Numb Lips: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatments

Lip tingling is unusual feeling (also known as “pins and needles” in the lips) and lip numbness is a reduction or complete absence of sensation in the lips. Both the medical conditions are called paresthesia and originate from conditions that affect the lips’ sensory nerve endings embedded in the “vermillion border” (the reddish edge of each lip), but typically not from diseases associated with the peripheral nervous system in the human body. Diseases linked with skin also rarely trigger numbness or tingling and rather itch, pain or burnings in the upper or lower lip. Numb lips could be acute (happened recently) or chronic (developed over the time).

Causes

Some causes of numb lips have been discussed below:

  • Allergies (angioedema)  or anaphylaxis (severe instance of allergies): They are classified  into three types, food allergies (milk, tree nuts, peanuts, fish, wheat, shellfish, etc.), chemical allergies (chemicals in cosmetics or makeup), and drug allergies (sulfur drugs or any particular prescribed medication)
  • Infections: Herpes simplex virus or any kinds of bacterial or viral infections
  • Hormonal problem: Hormonal changes alter the body’s calcium balance
  • Extreme weathers: Severe hot or cold weather affect the lips’ sensory nerves
  • Raynaud’s phenomenon: When the human body is exposed to high stress or cold temperature, it triggers vasospasm, i.e., smaller arteries carrying blood to the skin gets narrowed and the affected region’s blood flow is stunted in the process
  • Panic attack: In fight or flight situations, the body’s immune system produces several hormones in large quantities to physically and mentally prepare the body to face the situation or run away
  • Alcohol and smoking: Nicotine is permanently accumulated in the lips
  • Vitamin deficiency: Severe deficiency of vitamin B12
  • Mineral deficiency: Extremely low levels of potassium and calcium
  • Trauma: Any injury or sudden blow
  • Peripheral neuropathy: Prolonged elevated level of blood glucose in diabetics
  • Spinal stenosis: When the spaces within the human spine become narrower
  • Multiple sclerosis: A medical condition that affects the spine and the brain and causes poor coordination, weakness, trouble balancing and other issues
  • Shingles: The chickenpox virus remains dormant in the body even after the patient has recovered and later resurfaces as shingles
  • Systemic Lupus: A disease related to the immune system which is very difficult to identify and affects many parts of the body
  • Cranial nerve trauma: The cranial nerves originate in the brain and go to the head and are responsible for controlling sensation and movement
  • Stroke or mini-stroke: It is an emergency medical condition when the blood flow to the brain is restricted
  • Nerve damage: Any physical damage to the skin, for instance, a burn can cause neuropathy
  • Cold sores: It is caused by the very infectious herpes simplex virus and spreads by close contacts like kissing
  • Chapped lips: It can be caused by harsh winters, hot summers, or any skin ailments like eczema
  • Hypothyroidism: An underactive thyroid
  • Ischemia: Insufficient blood flow to the lips
  • Lyme disease: Bacterial infection propagated by tick bites
  • Hypoglycemia: Low glucose level in the blood can be caused by skipped meal, an insulin overdose, or rapid emptying of the stomach after a meal (dumping syndrome)
  • Seafood poisoning: This is classified in ciguatera fish poisoning (ciguatera toxin is produced by coral algae and consumed by tropical fishes like mackerel and tuna), scombroid poisoning (if the fish is not properly preserved after being caught), paralytic shellfish poisoning (clams, oysters, mussels, scallops, snails are contaminated by sea algae’s toxins), Horseshoe crab poisoning (contamination from its flesh, eggs, or viscera)
  • Leprosy or Hansen’s disease: It is caused by Mycobacterium leprae
  • Trigeminal neuralgia: It is a chronic pain condition affecting the trigeminal nerves
  • Hyperventilation: It is a rapid, deep breathing triggered by heightened depression or anxiety or panic.
  • Dental anesthetics: This medical condition is temporary
  • Over the counter medication: Certain OTC drugs like benzocaine, used in dental medicines, can cause numbness
  • Pregnancy: It can happen due to certain prescribed medications, the formation of acids in the body, hormonal changes or allergies
  • Glory Lily poisoning: The root of this plant contains toxins
  • Ethylenediamine Dihydrochloride Mix Allergy: This refers to an antagonistic reaction of the immune system to a complex compound called ethylenediamine dihydrochloride. It is found some medical preparations like nose drops and skin creams.
  • Hypocalcemia: Low levels of calcium in the blood’
  • Tetany: An affliction caused by hypocalcemia.
  • Lead toxicity: Over-exposure to this chemical can cause numb lips

Symptoms

General

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling, reddening, or warmth
  • Pins and needles, i.e., prickling or stinging sensation
  • Tingling and other abnormal sensation
  • Burning feeling
  • Inflammation

Serious symptoms (could possibly indicate a life-threatening situation)

  • Slurred or garbled speech or unable to speak
  • Difficulty to swallow
  • Unexpected swelling of lips, face, or tongue
  • Breathing problems or respiratory issues including difficulty breathing, panting, wheezing, labored breathing, choking, not breathing+

Accompanying digestive symptoms

  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
  • Change in the movement of bowel
  • Nausea (with or without vomiting)
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Problem is talking or speaking

Accompanying neurological symptoms

  • The loss in the coordination of muscles
  • Muscle spasms, seizures, or twitching
  • Muscle debility
  • Balancing problems, difficulty in walking, or falls

Disease-Specific symptoms

Allergies

  • Troubled breathing
  • Difficulty in swallowing
  • Swelling in face
  • Swelling in throat or mouth
  • In instances of drug allergies
  • Skin rashes or hives
  • Wheezing
  • Itching
  • Dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • In cases of chemical allergies
  • Itching
  • Blisters
  • Dry patches

Food toxicity

  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Pain or severe pain and cramps in the abdomen
  • Bloody stool
  • High fever, more than hundred and one degrees Fahrenheit

Food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome is a delayed food-related allergic response that may happen two to six hours after consuming milk or eating some grains, soy, or other solid foods. Pollen-food syndrome, also known as oral allergy syndrome, typically causes itchiness after consuming a few raw fruits, tree nuts, or raw vegetables. Oral allergy syndrome can occur in people who may also happen to be allergic to birch, grass pollens, or ragweed.

Mineral or vitamin deficiency

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Muscle cramps
  • Irregular heartbeat

Cold sore

  • Fever
  • Swelling in the lymph nodes
  • Muscle aches

Hypoglycemia

  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Trembling
  • Perspiration
  • Pale skin
  • Difficulty in maintain attention or focus and thinking clearly
  • Rapid heartbeat

Shingles (less common)

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches

Multiple sclerosis (less common)

  • Numbness in the feet or legs
  • Weakness in muscles
  • Difficulty in maintaining balance
  • Muscle spasticity
  • Speech disorders
  • Chronic or acute pain
  • Tremor

Systemic Lupus (less common)

  • Fever
  • Body aches
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headaches

Guillain-Barré syndrome (less common)

  • Trouble walking steadily
  • Trouble moving one’s face or eyes, talking, swallowing, or chewing
  • Extreme pain in the lower back
  • Rapid heartbeats
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Difficult breathing
  • Paralysis

Oral cancer (rare)

  • Formation of tumors anywhere on the lips, especially in the lower lip
  • Irritation or sores in mouth, throat, or lips
  • Trouble swallowing and chewing
  • The sensation of something caught in the throat
  • Trouble moving the tongue or jaw
  • Numbness in and around one’s mouth
  • Earache

Potential complications

  • Irreversible or partially reversible damage to the brain tissue, causing loss of mental status or memory
  • A permanent loss in sensation
  • Impaired coordination and balance
  • Nerve problems causing tingling, pain, or numbness
  • Liver damage

Diagnosis

  • How long has the patient been experiencing numb lips?
  • Did it happen suddenly?
  • Any other accompanying symptoms that are bothering the patient?
  • Did the consumption of certain drinks and foods worsen the situation?
  • Are the patient’s numb lips worsening or occurring more frequently?
  • Is the patient is taking any medications at present?

Treatment

  • Consuming OTC (over the counter) antihistamines like Zyrtec-D or Allegra for instances of food allergy and identifying all the foods that cause an allergic response
  • Wearing proper clothing or migrating to warm places, if the numb lips are caused by cold temperature
  • Practicing Yoga (Ancient Hindu relaxation technique) and meditation if panic attacks caused the numb lips
  • Maintaining healthy glucose levels in the blood to eliminate or minimize the chance of peripheral neuropathy
  • Consulting a registered medical practitioner in case of oral thrush or cold sores and completing the suggested course of antiviral medication or antibiotics

Precautions

  • Frequently changing one’s toothbrush, once in every two months
  • Brushing twice daily and doing regular flossing
  • Avoiding acidic and salty food
  • Avoiding carbonated drinks
  • Regularly applying petroleum jelly
  • Not switching cosmetic brands very often and using only branded lip glosses and lipsticks.
  • Adequately maintaining the recommended daily intake of vitamin B from dietary sources including whole eggs, cheese, yogurt, carrot, spinach and fish
  • Not tearing off dead skins from the numb lips, which will expose them to more damage and pain (one should always remember to use a baby toothbrush or a cotton ball; dipped in lukewarm water; to wipe the lips and remove the superficial layer of dead skin cells)

 

Ask a Question: If you want to ask a medical doctor a question that hasn't been answered in one of our articles go to: Ask a Medical Doctor About your Symptoms

Did you find the information in this article helpful?

Leave a Comment