What causes numb lips?

There are many causes of numb lips; they range from mild to serious. Serious causes of numb lips include allergic reactions and neuropathy, in which nerves cannot carry a signal between the lips and the brain.

Common causes of numb lips

Common causes of numb lips include:

  • Cold temperatures
     
  • Food allergies (allergic reaction to certain foods)
     
  • Medication side effects
  • Raynaud’s disease or phenomenon (spasms of small blood vessels of the fingers and toes, reducing blood circulation. Rarely it can affect the lips. In Raynaud’s disease, the cause is unknown. In Raynaud's phenomenon, it is secondary to another condition including many autoimmune disorders such as lupus.)

  • Tetany (muscle contractions caused by low calcium levels in the blood)

Disease causes of numb lips

Numb lips can also be caused by certain diseases and conditions including:

  • Cancer
     
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals
     
  • Guillain-Barré syndrome (autoimmune nerve disorder)
     
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid)
     
  • Ischemia (insufficient flow of blood to the lips)
     
  • Lyme disease (bacterial infection spread by tick bites)
     
  • Multiple sclerosis (disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties, and other problems)

Serious or life-threatening causes of numb lips

In some cases, numb lips may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:

  • Anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction)
     
  • Hyperventilation
     
  • Toxic ingestion, such as eating poisonous plants, mushrooms or chemicals

Questions for diagnosing the cause of numb lips

To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your numb lips including:

  • How long have you experienced numb lips?
     
  • Did the numb lips begin suddenly?
     
  • Are you experiencing any other symptoms along with your numb lips?
     
  • Do your numb lips worsen when you consume certain foods or drinks?
     
  • Are your numb lips becoming worse or more frequent?
     
  • Are you taking any medications?

What are the potential complications of numb lips?

Because numb lips can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

  • Brain damage
     
  • Impaired balance and coordination
     
  • Nerve problems that cause pain, numbness or tingling
     
  • Permanent loss of sensation

References:

  1. Chapped lips. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002036.htm.
  2. Peripheral neuropathy. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000593.htm.
INTRODUCTION

What are numb lips?

Numb lips are a symptom in which you experience an abnormal sensation in your lips. You may experience numb lips as a complete or partial lack of feeling in your lips.

... Read more about numb lipsintroduction

SYMPTOMS

What other symptoms might occur with numb lips?

Numb lips may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the lips and mouth may also involve other body systems. Some symptoms that may accompany numb lips may indicate a serious or life-threatening condition.

Lip symptoms that may occur along with numb lips

Numb lips may accompan... Read more about numb lipssymptoms

Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Aug 7, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health