Swollen lips are created by underlying inflammation or a buildup of fluid under the skin of your lips. Many things can actually cause swollen lips, from minor skin conditions to severe allergic reactions. Continue reading to learn about the possible causes and their additional symptoms and when you should seek emergency treatment
Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can create swollen lips. Any type of allergy can produce anaphylaxis, and it can occur within minutes or more than half an hour after encountering an allergen. It’s sometimes referred to as anaphylactic shock because it causes your immune system to flood your body with chemicals that can make you go into shock.
Other symptoms of anaphylaxis are inclusive of:
- 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. Ensure your close friends, coworkers, and family members know how to recognize the signs of anaphylaxis and use epinephrine.
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Most of the other causes of swollen lips don’t require emergency treatment, but you should still follow up with your healthcare provider to make sure there’s nothing else going on.
Allergies are basically your body’s reaction to certain substances. When you meet something you’re allergic to, your body generate a chemical called histamine. The release of histamine can result to classic allergy symptoms, such as sneezing, itchy skin, and inflammation. This inflammation can cause swollen lips. There are several types of allergies, and all of them can make your lips to swell.
You can have an allergic reaction to substances in the environment. These are often unavoidable and include pollen, mold spores, dust, and pet dander.
Other symptoms of environmental allergies are inclusive of:
- swelling in other parts of the body
- nasal congestion
An allergist can assist treat environmental allergies. They’ll carry out skin or blood test to determine what you’re allergic to. Depending on the results, they may recommend an over-the-counter or prescription antihistamine. If your allergies are severe, you may require allergy shots.
Food allergies are often common causes of swollen lips. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI), about 4 percent of adults and up to 6 percent of children have food allergies. The swelling usually begins as soon as you eat something you’re allergic to. Many foods can trigger allergies, especially eggs, nuts, dairy and shellfish.
Food allergies can also cause:
- facial swelling
- tongue swelling
- trouble swallowing
- stomach pain
The only way to treat food allergies is to stay off foods you’re sensitive to. If you experience swollen lips after eating a meal, keep a food diary and note any allergy symptoms you have. This can assist you narrow down what’s causing your allergies.
Insect bites or stings may also create 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 assist reduce swelling and itching after an insect bite or sting.
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Drug allergies can also cause swollen lips. One of the most common causes of drug allergies, according to the ACAAI, is penicillin. About 10 percent of people are allergic to this common antibiotic. Other possible causes of drug allergies could include other types of antibiotics, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), and anticonvulsants. Some people undergoing cancer treatments also find they’re allergic to chemotherapy drugs.
Other symptoms of drug allergies could include:
- skin rash
- general swelling
Like food allergies, the best way to treat allergic reactions to medications is to avoid them.
Angioedema is actually short-term condition that produces swelling deep under your skin. It can be caused by allergies, nonallergic drug reactions, or hereditary conditions. The swelling can affect any part of your body, but it’s most common in your lips or eyes.
Other symptoms of angioedema could include:
Angioedema symptoms often last for 24 to 48 hours. It’s treated with antihistamines, corticosteroids, or epinephrine injections. Your doctor can help you know the right medication based on the cause and severity of your angioedema. Antihistamines tend to work well for allergy-related angioedema. Nonallergic and hereditary angioedema usually respond well to corticosteroids.
Injuries to the face, especially around your mouth or jaw, can create swollen lips.
Causes of facial injuries could include:
- blunt-force trauma
Depending on the type of injury, you may also have bruising, scrapes, and bleeding.
Treating injury-related swollen lips basically depends on the cause. For mild injuries, applying an ice pack can help with pain. You can also apply heat to reduce swelling. If you have a deep cut or can not stop the bleeding, seek treatment at an emergency department or urgent care clinic right away. Additionally, keep an eye out for signs of infection, such as swelling, heat, redness, or tenderness. Tell your healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms.
Cheilitis glandularis is an inflammatory condition that can only affect the lips. According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center, it’s most common in men. Doctors are not sure what causes it, but it seems to be associated with UV exposure, lip injuries, and smoking.
Other lip symptoms include:
- tender lips
- pin-sized holes that excrete saliva
- uneven lip surface
Cheilitis glandularis often doesn’t require treatment. However, it does make you more prone to bacterial infections. These usually has 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. In some situations, it can also cause a fissured tongue or facial paralysis. Most people only experience one or two of these symptoms at a time.
MRS is rare and likely genetic. It’s commonly treated with corticosteroids and NSAIDs to assist reduce swelling.
Cheilitis granulomatous, sometimes known as Miescher cheilitis, is another possible cause of swollen lips. It’s a rare inflammatory condition that causes lumpy swelling in your lips. Doctors often refer to it as a subtype of MRS.
Like MRS, cheilitis granulomatous is usually treated with corticosteroids and NSAIDs, which can assist reduce swelling.