It is a distressful condition to have white spots on your lips which can occur either on the edges or anywhere over the lips. You feel conscious of communicating to people as their attention is first drawn towards those spots on your lips. But do you know what these white bumps indicate? These tiny bumps can be caused due to several reasons ranging from poor skin health, hormonal imbalance or may indicate an underlying condition.
Causes of white bumps on lips
There are various causes for the appearance of white bumps on your lips. Sometimes the white bumps can be only due to a genetic variation similar to the moles and are harmless. However, the other causes include:
Fordyce spots: These are small (up to 1 to 2 mm) and appear in 80-95% of the adult population, typically inside the lips or at times on the borders of the lips. They are harmless sebaceous glands without hair follicles and produce oil. The spots grow with age and can range from one to many. They are benign and do not require medical treatment as long as your aesthetic appearance is not affected.
Oral Herpes: Oral herpes virus causes herpes labialis which is an oral infection and involves the formation of cold sores or blisters either on the lips or on the other parts of the mouth. This is a contagious infection and is transmitted through physical contact, or through sharing the objects used by the infected person. The symptoms of this infection include pain in the fluid-filled blisters, fever, and swollen neck glands. This condition usually improves on its own in 1-2 weeks but beyond which medical treatment is essential.
Milia: These are usually seen in small babies mostly on the face and occasionally on the lips. They occur when the dead skin is trapped in the skin and are usually harmless.
Oral cancer: Oral cancer can appear in the form of small bumps on the lips, other parts of the mouth and the throat. They are painless initially and may gradually start to bleed. The main causes for lip cancer are tobacco and alcohol abuse and human papillomavirus (HPV). Oral cancer is fatal if not treated on time. Regular dental checkups can help in the early diagnosis of oral cancer and timely treatment.
Oral thrush: It is a fungal infection commonly caused by the fungal strain called Candida albicans. Thrush appears in the form of white lesions on the lips, mouth, gums, or tonsils.
When to consult a doctor?
Mostly the white bumps are harmless and do not need emergency care. Generally, the bumps will last for a maximum of 2 weeks and beyond which, you may need medical help. You may need medical attention if you have the below symptoms along with the bumps.
- Painful bumps
- If the bumps are bleeding
- Trouble chewing and swallowing
- Swelling of the neck and jaw
- A sore throat and fever
How are the white bumps diagnosed?
Initially, your medical history is taken, followed by a physical examination of the bumps on and inside your lips. The presence of swelling of the neck and lymph nodes will be checked. Your doctor may take a culture from your lips to detect the presence of bacteria or virus or fungus as a causative agent for the bumps. Blood tests are performed to check if herpes virus is the causative agent. In case an oral cancer is suspected, then a tissue is collected from the lips and tested for the presence of cancerous cells.
Treatment for white bumps on lips
Treatment depends on the cause and the associated symptoms of the bumps.
- Fordyce spots are harmless and may not require treatment. But if you feel concerned about your appearance then treatment such as laser therapy or electrosurgery is performed to remove them.
- Oral thrush is treated with anti-fungal medications available in the form of mouthwashes to gargle and spit out.
- Oral herpes symptoms can be temporarily addressed with certain anti-viral agents. However, the infection cannot be cured completely.
- Oral cancers are treated with chemotherapeutic agents, radiation therapy or by surgical removal.
Home remedies for white bumps on lips
Irrespective of the cause of the bumps, certain home remedies can be helpful to reduce the chance of infection from occurring.
- Rinse your mouth with warm salt water and spit it out. This is effective for infection related bumps in their initial stages.
- Avoid licking the lips to reduce the risk of infection.
- Rub the lips gently to remove the dead cells in case of Fordyce spots in their initial stage.
Know the underlying cause of the white bumps as it can be as serious as oral cancer. Seek medical help to ensure that these tiny spots do not turn out to be a big hindrance to your health.