Our lips are soft and movable fleshy folds of tissues surrounding the mouth. The skin of the lips is very delicate. Since lips don't possess sweat glands that lubricate and nourish the skin with body oils, they dry out faster. These may also become chapped due to exposure to harsh environmental conditions. There could be times when lips may swell up to several times their normal size due to an abnormal immune response. Usually, lip swelling can be easily treated once the underlying cause of the swelling is identified. However, swelling could also be a symptom of certain medical conditions that may require elaborate treatment.
Lip swelling can be caused due to a wide range of reasons. Here are some of the prominent causes:
More often than not, lips may swell up when one is exposed to an allergen. An allergic reaction is basically an abnormal or an exaggerated immune response wherein the immune system considers a protein or any other substance present in a food to be harmful.
- Peanuts, shellfish, eggs, soy, cow's milk, dairy products, wheat, jalapeno peppers and certain food additives are some of the common food allergens. Consumption of any such food item would trigger the release of histamines which in turn may cause the lips to swell up.
- Sometimes, an allergic reaction may be triggered by the use of certain drugs.
- Venom from bee stings or insect stings or exposure to pet dander, pollen or dust mites could also cause an allergic reaction.
Allergic Contact Dermatitis
This is an inflammatory skin condition that occurs when direct contact with an irritant causes redness, swelling, itching or inflammation. Using poor quality cosmetic products on lips could trigger an allergic reaction. At times, contact with an allergen may cause swelling under the epidermis, that is swelling of the dermis, subcutaneous tissue and submucosal tissues. This condition is medically referred to as angioedema.
Oral herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. It is characterized by the development of cold sores on the lips or corners of the mouth.
This condition is characterized by permanent swelling of the lips. The swelling occurs due to distended lymphatic spaces. Cheilitis glandularis is a rare inflammatory disorder where the lower lip swells up and is turned outward.
Cellulitis refers to the inflammation of body tissues. Facial cellulitis refers to inflammation of body tissues that are located under the surface of the skin on one's face could affect any part of the face. At times, one's lips may be affected by bacterial infection. This could cause them to swell up.
Trauma to the Lip
Lip swelling could also be attributed to an infection that may occur in event to trauma to the delicate lip skin. While lip piercings can look cool, these could become infected. Many of us keep biting our lips unconsciously.
More often than not, lips swell up if one consumes a food item that one may be allergic to. It is therefore essential to identify the food items that may cause an allergic reaction.
- If the swelling is caused due to an allergic reaction, the treatment will involve the use of antihistamines to counter the histamines that are released during an allergic reaction.
- At times, anti-inflammatory drugs or steroids might also be prescribed.
- Consumption of certain substances can even cause anaphylaxis, which is a life-threatening hypersensitivity reaction. Immediate medical assistance must be sought to avert a medical crisis.
- If you have suffered from a mild allergic reaction, you can also try simple home remedies. Application of ice packs might help in bringing down the swelling. Wrap ice in a clean towel and apply it on your lips.
- You can also apply aloe vera gel on your lips. It will surely soothe your irritated lips. Keep your lips moisturized and stay well-hydrated at all times.
- Since lips could swell up due to contact dermatitis, women must be very careful while buying lipsticks, lip gloss or other makeup products. If there's an expiration date on the product, make sure that you don't use the product after the expiration date has passed.
- If the swelling is due to bacterial or a viral infection, the treatment will involve the use of antibiotics or anti-viral drugs.
- While allergies are usually a temporary cause of the swelling and avoidance of allergens can avert such allergic reactions in future, certain medical conditions could give rise to permanent swelling of the lips. So seek medical assistance if the swelling doesn't subside soon.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.