autoimmune disease. This means that something in your immune system is causing it to attack itself, rather than attacking invading viruses and bacteria.

One of the first symptoms of MS involves numbness in the face, which could include tingling lips. There are many other parts of the body that are affected in MS, such as the arms and legs.

More common symptoms include:

  • numbness of the legs or feet
  • difficulty balancing
  • muscle weakness
  • muscle spasticity
  • acute or chronic pain
  • speech disorders
  • tremor

Learn more: Tests for multiple sclerosis »

9. Lupus

Lupus is an autoimmune disease that causes inflammation in your body. It can affect your skin and joints, as well as major organs such as your kidneys, lungs, and heart.

Lupus can also affect your nervous system, which may cause tingling lips. Tingling lips are typically experienced alongside other symptoms.

These include:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • body aches
  • shortness of breath
  • headaches

10. Guillain-Barré syndrome

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks itself, in this case, the nervous system. GBS usually occurs after a respiratory or gastrointestinal infection.

The most common symptoms include weakness, tingling, and a crawling sensation in your arms and legs. These symptoms may start in your hands and feet, moving upward toward your face, and may affect your lips, causing a tingling sensation.

Other symptoms include:

  • difficulty walking steadily
  • difficulty moving your eyes or face, talking, chewing, or swallowing
  • severe lower back pain
  • loss of bladder control
  • fast heart rate
  • difficulty breathing
  • paralysis

Is it oral cancer?

In rare cases, tingling and numbness in your lips may be a sign of oral cancer. This sensation may be caused by clusters of abnormal cells (tumors) on your lips.

Tumors can form anywhere on the lips, but they’re more common on the bottom lip. Risk factors for oral cancer, specifically lip cancer, range from tobacco use to sun exposure.

These are the other symptoms of oral cancer:

  • sores or irritation in your mouth, lips, or throat
  • feeling something caught in your throat
  • trouble chewing and swallowing
  • trouble moving your jaw or tongue
  • numbness in and around your mouth
  • ear pain

If you notice tingling lips and any of these symptoms for longer than two weeks, it’s a good idea to tell your dentist or primary care doctor. The death rate with oral cancer is high because it’s often detected late. Treatment is most effective if the cancer is caught early.

That said, infections or other more benign medical issues may also cause similar symptoms. Your doctor is your best source for information about your individual symptoms.

When to see your doctor

Tingling lips typically aren’t a sign of a larger condition. In most cases, the tingling will clear up without treatment within a day or two.

You should see your doctor if you also experience:

  • sudden and severe headaches
  • dizziness
  • confusion
  • paralysis

Your doctor can perform diagnostic testing to determine the cause of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan for any underlying cause.

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