What are blisters on lips?

Blisters on the lips can be caused by accidentally biting your lips, burning your lips with a hot surface or food, brushing your teeth too vigorously, or getting infected by a virus.
Blisters on the lips can be caused by accidentally biting your lips, burning your lips with a hot surface or food, brushing your teeth too vigorously, or getting infected by a virus.

Blisters on lips can be caused by many different things and can range from mild to very serious. You can get blisters by accidentally biting your lips, burning your lips with a hot surface or food, brushing your teeth too vigorously, or getting infected by a virus from someone else.

The most common cause of blisters on lips are cold sores, also known as fever blisters. This is a common viral infection that is contracted through close contact, like kissing. They are usually caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and can affect your mouth or genitals. A different strain, the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), can also cause cold sores, but it’s not as common.

There is no known cure for cold sores, but there are medicines and treatments that can help reduce the pain and swelling they cause.

Symptoms of blisters on lips

The first sign that you might have a cold sore is feeling a tingling or burning sensation on your lip before you are even able to see anything. A blister will then pop up, usually surrounded by red, sensitive skin. It will ooze a clear liquid before drying up and scabbing over.

Other signs and symptoms may vary depending on a variety of factors, like whether or not this is your first time getting a cold sore. The sores can last from a couple of days to up to two weeks, and they can take two to three weeks to heal completely. Recurrences are likely to appear in the same spot on the lips, but they tend to be less severe than the first outbreak.

Other symptoms that may occur during an initial outbreak include:

Causes of blisters on lips

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and can spread to the face or genitals through close contact, such as kissing or oral sex. Other activities such as sharing eating utensils, toothbrushes, or razors might also facilitate the spread of HSV.

Cold sores are most contagious while the blisters are oozing because you can contract the virus more easily through contact with infected body fluids. It can also be spread without any noticeable symptoms. Many people who have HSV never develop signs or symptoms.

Once you've had a cold sore caused by HSV, the virus will lie dormant in nerve cells in your skin and may emerge again, usually in the same spot as the first outbreak. Recurrence may be triggered by:

  • Changes in your immune system
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Hormonal changes
  • Prolonged exposure to sunlight or wind
  • Skin injuries
  • Stress
  • Viral infections

When to see a doctor for blisters on lips

Cold sores generally clear up without treatment. However, you should see a doctor if you experience any of the following:

  • Your blisters don't heal after two weeks
  • You have a weakened immune system
  • You feel severe pain
  • You experience irritation in your eyes
  • Your cold sores frequently recur

Diagnosis for blisters on lips

It’s relatively simple for a doctor to diagnose a cold sore with just a visual exam. However, they might swab the infected area to take a sample and have it tested in a laboratory.

Treatments for blisters on lips

Cold sores normally clear up without treatment in about two to four weeks. Several types of prescription antiviral medications can potentially speed up the healing process. Examples include:

Some of these products are taken orally, while others are creams that are applied directly to the infected area.

Other than prescription medication, there are over-the-counter and homeopathic remedies to help fight a cold sore. These can include:

  • Applying a compress. A cold, moist cloth can help reduce redness, remove crusting, and promote healing. A warm compress can also ease the pain of the blisters.
  • Using lip balms and cream. Protect your lips from the elements with a zinc oxide cream or a lip balm with sunblock. If your lips become dry, apply a moisturizing cream.
  • Resting and trying pain relievers. Aspirin or medicine with acetaminophen can assist in relieving fever symptoms or pain if the sore is painful. Creams with lidocaine or benzocaine may offer additional pain relief.
  • Trying other cold sore remedies. Some over-the-counter preparations like the ointment docosanol (Abreva) or another cream that contains a drying agent like alcohol can speed up the healing process.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/23/2020
References
American Academy of Dermatology Association: "Herpes Simplex: Diagnosis and Treatment."

Herpes Viruses Association: "Cold sores questions and answers."

InformedHealth.org: "Cold sores: Overview."

National Health Service: "Cold sores."

World Health Organization: "Herpes simplex virus."
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