Unusual spots, lumps, sores, cuts and marks on the lips can be worrying. Some serious infections and diseases manifest symptoms on the oral cavity, such as HPV and some other STDs.
- While a possible cause, not all white bumps on your lips are a sign of serious infection.
- Poor lip and mouth care can lead to a change in the color, texture and feel of your mouth.
But what causes white spots on the lip line, inside the lip or corners of your mouth?
There are various medical conditions that are associated with white bumps and their underlying causes are just as varied.
These range from viral infections (e.g. oral herpes) and sebaceous glands that are “in the wrong place” as Christian Nordqvist describes it in an article posted on Medical New Today website to irritation by toothpaste (leading to milia) and oral cancer.
We have discussed the specific conditions associated with these causative factors in subsequent sections of the article.
If you are not sure how white bumps on the lips look like, we have included a few photos to help you identify them. There are further pictures of pimple on lip throughout this article. So, here we go with a couple pictures showing patients with white bumps on the lips:
Having little white bumps on lips is a phenomenon that most people will experience at some point in their lives.
These pimples on lips usually appear in small patches on either the lower lip or upper lip but in some cases, both lips are affected. Here are some of the possible causes on white bumps on the lip line or around the mouth:
1. Oral herpes
This is an oral infection that is caused by Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) that most of people know as cold sores. It is characterized by painful papules and fluid-filled blisters on the lips and mouth areas.
The inside walls of the mouth can as well be affected. Herpes virus is transmitted through direct contact e.g. through kissing and sharing utensils, or using infected household items.
The condition is often associated with fever and swollen neck glands and although the condition heals on its own in less than 2 weeks, pain relieving medications and antiviral medication such as acyclovir can be used to relieve the symptoms and speed up the healing process respectively. Antibiotics may also be used to treat secondary bacterial infections.
The condition may recur later on and complications may occur in people with medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS and cancer.
2. HPV and STDs
“I have small white bumps on my lips that are only visible when the lip is stretched even though I can feel them with the tongue. The bumps are located on the edges of the lips only. Could this be oral HPV?”
Well, Human papilloma Virus (HPV) is associated with serious medical problems including genital warts and some forms of cancer, but in the majority of cases, the virus goes away without causing any health problems.
Genital HPV is the most common STI in the United States but most types of the virus are not harmful.
In addition to those that affect the genital areas, there are also certain types that can be transmitted to the mouth and throat areas leading to what is called oral HPV. It is usually transmitted through kissing and oral sex and symptoms may include small yellow or white dots on lips or inside the mouth and even back of throat.
Based on what Steve describes in the above question however, it is unlikely that he is suffering from oral HPV as the resulting warts could be bigger and very easy to see.
Fordyce granules, otherwise known as fordyce spots (because they are white spots) would make for a prime suspect especially given the location of the bumps.
3. Oral cancer
Hard bumps on the lips that won’t go away could hint to cancer in your mouth. Oral cancer may as well be to blame for those white bumps on the lips. This is especially likely if the bumps are particularly hard and are accompanied by open lip sores that don’t seem to be healing.
Your best course of action is to seek immediate evaluation by your doctor. A biopsy may be required for proper diagnosis.
Getting a frequent dental check-up is recommended for people who are at risk of oral cancer since it can be fatal if left untreated. Some of the factors that increase your risk for oral cancer are excessive drinking and smoking.
4. Fordyce granules or white spots on lips
If the bumps are more yellowish-white than pure white, then you may be dealing with fordyce granules.
Otherwise known as fordyce spots, these are small bumps that typically appear on the border of the lips but may as well occur inside the mouth, on the head of the penis, and, on the inner fold of the foreskin.
The bumps are usually very small ranging from 1 to 3 mm in diameter and are usually painless. They usually appear in clusters and are claimed to be normal sebaceous glands that are not in hair follicles.
It is believed that fordyce granules are present at birth but it is not until puberty that they start to grow and become apparent.
Although they affect as much as 80-95 percent of adult population, fordyce spots are not associated with any medical condition, are non-contagious, and require no treatment unless they are of cosmetic concern.
It is however advisable to see your doctor if they are itchy. Mild topical steroids are usually administered to soothe the symptoms. Laser therapy may also be used.
5. Milia spots on lips
Those little white bumps on the lips could as well be milia. These are small, pearly-white bumps that are usually filled with keratin. The bumps are very much akin to those of acne but are notable for the absence of red rash.
They form when dead skin cells get entrapped beneath the surface of the skin due to failure of normal skin exfoliation process.
One possible culprit for milia occurring on the lips is allergic reaction to fluoride in toothpastes. Rinsing the lips and skin around the mouth thoroughly after brushing can help to prevent future incidents.
Some lip sticks and lip gloss products could also have a similar effect. If you don’t use lip care and beauty products – e.g. if you are a man – chances are that you are kissing somebody who is using them.
Sun damage can as well be to blame for those milia on your lips. Switching to lip balms with sunscreen of at least SPF 15 can help prevent future incidents.
