Swollen lips are triggered by underlying inflammation or an accumulation of fluid under the skin of your lips. Numerous things can cause swollen lips, from minor skin conditions to severe allergic reactions. Read on to learn about the possible causes and their extra signs and when you must look for first aid.
Should I Call My Doctor?
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can trigger swollen lips. Any kind of allergy can cause anaphylaxis, and it can take place within minutes or more than half an hour after experiencing an allergen. It’s often called anaphylactic shock since it causes your immune system to flood your body with chemicals that can make you go into shock.
Other symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- low blood pressure
- tightening airways
- swollen tongue and throat
- weak and rapid pulse
Anaphylaxis needs immediate treatment with an injection of epinephrine (EpiPen). If you know you have allergies, speak to your healthcare provider about getting a prescription for a portable epinephrine injection that you can carry with you. Make certain your close friends, colleagues, and family members know how to acknowledge the indications of anaphylaxis and use epinephrine.
Most of the other reasons for swollen lips don’t need emergency treatment, but you must still follow up with your healthcare provider to make certain there’s absolutely nothing else going on.
Allergies are your body’s reaction to certain substances. When you encounter something you’re allergic to, your body produces a chemical called histamine. The release of histamine can cause timeless allergy signs, such as sneezing, scratchy skin, and swelling. This inflammation might trigger swollen lips. There are a number of types of allergies, and all of them can trigger your lips to swell.
You might have an allergic reaction to substances in the environment. These are typically unavoidable and include pollen, mold spores, dust, and pet dander.
Other signs of environmental allergies include:
- swelling in other parts of the body
- nasal congestion
An allergist can help treat environmental allergies. They’ll perform skin or blood tests to identify what you’re allergic to. Based on the outcomes, they may advise a non-prescription or prescription antihistamine. If your allergies are severe, you may require allergy shots.
Food allergies are a common reason for swollen lips. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), about 4 percent of grownups and up to 6 percent of children have food allergies. The swelling typically starts as soon as you eat something you’re allergic to. Many foods can activate allergies, especially eggs, nuts, dairy and shellfish.
Food allergies can likewise trigger:
- facial swelling
- tongue swelling
- trouble swallowing
- stomach pain
The only way to deal with food allergies is to avoid foods you’re sensitive to. If you experience swollen lips after eating a meal, keep a food journal and note any allergy signs you have. This can help you narrow down what’s triggering your allergies.
Insect bites or stings may likewise trigger swollen lips. If you’re allergic to bees, for example, you might have swelling throughout your body after being stung. A quick-acting allergy medication, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), can help in reducing swelling and itching after an insect bite or sting.
Drug allergies can likewise cause swollen lips. One of the most common reasons for drug allergies, according to the ACAAI, is penicillin. About 10 percent of individuals are allergic to this common antibiotic. Other possible reasons for drug allergies include other kinds of antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and anticonvulsants. Some individuals undergoing cancer treatments likewise find they’re allergic to chemotherapy drugs.
Other symptoms of drug allergies include:
- skin rash
- general swelling
Like food allergies, the very best way to treat allergic reactions to medications is to prevent them.
Angioedema is a short-term condition that causes swelling deep under your skin. It can be brought on by allergies, nonallergic drug reactions, or hereditary conditions. The swelling can impact any part of your body, however it’s most common in your lips or eyes.
Other symptoms of angioedema include:
Angioedema symptoms typically last for 24 to 48 hours. It’s treated with antihistamines, corticosteroids, or epinephrine injections. Your doctor can assist you figure out the ideal medication based upon the cause and severity of your angioedema. Antihistamines tend to work well for allergy-related angioedema. Nonallergic and hereditary angioedema normally react well to corticosteroids.
Injuries to the face, specifically around your mouth or jaw, can cause swollen lips.
Reasons for facial injuries include:
- blunt-force trauma
Depending on the type of injury, you may likewise have bruising, scrapes, and bleeding.
Dealing with injury-related swollen lips depends upon the cause. For mild injuries, applying an ice pack can help with pain. You can likewise use heat to decrease swelling. If you have a deep cut or can’t stop the bleeding, look for treatment at an emergency department or urgent care clinic immediately. Also, keep an eye out for signs of infection, such as swelling, heat, soreness, or inflammation. Inform your healthcare provider if you see any of these signs.
Cheilitis glandularis is an inflammatory condition that only affects the lips. According to the Genetic and Unusual Illness Information Center, it’s most typical in men. Doctors aren’t sure what causes it, however it seems to be connected with UV exposure, lip injuries, and smoking.
Other lip signs include:
- tender lips
- pin-sized holes that excrete saliva
- uneven lip surface
Cheilitis glandularis typically doesn’t require treatment. Nevertheless, it does make you more prone to bacterial infections. These typically require to be treated with antibiotics or corticosteroids.
Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome (MRS) is an inflammatory neurological condition that affects the face. The main symptom of MRS is swollen lips. Sometimes, it can also trigger a fissured tongue or facial paralysis. The majority of people only experience one or two of these symptoms at a time.
MRS is rare and most likely genetic. It’s frequently treated with corticosteroids and NSAIDs to help reduce swelling.
Cheilitis granulomatous, sometimes called Miescher cheilitis, is another possible reason for swollen lips. It’s a rare inflammatory condition that causes lumpy swelling in your lips. Doctors typically describe it as a subtype of MRS.
Like MRS, cheilitis granulomatous is normally treated with corticosteroids and NSAIDs, which can help in reducing swelling.
The Bottom Line
A number of things can cause your lips to swell, from common allergies to unusual genetic conditions. Work with your healthcare provider to figure out the underlying cause so you can treat it or prevent it in the future. In the meantime, taking non-prescription NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen (Advil), might help reduce swelling.