Bumps are tiny, often painful lumps that develop under the skin and then appear on the surface of the skin. Bumps on the lips show up on the upper or lower lip, or both, and are mostly harmless. Understanding why bumps appear on the lips can help you differentiate between harmless bumps and those that need medical attention.
Cold Sores: Bumps on the lips can be due to cold sores, commonly known as oral herpes or fever blisters. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus 1, a viral infection. They appear as a cluster of small blisters, pimples, or irritation on the lining of the lip or the area around the mouth. These blisters or pimples may be tingly or itchy and filled with pus. Cold sores heal on their own by forming a crust and disappearing within 2 to 4 weeks
Canker Sores: These are painful ulcers that appear inside the mouth, especially on the gum or lining of the cheek or lips. They appear as flat, white open lesions without fluid or pus. The tissue around the sore may appear red or inflamed and have a tingling sensation. Canker sores may affect a person 3 to 4 times a year, but typically heal on their own within 2 to 3 weeks. These sores may show up more frequently due to malnutrition or an underlying disease.
Oral Cancer: Bumps on the lips may be a sign of oral cancer. They show up as white bumps that eventually turn red and do not go away or heal on their own. The bumps tend to spread to areas inside the mouth such as the tongue and lining of the mouth. Bumps due to oral cancer are rare and occur mostly in older people due to alcohol abuse, chewing tobacco, Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infection, or a weakened immune system.
Bacterial Infection: Sharing cosmetic products, such as lipstick or lip balms, can cause the spread of bacteria resulting in bumps on the lips that look like pimples. Bumps due to bacterial infection are red, white, or yellowish in color. They cause an itching, twinging sensation and can spread easily on contact.
Acne: Bacteria underneath the skin or hormonal imbalances can cause acne that shows up as bumps on the lips. Acne typically appears on parts of the face and spread to the lips. Bumps on the lips due to acne carry pus that oozes when the pustules are broken. They can be painful and occur before an acne breakout.
Fordyce Spots: Some bumps on the lips are actually Fordyce spots. They are tiny and white in color and may be a single bump, several bumps scattered across the lips, or a cluster of bumps. Fordyce spots are actually variations of sebaceous glands and are mostly painless, harmless, and non-contagious. This type of bump sometimes appears on other areas of the mouth or the genitals.
Contact Allergies: Bumps that look like small lip blisters or papules may be due to allergies triggered by contact allergens found in cosmetic lip products such as lip balms or creams. Certain foods, pets, pollen, and mold or kissing someone wearing products containing the allergen irritant can also cause bumps on the lips.
Sunburn: Many people do not even realize that too much exposure to the sun can cause bumps on the lips. The UV rays from sunlight can injure the salivary glands, resulting in small bumps that are the same color as the lips.
Treatment for bumps on the lips will depend on the cause, symptoms, and severity of the condition. While some bumps heal on their own, others require medication. The following are some effective ways to treat bumps on the lips:
Prescription Medications: In the case of bacterial infection, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat bumps on the lips. Similarly, anti-viral medicine may be prescribed to treat bumps on the lips caused by a virus. Certain antihistamines can be prescribed for the treatment of bumps that result from an allergic reaction.
Non-Prescription Medication: Over-the-counter medicated and herbal lip balms or ointments can be used to treat bumps on the lips which are not severe or do not require medical attention. Lips balms and ointment made from organic ingredients may be more suitable since they are made without chemicals or allergen irritants.
Non-prescription antihistamines are used to treat bumps on the lips caused by an allergic reaction. A specially designed mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, or salt water are good for treating canker sores. In the case of acne bumps, benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can effectively treat an outbreak.
Pain Relievers: In cases of bumps on the lips that cause pain, prescription or non-prescription medication may be used for relief.
Natural Remedies: Bumps on the lips that are harmless and do not require medical attention, such as bumps due to sunburn, may be treated with mint, sage, baking soda, licorice tea, or milk of magnesia. These natural remedies are effective for temporary relief.
Good nutrition, good skin care, proper oral hygiene, and a healthy lifestyle can help prevent bumps on the lips. The following tips may also be helpful: