Swollen Lip Causes, Why Is My Lip Swollen – Allergies, Trauma, Sores

What are the common swollen lip causes or why is my lip swollen? Can allergies, trauma, canker sores, sunburn, cold sores, insect bites, angioedema, ingrown hair or pimple make your lips to swell? What about the case of sudden unexplained lip swelling overnight or when you wake up in the morning?

What is lip swelling

Lip swelling (lipedema) refers to distention or enlargement of one spot or the whole of upper, lower, or both the lips caused by mainly lip tissue inflammation and buildup of fluid. Today, we are focusing on what can cause a swollen lip (on one spot, upper, lower or both).

Symptoms and signs of a swollen lip

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The most common symptom of a swollen lip is the distention (fattening or enlargement) which might be painful (hurts) or itchy at times. In extreme cases, this enlargement might make drinking, talking, eating or mouth opening difficult.

Other symptoms that might accompany a swollen lip include blistering, chipping, pain, redness, numbness, headache, chills, pus (yellow or with dark pus), watery eyes, itchy eyes, runny nose, a discolored lip, and fatigue among many others that will be tied to the specific cause of lip swelling.

What are the swollen lip causes or why is my lip swollen

When you suddenly have a lip swelling, it is normal to wonder why your lip is swollen and what could have caused it?  Well, there are much-swollen lip causes some of which area less serious and might disappear quickly while others might be an indication of a more serious underlying condition or disease that can be life-threatening. It is good to ensure you know the root cause and get proper treatment.

So, what are some of the common reasons for lip swelling or what could be behind that swollen lip you have?

Swollen lip allergic reaction

A swollen lip is a common symptom for a number of allergic reactions to various allergens that include certain foods, pet dander, pollen grains, some lip care products and other allergens.

When caused by an allergy, you are likely to have a sudden lip swelling that can be mild or severe after you come in contact with the allergen. Furthermore, some of the allergic reaction symptoms might affect other parts of your body especially the eyes, cheeks, mouth, tongue, face and nose areas. The common causes of allergy lip swelling include the following:

1. Food allergies

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Some common foods that might cause allergic reactions that will culminate to a lip that is swollen among other symptoms include nuts, strawberries, mushrooms, egg whites, fish, sesame seeds, shellfish, and dairy products.

2. Latex

Direct latex contact can cause skin irritation and consequently an allergic reaction. Therefore, if your lips touch latex, it is common to expect swollen and itchy lips that can at times have rashes. Letting balloons, children’s toys, gloves and other products made from latex come in contact with your lips can is one way you can end up with swollen lip.

3. Penicillin allergy

This will cause a swollen lip that is accompanied by a rash, itching and hives. You will know it is the cause if you have had a penicillin injection or antibiotics.

4. Lip care products allergies

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The various lip care products such as lipsticks, lip balms, chapsticks, lip glosses might contain ingredients you are allergic to. This can easily lead to swelling of your lips.

5. Watch for anaphylaxis allergy

If you have anaphylaxis, you need to seek immediate medical attention since it is life-threatening severe allergic reaction whose symptoms include

  • swollen lip,
  • swollen mouth or throat
  • swollen lips and hives or rashes
  • itchy face or eyes
  • Breathing and swallowing difficulties (including short breath and chocking)
  • Intense distress
  • Swollen tongue

If ignored, anaphylaxis can develop quickly, triggering an increased heart rate, weakness, a drop in blood pressure, shock and, ultimately, unconsciousness and death.

Note: If you have allergic reaction lip swelling, antihistamines and medications such as Benadryl might be of some help. We will discuss more while looking at swollen lip treatments.


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Angioedema, which is the “swelling of the tissue beneath the skin and this is often concentrated around the eyes and lips” [medicinenet.com] can be a cause of lip swelling in deeper skin layers and affects other body parts include feet, hands, genitals, eyelids, etc.

Most people with angioedema will tend to complain of swollen lips for no reason (out of the blue or out of nowhere), overnight, when they wake up in the morning, recurrent (idiopathic angioedema) attacks or swollen lips and numbness.

