Bumps on Lips: Possible Causes and Treatments

Bumps on lips usually need to be addressed quickly because of their discomforting nature and negative impact on appearance. The bumps can come in small patches either on the upper or lower lips. Sometimes, though, both lips are affected. Those having bumps on their lips are more concerned if they are cold sores. But there are a lot of other possible causes other than a type of STD (sexually transmitted disease) infection.

Causes of bumps on lips

Lip bumps have mild to serious causes. Here are some of the most common causes:

  • Cold sores - These are infections caused by HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus 1). Otherwise known as oral herpes, cold sores are characterized by oral blisters either on the lip surface or the inside walls of the mouth. The blisters are very fragile and may rupture easily, leaving behind a rough lip surface that will feel and look the same for about two weeks or more. It is a very common infection affecting many adult Americans. This condition is very manageable, although it can easily worsen with poor hygiene, malnutrition, and accompanying diseases that can suppress the immune system, like AIDS.
  • Cancer - It is the culprit for the most extreme types of bumps on lips. The sore in oral cancer will not heal, and patches can appear white to red in color. The swelling often spreads to the gums, tongue, and jaw. Men who are at risk, like those who frequently smoke cigarettes, should go in for a dental check-up to rule out cancer development.
  • Fordyce's spots - These are non-contagious red or white spots on the lips. The spots are very small (1-3 mm or less) and papule in nature (solid skin elevations). These painless spots cluster in groups and are said to be sebaceous glands variants. They often appear on the lips, inner side of the cheeks, and the genital area.
  • Acne - Bumps on the lips can also be a sign of premature acne development. People who suffer from hormonal imbalance and practice poor skin care often fall victim to oral acne. If you observe that the bumps are pustule-like in nature (skin elevations or encapsulations with liquid material inside) then this might be a case of oral acne.
  • Bacterial infection - You may not recognize it immediately, but as soon as you feel a slight itch on your lips, you can never rule out the possibility that it may also be an acute bacterial attack. The use of old lipsticks and infected chapstick tubes that are shared between several persons are common sources of bacterial infection.
  • Contact allergy - Those who are thought to be non-allergic might actually be hypersensitive to certain lip balms, lip glosses, lipsticks, and other lip creams. These products may contain chemicals that irritate the lip mucosa, like mica and titanium, which add a sparkling or glossy look to the lips when applied. If you are not using these products, you must also examine if your partner is using them. You might be kissing somebody who's frequently using lip products that you are allergic to. Other than food products, certain environmental allergens can also cause small bumps on the lips, like molds, mildew, pet dander, and pollens.
  • Sunburn - Small bumps on the lips that share the same color as the lips can also be a result of too much exposure to the sun or UV light. Frequent unprotected exposure to direct sunlight can injure the salivary glands on the lips. The minor swelling of these glands results in a bumpy sandpaper feel on the lips.

Treatment for bumps on lips

Treatment for bumps on the lips depends on the specific cause.

  • Use natural lip products as much as possible. Artificial additives that add flavor and extra shimmer to the product may irritate your lips.
  • Use lip balms with the recommended SPF if you are constantly doing outdoor activities like swimming and outside sports.
  • Dryness of the lips can be prevented with frequent hydration either by drinking water regularly or by patting water on your lips to make them wet.
  • Steroids and antihistamines are used for small bumps on the lips caused by certain hypersensitivities (allergies) while antibiotics are prescribed for oral bacterial infection.
  • Vaporizing laser therapy is used to treat Fordyce's spots among patients who consider them aesthetically bothersome. But most doctors won't recommend the procedure because the condition is pretty minor and may even be considered normal.
  • Topical painkillers and acyclovir are prescribed for cold sores. The latter is used to speed up healing of the sores.