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  5. Swollen Lips: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

Do you often wake up with swollen lips in the morning? Or do your lips swell up after eating certain foods? We know how inconvenient and painful it is.

Allergic reactions or certain minor skin conditions can cause swelling of your lips. But, you can find relief from it by resorting to a few easy remedies.

In this article, we tell you what causes your lips to swell and some of the most effective treatments.

What Does Our Ayurvedic Doctor Say?

“Your body's immune system produces a chemical called 'histamine' [3] when it comes in contact with certain allergic substances. Lip inflammation occurs when histamine is produced as an abnormal immune reaction in your lip and its surrounding tissues,”

Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix

What Causes Random Lip Swelling?

Swollen lips can be the result of distention or enlargement caused by inflammation or fluid build-up in your lip tissue [1]. Sometimes, lip swelling can also be due to infections, malignant tumors [2], or trauma. The duration of the swelling depends on the underlying cause.

Below are some of the most common causes of lip swelling:

1. Allergic Reactions

Some of the most common allergens that can cause swollen lips are

A. Environmental allergens: dust, pollen, mold spores, animal dander, cold air, high winds, etc.

B. Food allergens: certain foods such as peanuts and other nuts, soy, shellfish, and other types of seafood, wheat, eggs, milk, etc. may cause swollen lips in some people.

C. Unsuitable skin products: Certain cosmetics or skincare products such as lip balms, sunscreens, etc. can cause allergic reactions in some people.

D. Drug allergens: certain antibiotics such as penicillin, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, chemotherapy drugs, anticonvulsants, etc.

2. Autoimmune Conditions

Certain autoimmune conditions such as lupus or Crohn’s disease, plasma cell cheilitis, Miescher’s cheilitis, etc. can cause lip sores and swelling as your immune system attacks the glands present on your lips.

3. Systemic Conditions

Insect bites or stings, cancerous or non-cancerous tumors, hereditary allergies, anaphylaxis, angioedema, granulomatous cheilitis [4], and minor sores or injuries are some of the other conditions that can result in mild to severely swollen lips.

4. Infections

Some people may also experience lip swelling during several bacterial, viral, and yeast infections in the skin and muscle tissue. It mostly happens in people who are immunocompromised due to chemotherapy or HIV disease.

Common Symptoms Of Swollen Lips

Depending upon the underlying cause, you may have some of the following symptoms accompanied by swollen lips:

  • Discoloration of lips
  • Chapped lips
  • Blisters
  • Hives or rash
  • Redness or heat
  • Pus-filled bumps
  • Fatigue
  • Pain
  • Headache
  • Fever and chills
  • Runny nose and congestion
  • Watery eyes with itchiness

Will Swollen Lips Go Away?

Mostly, swelling in your lips heal within a few hours on its own. However, it may recur days after in some people. In some cases, it may also reoccur after years. However, each time the swelling comes back, it may last longer and your lips may become more swollen. In rare cases, it can eventually become a permanent condition.

The Ayurvedic term for conditions related to lips is 'Oshtagata Rogas' or 'Oshtaprakopa'.

How To Reduce Lip Swelling?

1. Ayurvedic Ways

As per Ayurveda, swollen lips can be linked to the derangement of Pitta or Kapha doshas.

  • In Pittaja lip disorder, you may have discoloration, burning sensation, pain, and rash along with swollen lips.
  • In Kaphaja lip disorder, you may have itchiness and heaviness along with swollen lips. We can correlate this to allergic reactions in your body.
  • In rare cases, the vitiation of all three doshas: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha can also lead to swollen lips, which can be associated with foul smell, pain, and sticky discharge. This condition is termed ‘Sannipataja oshtakopa’.
  • If your lips turn dark red in color and start bleeding, then it indicates the vitiation of doshas in your blood.
  • Swollen lips caused due to injury are sub-categorized as 'Abhighataja oshtakopa'.

Your Ayurvedic doctor evaluates the underlying dosha imbalances for your swollen lips based on which your treatment procedures and herbs used in the treatment are chosen.

The line of treatment for Pittaja, Abhighataja, and Raktaja lip swelling will be almost the same as below:

A. Rakta mokshana- It is an Ayurvedic therapy that involves bloodletting using leeches over the affected area on your lips.

B. Vamana- It is the process of therapeutic emesis

C. Virechana- It is the process of therapeutic purgation

D. Dietary changes- The patient will be given foods and beverages that are dominantly bitter in taste.

E. Sheeta pradeha- It involves the application of cooling herbs which have Pitta balancing properties.

F. Sheeta parishechana- It involves moisturizing your lips with cooling herbal decoctions.

The line of treatment for Kaphaja lip swelling is as below:

A. Rakta mokshana - the bloodletting treatment

B. Shirovirechana- It involves errhine therapy to cleanse your head region.

C. Dhuma- It involves medicated smoking

D. Sweda- It involves the practices of sudation

E. Kavala- In this step, the patient do gargling with herbal decoctions

F. Prati saranam- It involves rubbing the lips with trikatu churna, alkali prepared from barley plant, lavana (salt), and sodium carbonate.

