Bumps on Lips

What Are Bumps on Lips?

bzFrom an allergic reaction to oral cancer, there are many possible causes of lip bumps. Lip bumps can visually range from red and irritated, to flesh-toned and hardly noticeable to anyone but you.

Recognizing potential causes of lip bumps can help you determine if a condition is cause for concern or simply a harmless skin variation.

What Causes Bumps on Lips?

Bumps on the lips can range in size, color, and texture. Causes may include acute and chronic conditions. Examples of causes of bumps on the lips include:

  • allergic reaction
  • bacterial infections
  • canker sores (or cold sores)
  • Fordyce granules, harmless white spots
  • hand, foot, and mouth disease
  • milia (a tiny benign cyst or “milk spot”)
  • mucoceles, or bumps that form when the salivary glands are blocked
  • oral cancer
  • oral herpes
  • oral thrush
  • perioral dermatitis, a face rash due to skin irritation

While many lip bumps are harmless, conditions like oral cancer can have serious health risks.

Discover the six best cold sore remedies »

Part 3 of 6: Seeking Help

When to Seek Medical Help

Seek emergency medical care if you experience the following symptoms along with bumps on your lips:

  • bleeding on your lips that will not stop
  • difficulty breathing
  • sudden swelling of your lips
  • breaking out into a rash that spreads rapidly

Make an appointment to see your doctor if you experience these symptoms:

  • bumps that are very painful
  • bumps that bleed
  • bumps that worsen over time or seem to be enlarging
  • jaw swelling
  • a soft, white patchy area on your lips
  • tongue numbness

Part 4 of 6: Diagnosis

How Are Bumps on Lips Diagnosed?

A doctor will conduct a health history when you seek medical treatment. Your doctor will likely ask if you have risk factors for lip bumps, such as smoking, sun exposure, taking new medications, or any allergens you may have been exposed to.

A physical examination typically follows. A doctor will look at your lips and ask you about your symptoms. You may be asked when you first noticed the bumps, your pain level, and any changes you may have noticed.

Your doctor may recommend further testing, including:

  • taking a blood test to detect viruses or bacteria
  • testing the skin cells (by a biopsy) for the presence of cancer
  • X-ray imaging to view the mouth and jaw to detect abnormalities

In the cases of simple conditions like thrush and oral herpes, a doctor can often make a diagnosis solely through a visual examination.

Part 5 of 6: Treatment

How Are Bumps on Lips Treated?

Treatment for bumps on the lips depends upon its cause. Doctors can prescribe medications to treat infections. These include anti-fungal and anti-viral medications along with antibiotics.

Allergic reactions and dermatitis may be treated with antihistamine medications to reverse inflammatory reactions. These can include pills or creams to reduce discomfort.

While conditions such as canker sores and oral herpes can be treated, they can’t be permanently cured. You may get them again at a future time.

Oral cancer can involve more extensive treatments, like surgery to remove the cancerous lesion. Further medications and radiation treatments may be needed to prevent the cancer from spreading.

Part 6 of 6: At-Home Care

How Do I Care for Bumps on Lips at Home?

Do not neglect good oral hygiene habits when you have lip bumps. This includes brushing your teeth at least two to three times a day and flossing at least once a day. If you have an infection that’s causing the bumps on your lips, replace your toothbrush once the infection has healed.

You can also take over-the-counter pain relievers to minimize pain and discomfort associated with bumps on the lips. Rinsing and spitting with a warm saltwater solution can also help minimize inflammation and irritation.

Refrain from irritating or picking at the skin on your lips. This can affect your healing time and make you vulnerable to infection. Follow your doctor’s directions for treating the bumps and be sure not to disturb the affected area.

What Are White Bumps on Lips?

Your lips help you communicate with the world. When you have white bumps on them, you may naturally feel self-conscious. These bumps can have various causes. While most aren’t concerning, sometimes white bumps can indicate oral cancer. Seeking medical attention can ensure you stay as healthy as possible. What Causes White Bumps on Lips?

Numerous causes can lead to white bumps on the lips. These include:

  • Fordyce spots: These harmless, tiny (1 to 2 mm) white bumps inside the lips are visible sebaceous or oil-producing glands. These spots tend to get bigger as a person gets older. A person may have one small bump or as many as 100 bumps on the lips, typically on the inner portion.
  • herpes simplex: Oral herpes can cause white bumps or canker sores on the lips. These may first appear as small sores then become blistered and fluid-filled.
  • milia: Common in babies, milia are small, white bumps that occur when small, dead skin cells becomes trapped in the skin. While milia most commonly occur on the face, they also can appear on the lips.
  • oral cancer: A white bump may appear on the face as flat or raised in texture. The bump is usually painless at first but may eventually start to bleed or ulcerate. Sun exposure, alcohol abuse, tobacco use (especially chewing tobacco), and the human papillomavirus (HPV) are all known oral cancer causes.
  • oral thrush: Oral thrush is a fungal infection that causes white lesions on the lips, mouth, gums, or tonsils. The fungus Candida albicans is the most common fungal strain to cause oral thrush.

Sometimes white bumps on the lips are a harmless genetic variation. Just as some people have moles or birthmarks, others may have white bumps on the lips.

See photos of oral thrush, a yeast infection that develops inside your mouth »

Part 3 of 6: Seeking Help

When to Seek Medical Help

White bumps on the lips are rarely a cause to seek emergency medical attention. However, you may wish to make an appointment with your doctor if you have the following symptoms along with white bumps on the lips:

  • bumps that are painful
  • bumps that bleed
  • feeling as if something is caught in your throat
  • jaw or neck swelling
  • numbness of your tongue
  • trouble chewing or swallowing
  • fever or sore throat

If your white bumps don’t go away after two weeks, make an appointment to see your doctor.

Part 4 of 6: Diagnosis

How Are White Bumps on Lips Diagnosed?

A doctor will take a full medical history and conduct a physical exam to view the white bumps on your lips. The doctor will feel your face and jaw for swelling and examine your lips and the insides of your lips. They will also examine your neck for lymph node swelling.

If needed, your doctor may swab your lip. This is known as a culture. A laboratory can test the culture to determine if bacteria, viruses, or fungi may be causing the bumps. If a doctor suspects you may have oral cancer, a tissue sample may be collected to test for cancerous cells.

In many cases, a doctor may be able to diagnose the white bumps on your lips by a visual examination. Blood tests can also determine if the herpes virus is present.

Part 5 of 6: Treatment

How Are White Bumps on Lips Treated?

Treatment for white bumps on the lips depends on the cause of your symptoms. Some conditions, such as Fordyce spots, do not require any treatment. However, if you don’t like the appearance of your Fordyce spots, removal is possible. Doctors can use techniques such as electrosurgery or laser treatments to remove them.

Thrush is often treated with anti-fungal medications, such as a liquid solution you swish in your mouth and swallow.

Antiviral medications can temporarily eliminate your oral herpes symptoms, but they won’t permanently cure the viral infection.

Oral cancers require different treatments based on the condition’s severity. Treatments can include surgical removal of the affected lesion, chemotherapy, or radiation to stop the cancer’s spread.

Part 6 of 6: At-Home Care

How Do I Care for White Bumps on Lips at Home?

Regardless of the cause of white bumps on your lips, avoid picking at them. This can cause the area to appear more irritated and increase the potential for infection.

With your doctor’s permission, you may wish to apply an ointment to your lips to keep them from getting too dry and painful. Rinsing with warm saltwater can also help minimize irritation. Mix a half-teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and swish the water in your mouth before spitting it out.