Mouth or Lip Sores Causes, Herpes & Treatment Remedies 

What causes lip sores? Does HIV, cancer or HPV cause them? Read to get insightful information about causes, symptoms and possible treatment and preventive measures for various mouth sores.

What causes sores on the lips?

Sores are lesions on skin or mucosa, which can be painful or appear as raw areas of skin. They can be found on lips, on the face – around the mouth, under nose or chin – or inside the mouth.

Cold sores on lips vs Angular cheilitis

These two are:

Cold sores or herpes labialis

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What causes cold sores or fever blisters? They are caused mainly by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).

Symptoms of HSV-1 on lips usually start with a burning, itchiness and tingling or tautness on lips or around the mouth. Due to irritation, the area is likely to turn red and small blister or tiny clusters of blisters that itch.

How long do cold sores last? They usually heal after a period of 2 to 3 weeks from infection time or when transmission of the HSV -1 virus occurs.

The symptoms will tend to vary with each stage of herpes simplex on lips. For instance, if individuals show the early signs of fever blisters during the first episode, they usually develop fever or illness depending on how severe the infection is.

If you have recurring fever blisters or cold sore symptoms, the following may be responsible for the activation of the virus after initial breakouts on your lips or face.

  • Menstruation (hormone changes)
  • Inherited traits
  • Emotional stress (esp. chronic stress)
  • Fever due to infections or conditions
  • Exposure to sunlight

Angular cheilitis

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Angular cheilitis, on the other hand, is a condition that affects the mouth corner.

The main symptoms of angular cheilitis among the sufferers are a feeling of soreness and irritation on the mouth corners.

This condition is caused by fungus growth. It may also be due to certain bacteria strains. Having a moist mucosal lining near the mouth opening is one of the risks for angular cheilitis. Other risks include the following.

  • Ill-fitting dentures
  • Frequent lip licking
  • Thumb licking or sucking
  • Medical conditions like anemia, and Down syndrome
  • Smoking
  • Overactive salivary glands or if your mouth holds a lot of saliva

However, angular cheilitis is not a symptom of HIV since it is due to the compromised immune system that puts one at risk of it. Angular cheilitis can also last for days or possibly years.

Angular cheilitis symptoms

Like cold sores on lips, AC can also be symptomized by blistering, redness and swelling on the mouth corners.

However, angular cheilitis may have the following other main symptoms/signs like bleeding, scaling and crusting.

NOTE: Canker sores are mostly found in the mouth (on cheek walls, tongue, inner lips) and should be confused with cold sores.


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Syphilis is one of the dangerous STDs that can produce various symptoms on the whole body during its development stages. It is caused by Treponema pallidum (bacteria).

All forms of sexual contact can cause the transfer of syphilis-causing bacteria from the person already who has the bacteria to the one who does not have. This anal, genital and oral contacts.

Primary syphilis symptoms

After infection, syphilis shows up first in the area of entry into your body (around the mouth, inside or genitals or the anus).

The primary syphilis symptoms occur at around the third or 4th week after infection. The main symptom is the formation of a sore. This one is usually small and painless but sometimes feels firm.

Some people can take up to 2 – 3 months for the sores to appear.

Secondary syphilis symptoms

The eruption of a skin rash marks the second stage of syphilis. The rashes occur on the skin and anywhere including the soles and palms. The rash is usually not itchy.

Some people may experience the following during the secondary stage of syphilis.

  • Headaches or fever
  • Swollen lymph glands
  • Lack of body vigor or feeling weak and exhausted
  • Aching joints
  • Hair loss
  • Weight loss

Notably, the secondary syphilis symptoms will disappear and some people may not see the rash during this stage.

Other stages of syphilis include the latent and tertiary stages.

How to avoid syphilis

The best way to reduce the chances of getting syphilis is by minimizing or totally avoiding contact with the sores on the body parts of an infected person.

Controlling your sexuality including sexual intercourse, oral or anal sex is the safest. More importantly, always remember that these are not the only ways of avoiding contact with sores.