Other dietary and lifestyle tips for Kaphaja lip swelling are as follows:

A. Add a spoon of grated ginger and 1/4 spoon of turmeric to a glass of boiling milk. Drink it twice a day.

B. Mix one spoon of honey and half a spoon of amla powder. Take it twice a day.

C. Add 1/4 spoon of black pepper powder, 1/2 spoon of a lavender root, 8-10 basil leaves, and 1 spoon of grated ginger to a glass of water. Boil the ingredients until the decoction becomes half. Strain the ingredients and drink herbal tea on an empty stomach in the morning.

D. Consume 6 grams of black pepper with 12 grams of slightly warm ghee to heal swollen lips almost instantly.

E. Do not have stagnant or junk foods. Always prefer having freshly cooked food.

F. You need to avoid Kapha aggravating foods such as dairy, potatoes, wheat, sugar, bananas, etc.

G. Always cover your mouth and nose when you are in a cold or dusty environment.

“Some of the herbs that are frequently used in treating swollen lips are guduchi, haridra, ginger, neem, chausath pippali churna, sitopaladi churna, talisadi churna, chandramrit rasa, etc.,” says Dr. Zeel.

2. Home Remedies

A. Mix a spoon of table salt in a glass of warm water. Apply it on your swollen lips using a cotton ball. Do it 2-3 times a day. You can also use salt water for gargling to reduce the infection that caused your lip swelling.

B. Add an adequate amount of water to a spoon of baking soda to form a paste. Apply it on your swollen lips and wash it off after 15 minutes. Repeat this twice a day.

C. You can apply a thick paste of turmeric on your swollen lips caused by injuries or insect bites. If there is severe inflammation, you can add 1/2 spoon of olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil to the turmeric powder and use it. Repeat it twice a day.

D. You can apply freshly extracted aloe vera gel or pure ghee to your swollen lips to keep them well moisturized and hydrated. You can also add 2-3 drops of tea tree oil to aloe vera gel and then apply it to your lips.

E. Applying an ice pack to your swollen lips is one of the most effective ways to reduce inflammation and pain.

F. Apply honey on your swollen lips and rinse it off after half an hour. Repeat it twice a day.

3. Other Medical Treatments

A. Your doctor prescribes the medication depending on the underlying reason for your lips swelling. Epinephrine is usually recommended in the case of angioedema. It is always safe to carry a single-use syringe and the medication with you as advised by your doctor for an emergency.

B. Corticosteroids or anti-inflammatory drugs which do not contain steroids (NSAIDs) can be prescribed by your doctor to control the inflammatory conditions and injuries that cause swollen lips.

C. In case of insect stings or injuries or when your lip swelling is associated with bleeding, your doctor cleans up the wound first and then prescribes an antibacterial ointment to heal the wound.

What Are The Potential Complications Of Lip Swelling?

If you do not seek the necessary treatment for swollen lips when you have unusual symptoms such as discoloration, persistent swelling, pain, etc., it may result in the following complications and permanent damage:

  • Deformity
  • Removal of the skin or other tissue of your lips
  • Spread of infection to blood and other body parts
  • Respiratory arrest or difficulty breathing caused by anaphylaxis [5]

Middle age woman wheezing touching chest sitting on a couch at home

When To See A Doctor For Swollen Lips?

You may need to visit your doctor immediately when you have swollen lips in the following cases:

  • When you have other symptoms such as heavy bleeding, difficulty breathing, congestion in the throat, etc.
  • If you have breathing issues along with swollen lips.
  • If the swelling persists for more than 2-3 days.
  • When the swelling is accompanied by fever or pain, which indicates an infection.
  • If the swelling is recurring quite often and you do not know the clear reason.

Vedix Tip: Taking steam inhalation can help you relieve slight congestion associated with swollen lips before medical help is given to you.

Frequently Asked Questions About Swollen Lips

1. Do Allergies Cause Swollen Lips?

Yes. Some of the substances such as dyes, saliva, cold and dry weather, toothpaste, cosmetics, pollen, certain foods and beverages, medications, etc. to which you are allergic may cause swollen lips. In medical terms, this condition is called ‘eczematous cheilitis’.

2. Will The Swelling On Lips Go Away On Its Own?

In most cases, swollen lips go away on their own and may not require any treatments or emergency medical care. However, in cases such as swollen lips caused by anaphylaxis or associated with other severe symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately.

3. How Long Will Swollen Lips Last?

The healing time for your swollen lips may vary from a few hours to a few weeks depending on the cause and severity of the condition. Typically, the swelling reduces on its own within 48 hours in mild cases.

4. Why Is Your Lip Swollen When You Wake Up?

There could be several factors that may cause swollen lips when you wake up in the morning and one of the most common reasons can be consuming large amounts of salt the night before. “High amounts of salt aggravates the kapha levels in your body, leading to the fluid accumulation, which causes swelling in your lips or eyelids,” says Dr.Zeel.

However, you need to keep track of what you ate, what came in contact with your lips, or any medications that you took the day before. This will help you to quickly determine the actual cause behind your swollen lips.

Important Note:

Do not use any Ayurvedic herbal therapies or medications for swollen lips without your doctor’s advice.

The Last Word

From allergic reactions to minor medical conditions, there might be several reasons behind your swollen lips. Hence, you need to seek your doctor’s help immediately if it does not subside within a few hours. Also, be mindful and stay away from any substance that can trigger an allergic reaction in your body.

At Vedix, we understand your skin needs by evaluating your vitiated doshas based on which we customize a holistic Ayurvedic skincare regimen for you.

Know Your Dosha Now

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