In simple terms, upper lip swelling means enlargement of the affected lip. The sudden change in size of the lip is commonly accompanied by a burning sensation, that can be quite painful. Swollen upper lip is indeed unsightly and can definitely spoil the facial appearance. Many times, the enlarged lip causes irritation due to presence of a secondary infection.
An injury to the upper lip while shaving or a blow during a fight, especially in sports like boxing, can result in swollen upper lips. Other causes are given below:
Contact dermatitis occur when the skin is exposed to irritants that bring red, itchy rash. Even minor exposure to harsh soaps cannot be tolerated by the lips, resulting in inflammation and formation of blisters. Mouthwash products, used as a part of oral hygiene, can also trigger an allergic reaction. Once the skin is exposed to irritants, the swelling and the rash is seen within a day or two.
Angioedema refers to the inflammation that interestingly does not affect the skin surface. Instead, the swelling strikes the layer, underneath the skin surface. People allergic to certain foods or medicines are predisposed to this type of swelling. Aggravated form of angioedema not only affect the upper lip but also the tongue and the throat. Angioedema that can also occur as a consequence of insect bites and over exposure to sun, involves formation of red welts (raised portions on the skin). Angioedema is a painful condition that sometimes bring itchiness to the skin.
Melkersson - Rosenthal Syndrome
The syndrome is a neurological disorder (related to the nervous system) that damages the nerves (brain signal carriers), leading to repeated episodes of swelling of the upper lip and the face. The recurring nature of this disease, causes chronic inflammation, eventually leading to permanent swelling. Change in color of the lip is also observed and is accompanied by the development of cracks. The delicate skin of lips also turn permanently hard.
Paresthesia in the beginning gives a feeling of 'pin and needles' pricking the skin and later the person feels numbness on the lips. Lip paresthesia is an indication of undue pressure being put on the nerve that is traveling through the lips. Lip paresthesia is a temporary condition that vanishes as soon as the pressure on the affected nerve decreases.
Upper lip swelling has also been linked to Crohn's disease, a condition that causes inflammation of a specific part of the small intestine. Swollen upper lip, regarded as a symptom of Crohn's disease may also cause ulceration in the mouth.
Oral herpes, also referred to as cold sores is caused by the exposure to HSV - 1 virus. Initially the person experiences burning sensation and then it is followed by swelling near the lip. Later, the affected lip show fluid filled blisters that eventually break and form a scab. Within a week, the scab become hard and fall down. This is a contagious infection that spreads through skin-to-skin contact. For instance, giving a kiss to an infected person transfers the virus, leading to outbreak of oral herpes.
Treatment for swollen upper lip depends on what has caused an increase in the lip size. For a chronic inflammation like melkersson-rosenthal syndrome, treatment involves intake of anti-inflammatory drugs and corticosteroids to subside swelling. Antihistamines are commonly prescribed to treat angioedema or allergic reactions. Avoiding the irritant will work in favor of people suffering from contact dermatitis on the lip. Recurrent outbreaks of upper lip swelling due to neurological disorder is a rare and usually the result of contact with irritants.