If you are in a monogamous sexual relationship ensure that you go for examinations at least every time you suspect any symptoms. Protective sex can also reduce the risks. However, it is not a sure way to avoid getting infections.

Ulcerative colitis

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Ulcerative colitis is a form of inflammatory bowel disease characteristic of abdominal pain and diarrhea. Though its symptoms are limited mostly to the colon, the symptoms indicative of a change in skin are sometimes associated with oral mucosa which includes the mouth lining.

These symptoms or changes include:

  • Inflammation of the oral mucosa leading to mouth or lip ulcers
  • Tongue inflammation
  • Perceiving a bad mouth breath

Treatment of ulcerative colitis

Medications can be prescribed to deal with the symptoms of inflammatory bowel diseases. These include antibiotics, immunosuppressants, and tablets to control diarrhea, especially in children.

IMPORTANT: Most of these medications are reported to have several side effects some of which are severe or have adverse effects on the individuals.

Optional treatment of ulcerative colitis includes surgery and colon resection. These are partial means of curing ulcerative colitis since the other areas that are affected are not catered for in terms of getting rid of the symptoms.

Mouth sores and HIV

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Sores in the mouth due to HIV as an STD are linked to the fact that your immunity defense is greatly affected such that your body is susceptible to illness or secondary infections. When one is susceptible to secondary infections, that person has AIDS. This consequently means that the body cells can no longer sustain the destruction done by the virus for survival.

Mouth sores are therefore seen as a symptom of HIV/AIDS. Their formation on the mouth as a result of HIV can increase when coupled with a few factors such as old age, lifestyles, stress, and genetic history.

Other causes

Besides having a sore on your lip or around the mouth, many other cases of lesions will present on the mucosa in the mouth. These include infections, conditions or systemic diseases and side effects of certain treatments such as:

  • Canker sores
  • Lip cancers or mouth cancer
  • Celiac disease
  • Gingivostomatitis
  • Hand foot and mouth disease
  • Chemotherapy
  • Allergic reaction

Cancer and lip sores

Mouth sores or lesions sometimes can indicate lip or mouth cancer. Below are some of the risk factors for lip cancer.

Lip cancer risks

Cases of individuals diagnosed with lip cancer have been associated with the following factors.

  • Smoking
  • Exposure to sunlight
  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Immune-suppression (e.g. infections like HIV, treatments such as chemotherapy)
  • HPV infections

According to studies, fairly-skinned people are at a higher cancer risk. Lip cancer risk factors can be reduced through regular skin protection against UV radiation.

Two of the main lip cancers are basal and squamous cell carcinoma. If not detected and treated at an early stage, cancer symptoms sometimes may be overlooked or just ignored as one of the potential sites for cancer.

Cancer of the lips can be detected and treated at an early malignant stage. This requires one to be vigilant and have concern for oral concerns. In that respect, “Patients that present with a persistent nonhealing wound or blister on the lips should have a thorough oral examination…”

Depending on the condition of cancer on lips, early treatment could involve radiation or surgical removal of malignancies.

Mouth and lip sores in toddlers and babies

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Most of the causes of mouth sores in baby areas we have discussed. One of the possible ways that young babies and toddlers end up with sores on their lips is through infection at birth from infected mothers, kissing their lips or touching the lips with contaminated hands frequently.

Causes of in toddlers include herpes simplex, canker sores, syphilis, gingivostomatitis and ulcerative colitis.

Symptoms shown by young babies and children may vary in accordance with the causes. These comprise:

  • Illness
  • Signs of your baby tired most of the time
  • Fever blisters in mouth, around lips or on other body parts
  • Swollen glands in the neck region
  • A sore throat
  • Bad breath
  • Swelling on the affected area

Lip or mouth treatment

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Treatment of mouth or lip sores is more specific since there are different reasons for the occurrence of the sores on your lips. More importantly, it is safe to always get diagnosed or undergo tests that necessary to determining triggers or really what causes them.