Angioedema is commonly caused by allergic reactions, with food allergies are the most often cause. The problem has a prevalence between 5% and 8% in children, while in adults it is much lower, standing at about 1-2%. Therefore, it is one of the causes of lip swelling in adults.

Angioedema can also be caused by animal dander, exposure to sunlight, heat or cold, bites from insects and medications such as blood pressure medications, antibiotics and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

Finally, there is rare hereditary angioedema can also cause swollen lips. It is due to a faulty gene that affects very few people. Furthermore, too much stress and infection can cause angioedema.

Stomatitis and lip infections

Stomatitis is a general terminology that refers to a sore and inflamed mouth and lips that often affect someone’s ability to talk, eat or sleep well. A number of viral, fungi, bacterial infections and other conditions is what causes stomatitis with common causes being canker sores, cold sores, angular cheilitis, as well as general lip irritations.

1. Herpes simplex virus or cold Sores

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Herpes simplex, specifically the herpes type 1 also known as oral herpes or cold sores is known to cause sores and blistered lip swelling around your mouth and lips. The blisters are often pus-filled and will affect the various parts of your body too.

Cold sores are generally are painful, they last for 7- 14 days and they come with flu and cold-like symptoms that might include a sore throat and nasal congestion.

2. Canker sores

Canker sore refers to a yellow or pale ulcer that has a red outer ring or a cluster of such ulcers in the mouth, usually on the cheeks, tongue, or inside the lip. They often results to a swollen lip when they are is on your inner or outer lip.

Canker sores are also painful, have a tingling feeling, and last between 5-10 days. They also have a tendency of coming back again. Furthermore, they do not come with fever but you might have other symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, fever, physical sluggishness, etc.

3. Angular Cheilitis or angular stomatitis

img source: newhealthguide.org

Angular cheilitis knew as angular stomatitis refers to an inflammation on typically both the corners your mouth but can at times affect one mouth corner. It is characterized by “pain in the lips, cracked lips, ulceration, reddened skin, and tenderness at the involved area” [medicinenet.com]. A dry mouth is common when you have angular cheilitis.

4. Cellulitis

This is a bacterial skin infection which when it affects the skin around your lips, the infection can cause swelling.

Lip and mouth trauma

The other common cause is trauma on your mouth and lips. Physical injuries on your lip can cause swelling. For instance, you could have a swollen lip after biting it or being hit by a blunt object. The other common causes of traumatic lip swelling include

  • Dental appliances such as braces
  • Oral surgical procedures
  • Burning your lips with very hot drinks and foods
  • Lip surgeries
  • Too much of tobacco chewing can cause lip swelling and mouth.
  • Lip swelling from piercing (lip piercings)

Sunburned lips

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Excessive exposure to UV sunlight can also cause blistered, itchy, swollen and chapped lips. This is a mild cause that is not life-threatening. Besides UV sunlight, a dry, windy and arid weather condition conditions can cause lip licking, peeling and swelling. This is why you might have lip swelling after exposure to a bad air condition.

Severe malnutrition

Going with our discussion on what causes lip swelling, poor general nutrition and lack of vitamins, especially vitamin B has been associated with lip swelling. This often affects lip corners.

Lip swelling from a pimple

Severe lip pimple or bump can cause a random lip swelling especially on the spots where the pimple is or one side of the lip where the pimple is. There are many causes of lip pimples as well as treatments

Other swelling causes include

img source: medicalnewstoday.com

Besides the above-discussed lip swelling causes, this problem can be caused by the following:

  • Exercising
  • Some medications
  • Insect bites
  • Bee and wasp stings
  • Fluid retention that often happens during pregnancy
  • Lip cancer
  • Obesity
  • Organ failure e.g. liver, kidney, or heart
  • “Preeclampsia (serious condition of pregnancy marked by swelling, high blood pressure, and protein in the urine)” [healthgrades.com]
  • Reaction to blood transfusion
  • Lip swelling from ingrown hair is common for people who remove mustache hairs wrongly or using blunt razors.
  • Diabetic people are prone to mouth infections as well as infections that cause lips to swell.

These are the most common causes of swollen lips. There could be medical conditions that could also cause swollen lips and tongue (as well as your mouth) that might be accompanied by swellings on other parts of the body.