Although milia are non-contagious and usually heal with time without needing treatment, you may want to talk to your doctor if you find them aesthetically unappealing. Surgical removal and cryotherapy (freezing) are some of the common interventions used to remove the milia.
6. Oral acne on lip line
Lip bumps could as well be a sign of acne. This is especially likely if the bumps are pustule-like, that is, they seem to be filled with liquid material.
Hormonal imbalance is usually to blame for most acne outbreaks but poor skin care may as well be to blame for oral acne as the med-health.net website says.
7. Trauma and bruising on mouth
It is also likely that trauma to your lips, e.g. from frequent biting, is to blame for the bumps you have at hand.
This may cause small areas of scar tissue as wounds heal which may then be perceived as white bumps when viewed against the background of the lip color.
On lower lip and upper lip
What about white bumps that affect both the lower and upper lips? Well, these could be fordyce spots which are usually benign and non-infectious.
They are just normal glands that are not associated with hair follicles and are not a health concern but you may want to see your doctor or dermatologist if they are bothersome.
You could also be milia which are usually small and pearly-white. These usually resolve by themselves in children but for adults, treatment may be required to get rid of them. The options vary from chemical peels to microdermabrasion surgical removal.
It could as well be the result of blocked skin pores leading to acne whiteheads. Treatment often involves topical application of creams ad cleansers containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, but oral antibiotics may sometimes be required. Tea tree oil is also a common home remedy for acne.
Small spots inside lip
It is common to get white lumps on corner of lips or on the outside lip line. When you have an infection on in the mouth, you can even get gum pimples and bumps inside lips. If the bumps are hard, they could be a cyst that is forming.
Mostly, these cysts are caused by an infection or after tooth extraction or a surgical procedure. Normally, if you have a lip piercing, a bump can form around it or on its ring.
When inside lips, white pimples can be hard, soft or even break and cause the mouth to taste salty or awful.
Some bumps on the inside of lip don’t hurt or cause pain. Hard and recurrent lumps (bumps that keep coming back for years) can mean a cancer, but at the same time, they can be harmless. See your doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.
On lip line
I have a white bump on lip line. I am used to getting cold sores but this is definitely not it. It doesn’t hurt but i find it obnoxious. What the heck is this thing?”
If the bump has a yellowish-white coloration, then you are very likely dealing with a condition known as fordyce spots which usually resolve on their own, otherwise it might be a whitehead resulting from acne. You will be able to distinguish acne bumps for the rash that typically accompany them.
We have already talked about these skin conditions in more details elsewhere in this article.
If the bump stay around for so long however and feels very hard to the touch, then it might be a good idea to seek medical attention just to rule out oral cancer. This is especially true if you are a heavy smoker or drinker.
If you are unsure what the underlying cause for that white bump really is, it is also advisable to have your doctor evaluate it just to be on the safe side.
Hard white bump on inside of lip
As for that white bump on the inside of lip, you are very likely dealing with a mucous cyst. Also known as a mucocele, this is a painless, thin, fluid-filled sac on the inside of the lip.
Mucous cysts typically occur on the inner surface of the lower lip but may occur in other areas of the mouth including the floor of the mouth, on the tongue, on the inside of the cheeks and on the gums.
Although they are typically painless, mucous cysts are often bothersome because of the perceived irregularity in the mouth of the affected individual.
According to the dermnetnz.org website, a mucous cysts forms when “mucus or saliva escapes into surrounding tissues and a lining of granulation or connective tissue is formed to create a smooth, soft round fluid-filled lump”.
Sucking the lips between the teeth is believed to be a causative factor for this. Trauma resulting from lip piercing is also thought to trigger their formation.
Mucous cysts usually resolve on their own, draining the fluids in them spontaneously, and treatment is usually not required. If they however cause you significant discomfort or keep recurring, you may want to talk to your doctor.
The doctor may drain the sacs with sterile needle. Other treatment options for problematic mucocele are marsupialization (a pouch is created inside the lesion, cryotherapy (freezing with liquid nitrogen), laser therapy, and micro-marsupialization.
Your doctor will determine the most appropriate course of action based on your specific case.
How to get rid them
Treatment is entirely dependent on what causes the white pimple on lips. Fordyce spots do not need any form of treatment as they go away on their own. Electrosurgery may, however, be used to get rid of the white spot-like bumps around lips.
If you have thrush or a fungal infection that is causing the breakout around your mouth, anti-fungal medications may be administered by your doctor to help treat the white bumps.
Oral herpes is treated using anti-viral medications. However, these may just get rid of the symptoms in the meantime and may not cure the virus itself, according to Healthline.
If you are suffering from oral cancer, usually seen with hard white bumps on lips that won’t go away or heal, your doctor is likely to recommend treatments such as surgical removal of the growths, radiation or chemotherapy.
For home remedies, rinsing your lips with warm saltwater can help reduce the irritation around your lips. Swish the salt water solution on your mouth before you spit it out. You can also apply a little honey on your lips overnight to reduce the infection on your lips.