The lips make up the outermost area of ​​the mouth, they have a highly developed sensitivity and can sometimes become inflamed.


The inflammation of the lips can be evidenced in various pathologies, the most frequent are those related to allergic processes that condition an acute and temporary increase in volume of the lips. However, it is necessary to know what are the warning signs that tell us when this problem can become chronic and recurrent.

Causes of swollen lips

Among the causes of inflamed lips can be found allergic, infectious, traumatic and tumor processes, so it is necessary to go to the doctor in a timely manner to detect the problem.

1. Angioedema

It is an inflammation of the tissues due to the accumulation of fluids that are generated by inflammatory substances. Angioedema can be seen all over the face or localized to the eyes, lips, hands, and genitals.

It is called angio (vessels) and edema (inflammation) because it precisely occurs due to the dilation of blood vessels and extravasation of fluids in the tissues.

This dilation is produced by the release of pro-inflammatory substances, among them, one of the most important is bradykinin. Bradykinin is released after a food, medicine, or insect bite comes into contact with the body and an allergic reaction occurs; so most cases of angioedema are caused by an allergic reaction.

There is a type of angioedema, called hereditary or angioneurotic, produced by a hereditary genetic condition where there is a release of bradykinin associated with stress and traumatic situations. This type of angioedema is recurrent and is not related to allergies .

2. Trauma

Another cause of swollen lips is trauma to the face and lips, which can cause blood vessels to rupture, causing the accumulation of inflammatory fluids and blood deep in the lips.

It can also be seen by manipulation of the mouth during dental procedures. Normally this inflammation is transitory as the hematoma or edema caused by the blow is reabsorbed.

3. Infections

  • Oral herpes: It is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus type 1, which is manifested by the appearance of painful vesicles or blisters in any part of the lip, during acute infection they can grow and converge and generate inflammation of the lips.
  • Oral candidiasis: This disease is generally evidenced in patients with low defenses, through the appearance of whitish plaques in the mouth and lips , which when removed cause inflammation of the lips , tongue and gums.
  • Impetigo: is an infection of the skin and soft tissues produced by bacteria, usually appearing as painful crusty lesions that may be accompanied by pus around the nose and mouth. When they appear in areas near the lips, they can become inflamed.
  • Other viral infections: Human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV), Coxsackie and other viruses can cause inflamed lips due to the appearance of ulcerative lesions called thrush in the mouth and lips causing inflammation of the surrounding tissue.

4. Mucoceles

It is a cause of swollen lips due to the accumulation of saliva within the mucosa, usually it occurs from repeated bites, trauma or from the obstruction of a salivary gland. The lesion disappears in 3 to 7 days and is not painful.

5. Tumor lesions

Although most injuries that cause swollen lips are from temporary trauma, allergies, or viral infections, there are tumor lesions that can affect the lips. It is important to know some of them.

  • Squamous cell carcinoma: chronic, painful raised or ulcerated lesions that can be located inside or outside the mouth.
  • Melanoma: usually dark painless lesions that are chronic, when they grow they generate inflammation on the lips.

When these lesions are suspected it is important that a doctor take a sample called a biopsy to confirm these diagnoses.

6. Edema

Heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure can cause an edematous syndrome, due to accumulation of fluid in the extracellular space. This inflammation usually occurs in sloping areas or progressively accumulates from the feet, upward, to the face (in a condition called anasarca). Fluid can accumulate diffusely on the face, affecting lip volume.

Warning signs


If you have any of these symptoms associated with your inflamed lips, you should see a doctor, since a timely and early diagnosis must be made.

  • Fever.
  • Changes in color (white, purplish or blackish).
  • That the inflammation lasts more than a week and has not decreased in size over time
  • That it increases very quickly in a short time.
  • Similar lesions appear on another part of the body.
  • Presence of moles or spots on the lips.
  • If it is accompanied by a feeling of suffocation.
  • Difficulty to swallow.

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *