Top 10 Conditions that Affect Lips
Know your Body

The Lip Power

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 4 Mar 2014 - 14:37.

If the eyes are windows to the soul, the lips are considered gateway to sensuality. They act as an inspiration for poetry. Shakespeare in his playlet Romeo & Juliet, describe lips as” My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss."
Beyond the two fleshy folds which surround the orifice of the mouth, lips offer a healing touch, through words, touch, beauty and savoring food.
Lips structure: The exterior of the lips is formed by a layer of skin and the interior by a layer of mucous membrane. Between these two layers is the main muscle for the lips known as Orbicularis oris and blood vessels meant for the lips, some nerves,areolar tissue, fat. and numerous small labial glands. All these structures give the lip its shape and thickness.
The middle of the inner side of each lip is connected to the corresponding gum by a fold of mucous membrane called the frenulum. The frenulum in the upper lip is larger than the one in the lower lip.
The Orbicularis oris muscle in each lip has deep and oblique fibers. These muscle fibers are responsible for the closure and opening of the lips. The deep fibers help direct closure whereas the oblique fibers help approximating the lips to the alveolar arch. The superficial parts of the muscle consisting of decussating fibers bring the lips together and help protrusion forwards like in the act of whistling.
A pair of muscles called buccinators compresses the cheeks so that, during the act of chewing the food is kept directly under the teeth. If the cheeks are distended with air the buccinator muscles expel it from between the lips as in blowing a trumpet (Buccinator derives its name a word buccina meaning a trumpet.
Several conditions can affect the lips which include:
  • The lips may undergo changes in their size, shape and surface. Some of these changes are harmless like thinning of lips as age advances. However, some changes may indicate medical problems.
  • An allergic reaction may cause swelling of the lips. This reaction may be due to sensitivity to some food items, medications, cosmetics and some airborne irritations. In more than half the cases the cause remains a mystery.
  • Talking of cosmetics, needless to say, women suffer more from such reactions than the males. Men rarely apply lipsticks!
  • An inherited condition called angioedema causes recurrent bouts of swelling. Non- inherited conditions causing swelling of the lips include erythema multi-forme sunburn and trauma.
  • The lips may become dry and scaly due to exposure to hot sun like in outdoor sports like cricket. Frequent exposure to extremes of hot temperatures not only cause dry and hard lips but may turn cancerous if not detected and tackled early.
  • Irregularly shaped brownish areas called melanotic macules are common around the lips and may last for many years. Though these marks are not of any concern they may be a sign of an inherited intestinal disease in which polyps are formed in the stomach and intestines.
  • A syndrome called Kawasaki syndrome may cause dryness and cracking of the lips and reddening of the lining of the mouth.
  • Inflammation of the lips called Cheilitis is characterized by painful corners of the mouth with irritation, and reddish cracked scales. Riboflavin deficiency is attributed as a cause.
  • Vertical skin folds and irritation of skin over the corners of the mouth may be due to ill-fitting dentures.
  • A raised area or a sore with hard edges on the lip may be indicative of a form of cancer of the lips.
Finally a word of caution: Chewing of tobacco, smoking cigars with the burning end inside seen in some sect of persons, excessive exposure to hot sun without  use of any preventive creams  may lead to cracked lips which can be red, white or red & white mostly affecting the lower lip.
Some of these may turn to white ridged bumps on the inside of the lips. These bumps may turn into a type of carcinoma of lips. Immediate detection of such a possibility through the help of a biopsy (taking a piece of the bump and examining it under a microscope for evidence of cancerous cells) may help averting metastasis and complications.
Treatment for these conditions depends on the cause. Those with thinning of the lips, whether age related or otherwise, especially in women for cosmetic reasons, may seek surgical help which involves collagen injections or injections of fat taken from some other part of the body.


*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.