Causes of Lip Swelling and How to Deal with It

Are you an athlete or love to engage in sports and physical activity? Then you’re not a stranger to facial and bodily injury. What are sports without a little pain, right?

However, some injuries may or may not be related to sports, such as lip swelling. Lip cuts and swollen lips are one of the common sports injuries among kids—maybe among adult athletes, too. But if your swollen lip is more than a week old and doesn’t show signs of healing, you need to see a doctor or dentist.

Understanding Your Lips

I’m sure you’re not the type who stands in front of your mirror and stares at your lips. But your lips—and your entire mouth—is vulnerable if you’re into a sport that doesn’t wear a helmet. Knowing your lips will help you react immediately to any type of injury.

Your lips have three layers, the muscle, skin, and mucous membrane that lines the mouth. A good deal of blood flows through them. So, when a surprise move from your boxing opponent lands on your lips and cuts it, you need to apply pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding in 10 minutes or less. A blow without a cut, though, will need a cold compression within 48 hours to prevent swelling and inflammation. That’s why you need to apply an ice bag for acute injuries.

A cold compress lowers the temperature in the injured part of the lip, which slows down or stops the blood flow to it, lessening or preventing the swell. If you’ve applied an ice bag on your swollen lip for 48 to 72 hours, you should see it flatten. If you don’t see an improvement—or find it worsening—don’t rush to your rival for revenge just yet. It’s not their fault. Rush to your physician instead.

Possible Causes of Lip Swelling

  1. Trauma – Trauma is the most obvious cause and probably the easiest to treat if it doesn’t involve other health issues. When that boxing fist hit your mouth, or when your head hit the floor mouth first in judo, you knew that your lips are bound to swell. There’s no secret about it, and proper urgent care, such as the one mentioned above can reduce the swelling in a matter of days.
  2. Allergy – Lips might swell from mild or serious allergies (anaphylaxis) from food such as seafood, peanuts, or chicken, and drugs such as codeine or penicillin. Insect bites like a bee’s sting, hay fever from dust and pollens, cosmetics, and animal dander, and glossitis can also cause a swollen lip. Doctors recommend epinephrine, antihistamines, or cortisone to reduce swelling and treat other serious effects of the allergy.
  3. Infection – Lip swelling can also be a symptom of specific infections caused by fungi, bacteria, or viruses. These include cellulitis (skin infection), cheilitis (inflammation of the outer lip skin and vermilion border), or herpes simplex (viral infection in the mouth). Each condition has prescribed treatments. You need medical consultation for them.
  4. Other causes – When all these don’t appear to be the cause of your swollen lips, then it can be any of the following conditions:
      1. Hereditary angioedema
      2. Lip cancer
      3. Fluid retention
      4. Preeclampsia (but this occurs among women)
      5. Sunburn
      6. Obesity
      7. Reaction to blood transfusion
      8. Reaction to lip fillers or injections
      9. Melkersson-Rosenthal Syndrome
      10. Obesity
      11. Organ failure
      12. Severe malnutrition

    Woman looking through window

  5. While the last is rare occurrences associated with lip swelling (except for lip cancer), it will serve you well to tick them off your list of possibilities so your doctor will know how to treat you. What’s important is that you know why your lips swelled randomly and what your next steps should be.
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