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Swollen Lips: Causes and Treatments

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Lip oedema or swollen lips are the conditions when one of your lips distend or enlarge beyond normal size. This type of swelling is caused due to inflammation of the lip tissue which can cause illness, injury and certain allergies. Swollen lips can be the symptom of an extreme allergic reaction – anaphylaxis – that needs instant attention. Swelling may disappear and appear easily in less severe cases, such as sunburn or chap. Swelling which lasts longer and develops with time may be caused due to more serious inflammation or infection.

                                                                   swollen-lips

Symptoms

Fat or swollen lips can be painful and debilitating. People may have a problem in drinking, eating, talking and opening mouth. Some other common symptoms with lip swelling are chapping, blisters, pain, tiredness, lip discoloration, headache and chills or high temperature.

Causes

Swollen lips may have several causes, from mild problems to more serious problems, such as allergy, infections, injuries, inflammation or several medical conditions.

Food Allergies

Allergies to foods like dairy, nuts, shellfish, sesame seeds and egg whites are the common triggers. Some common reactions which affect swollen lips are latex, exercise, bee stings or wasp, pollens and several medicines.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions are some of the common symptoms of swollen lips. From pet dander to wrong lip care product or certain foods, contact with an allergen can lead to immune system to enhance protection and reaction. Swelling is one of common effects. Anaphylaxis is a potentially deadly kind of allergic reaction and it can lead to swollen lips. In needs instant medical care. Some of the common symptoms are hives, lip swelling, breathing or swallowing problems, itchy face or eyes etc.

If you are having any of such symptoms, you need to get emergency care instantly. The condition is likely to develop instantly and can cause weakness, increased heart rate, shock, reduce in blood pressure and, even worse death and unconsciousness.

Ecological Factors

Temperature, weather conditions and several environmental factors are likely to cause swollen lips. Lips don’t have sweat glands, hair or protective layer. Hence, they become more vulnerable to extreme cold or heat, such as drying out, sunburn and chapping.

Angioedema

Swollen lips can also be caused due to angioedema. It is basically a swelling which is in intense layer of skin which affects lips and eyes. It is a common condition which may affect around 10% to 20% of people in lifetime. It may also be caused due to allergic reaction. Food allergies are the major cause that can affect around 1 to 2 percent of adults and 5 to 8 percent of children. Some of the main food triggers are nuts, shellfish, milk and eggs. Other triggers are cold, heat, sunlight, animal dander or pet hair, insect bites, pollen, and certain medicines like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), antibiotics, and blood pressure medicines. It is actually a general kind of angioedema that may lead to fat lips.

                                                               Lip oedema

Other Health Problems

Some of the common illnesses causing swollen lips are –

  • Cheilitis – A rare form of inflammatory condition on lower lip
  • Cold Sores – The simplex virus that can deal with blisters and cold sores which may turn swollen, red and sore. Blisters may break, leak a fluid and scab over within few days. Usually, they heal after 2 weeks.
  • Cheilitis granulomatosa – It is a rare inflammatory condition which usually affect young adults.
  • Lip cancer related to excess sunlight exposure.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease which can cause lips swelling.
  • A rare neurological condition known as Melkersson-Rosenthal syndrome.

Some of the medical conditions which may affect the whole body which may lead to swollen lips like –

  • Nasal congestion
  • Skin sores over your mouth
  • Fluid retention like pre-eclampia in pregnancy
  • Viral infection
  • Dehydration
  • Obesity
  • Nutrition deficit
  • Organ failure like liver, heart or kidney
  • Severe malnutrition

Accident, Injury or Irritation

They are just another cause of swollen lips. It includes –

  • Lacerations or bruising – When teeth are forced over the lips, it may cause lacerations or bruising and swollen lip. It can happen anytime in sports or accident and it is very common.
  • Insect bites – Especially bitten by a bee or wasp sting which can cause bee-stung lip
  • Burns – when lips are harmed by burns from hot foods or chemicals or irritated.
  • Dental appliances like braces can cause swelling in lips and mouth temporarily.
  • Spicy and hot food like peppers or curry can cause irritation on lips temporarily and can cause swelling and numbness.
  • Fillers, lip surgery, augmentation or enhancement can cause swollen lips in recovery period when operation is done.

Usually, swollen lip is temporary in case of injury or irritation, according to severity, it may cause permanent deformity.

Treating Swollen Lips

Some of the common medications used to cure swollen lips are adrenaline injections, antihistamines and corticosteroids and anti-inflammatory medications.

Medicines

Some of the common medicines which can deal with swollen lips are blood pressure medications, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and certain antibiotics. If you have swollen lips and taking such medications, you need to take medical advice.

Home Remedies

Some of the traditional and natural remedies are –

Heat treatment – It distributes the blood which is accumulated in the corners and lowers swelling.

Cold compresses – Apply ice pack several times in a day on your lips

Fullers Earth – It is a traditional home remedy which is known to have cooling properties and reduce inflammation.

Poultice – It is a traditional home remedy which is made of dough or other ingredients to be applied on lips to lower swelling.

Teabags – cooled before applied to lips and steeped in warm water

Aloe vera – it is a natural plant which has several anti-inflammatory natural agents.

In order to prove the efficacy of such remedies, more research is required.

What If Complications Get Worse?

With swollen lips, if someone has wheezing, fainting, or trouble in breathing, you need to call emergency services and seek instant medical support. A life-threatening, severe airway blockage is also likely to occur in case throat swells.

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