Treatment for cold sores

You can treat cold sores on lips at home or get medicines over the counter or prescription medicines from a qualified physician. Keep in mind that most treatments help relieve symptoms.

Non-prescription treatments include Anbesol and Zilactin ointments. Painkillers such as Ibuprofen may be prescribed in case you experience fever.

Vaccines are given important so as to prevent or reduce future recurrence.

IMPORTANT: For underage children always consult your healthcare provider before using any medicines or products.

Read on for remedies for cold cores.

Best home remedies

These remedies are meant for relief of symptoms of the sores or discomfort brought about by sores on lips such as pain.

Salt Water

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Salt water rinse is one of the commonest remedies for sores in the mouth. Use warm water but ensure that the amount of salt is not too much to cause unwanted discomfort.

Rinsing mouth sores only help to heal especially canker sores.

Baking soda

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Some people generally think baking soda is the same thing as baking powder.

Baking soda is an alkaline which can be an ideal remedy for canker sores. This alkalinity of baking soda will strike a pH by neutralizing acids.

Acids from foods can increase irritation. In the process, bacteria activity is taken care of.

  • Mix 1 tbs. of BAKING SODA with warm water in the smallest glass
  • Sip some and rinse your mouth
  • Repeat when necessary while you spit out

Vitamin E

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There are numerous sources of vitamins which may be applied as a remedy for sores on lips.

These include essential oils, tablets or capsules. Please consult your physician before you think of using capsules in the mouth.

Aloe Gel

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Aloe gel is amongst the mothers of skin-soothing. It can also kill pain to get over the discomfort. Besides this can also aid in healing the scabs that form on the lips.

  • If you have canker sores in mouth apply this remedy onto the area.
  • Repeat as many times but as it necessitates
  • Keep the sores as dry as possible and avoid spicy foods

Sage leaves

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Sage leaves can reduce bacteria and other germs which often cause inflammation.

Use dried leaves for canker sores or ulcers on inner lips.

Other remedies

You may also try out these remedies.

  • Dabbing milk of magnesia
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Licorice tea
  • Chamomile tea bags

How to prevent cold sores

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Prevention of cold sores largely depends on how an individual cares for themselves by observing and also keeping measures to the required levels. These include self-care and cautionary steps such as;

  • Avoiding kissing with individuals diagnosed with herpes simplex on lips
  • Keeping the sores clean with plain cool water
  • If it is discovered that sunlight triggers recurrence you better stay away from sun when outdoors
  • Avoid making skin contacts especially with one who has had HSV reactivated
  • It will also be of help if you stopped sharing towels, lipstick and other lip cosmetic products

Sometimes antiviral medicines (prescription), when taken as per your doctor’s descriptions, will help avoid the recurrence of a cold sore on the lip in the future.

OTC or home natural remedies for cold sores

Some of the remedies for cold sores or herpes simplex symptoms include the following.

Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe is a super soothing remedy with anti-inflammatory properties. These two properties can be ideal for the symptoms (burning or tingling or itchy sensation), especially as its start.

Cold ice

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When applied to the skin, ice will cause a temporal numb-effect. This can only help with pain due to exposure to sunlight or ulceration when inflammation can be unbearable.

CAUTION: Do not use ice chips directly on the cold sores since they may cause bleeding or more pain in case of an injury.

Sage leaves

The use of sage leaves extracts is one of the herbal remedies. It is effective too on the sores at any stage be it weeping or scabbing or blister stages.

Ointment propolis

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You can also use an ointment with propolis as an Over-the-counter remedy for cold sores on the lip. The resin-enriched propolis is good for symptoms that indicate the first breakout as the sores begin.

Lemon balm

According to health studies on this balm to reduce the chances of experiencing recurrent cold sores, it was found out lemon balm can be effective for individuals who tend to get a flare-up in symptoms. This implies that the duration of the cold sores will also be cut down.

Its soothing property also helps to heal the skin around mouth and lip borders.