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Swollen lips or lip edema can involve either or both of the upper and lower lips, which can swell up beyond their usual size. This swelling is commonly accompanied by chapped lips, discoloration, and blistering, as well as by pain, fatigue, headaches, and chills. Lip edema is brought about either by fluids that build up in the lip area or by an inflammation in the tissues of the lips. This usually happens because of injuries or allergic reactions to certain medications.

Less threatening conditions may cause only a brief episode of swelling, most notably after a sunburn or when the lips are chapped. Long-term swelling, on the other hand, may be indicative of an infection or any other serious underlying conditions. Swollen lips can cause significant discomfort and even impairment in simple daily activities, including eating, drinking, and talking.

Possible Causes

Lip edema can be caused by a variety of different factors, the most common of which is trauma from allergic reactions. These allergies may result from the following:

  • Insect bites.
  • Food allergies.
  • Contact with pollen.
  • Contact of the skin with pet hairs and dander.
  • Extreme weather conditions, such as heat or cold.
  • Direct contact with harsh chemicals from detergents and perfumes.
  • Irritating ingredients that are incorporated into some brands of lip care products and cosmetics.
  • Side effects from certain kinds of medicine, such as antibiotics, NSAID's, and medication for blood pressure regulation.

Other stimulants that may trigger lip swelling include the following:

  • Sunburn, drying out, and chapping.
  • After-effects of lip surgeries, especially during the recovery period.
  • Accidents, especially in sports, that cause lacerations and bruising on the lips.
  • Irritants found on beddings, mattresses, pillows, and other linens, which may cause infections.
  • Deficiencies in nutrients such as Vitamin B, which need to be remedied by a proper diet and other nutritional supplements.

Several medical conditions including angioedema, which is a condition characterized by tissue swelling underneath the skin surface, primarily in the areas near the lips and eyes, and herpes simplex virus infection, which can cause blisters to form in addition to swollen lips. Anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention, can also cause severe lip swelling.

Treatments and Remedies

Swollen lips can easily be treated by several kinds of medication, including adrenaline injections, antihistamines, and corticosteroids. Additionally, there are several traditional home remedies that may help ease the swelling from lip edema:

  • Fuller's earth, which cools and reduces swelling and inflammation.
  • Applying a cold compress several times a day to minimize swelling.
  • Aloe vera, which has anti-inflammatory properties, directly to the lips.
  • Dabbing a tablespoon of salt dissolved in lukewarm water onto a cut lip.
  • Heat treatment, which distributes blood flow evenly across the lips to reduce swelling.
  • A traditional remedy called poultice, which is made from dough and a number of other ingredients that soothe the lips when applied directly.

When to Call a Doctor

Swollen lips accompanied by fainting, wheezing, and difficulty breathing may indicate that the throat is also swollen. These symptoms may be due to a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis). It is best to look for immediate medical attention to prevent a dangerous blockage from occurring in the airway.

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