Having white dots on lips can be embarrassing and may also reduce self confidence or hamper your personality development. This is because the lips is one of the first features people notice when they see you. You use your lips in communicating with others so most of the time, their eyes will be on your lips.
Most white dots on lips are not a cause for alarm, they may just be minor issues that do not need medical attention while in some cases, they may be something serious. So, it is better you know the root cause of the dots or bumps and how to treat them if possible.
CAUSES OF WHITE DOTS ON LIPS
There are many causes of white dots on lips, some of them are:
1. Herpes Simplex
This is a virus causing infections that leads to oral or genital herpes. This causes blisters with small fluids to appear on the lips, around the mouth and on the genitals. Oral herpes is very common and can be easily detected as it causes white dots or sores to appear on the lips. The dots will first start off as small bumps and sores, later they will turn to fluid filled blisters.
Oral herpes can be transmitted when you have direct contact with the saliva, fluid or secretion of an infected person. Direct contact can be kissing, oral sex or other skin to skin contact. It can also be transmitted by using same utensils like glasses, lipstick, spoon, fork and other eating utensils with an infected person although this is rare.
Milia are white or yellow bumps that occur when protein found in the skin, nails and hair cells are trapped underneath the surface of the skin. These dots are mostly seen on the face and cheeks although they may appear on the lips. It can happen to anyone from any age group but is is common in newborns. According to Seattle Children’s Hospital, about 40 percent of newborns had milia.
These dots or bumps are not painful or itchy but when you wear tight or rough surface clothings, these bumps will look red and irritated. The cause of these dots on the lips of newborns are not known. But in adults and older children, milia can occur when there is any damage to the skin like burns, sun damage for long periods, blistering due to skin conditions, use of steroid creams for long periods of time and some skin procedures like laser treatments.
3. Fordyce Spots
These are white or yellow dots that occur inside the cheeks or on the edge of the lips. Sometimes, they can be found on the scrotum or penis in men and on the labia in women. These dots are not harmful and painful, they are just enlarged oil glands. They are normal and can be found in about 70 to 80 percent of adults. Fordyce spots may not be noticeable till after puberty. When you stretch your lips, these spots are easily seen.
Sometimes, Fordyce spots are not harmless, they may be associated with some medical conditions. Conditions like hyperlipidemia that increase the level of fats in the blood can cause large number of Fordyce spots to appear on the mouth. Also, some people who inherited colorectal cancer can also have Fordyce spots on their mouth.
4. Oral Cancer
Oral cancer causes sores to develop in the tissue of the mouth and throat. They can even be found in the cells found in the mouth, lips and tongue. At first, these bumps or dots may be painless but with time, they will start to bleed and cause pain. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research in 2018, more than 49,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States, occurring most often in people over 40 years old.
Some of the causes of this type of cancer are using tobacco products like cigarettes, pipe, cigars and chewing tobacco. Consuming large amounts of tobacco and alcohol can increase the risk of developing oral cancer. Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection, which is a common sexually transmitted infections can cause oral cancer.
Other risk factors are if you have a family history of oral cancer, poor nutrition, extreme exposure of the face to sun, a weak immune system and if you have had the disease previously. Men are more prone to getting oral cancer twice as women are.
5. Oral Thrush
Fungus lives in the mouth and this is normal if it is in small quantity. However, this fungus can multiply thereby causing yeast infections. Oral thrush or oral candidiasis occurs when yeast infection develops inside the mouth. This is commonly in babies and toddlers and is easily treated but if the patient has a weak immune system, the infection may spread to other parts of the body thereby posing serious risk.
Oral thrush causes white or yellow dots or bumps to form on the lips, gums, inner cheeks, and even on the roof of the mouth. If these bumps are irritated, they will start to bleed thereby causing severe pain. Some other risk factors that can cause oral thrush are the use of certain antibiotics that may reduce the number of friendly microorganisms your body has.
Some treatment methods for cancer like chemotherapy and radiation can destroy healthy cells and make you susceptible to oral thrush. Also, medical conditions like HIV and leukemia can make your immune system to become weak and make it easier for you to develop oral thrush.
This is an autoimmune condition that causes some areas of the skin to have white dots or patches due to loss of pigment. This occurs when the body’s immune system fights against melanocytes, the cells which is responsible for producing skin pigment. These dots can come in small sizes and increase with time. Vitiligo can start at any age but will mostly pop out between the ages of 10 to 30.
This is caused by viruses like Coxsackie B, Coxsackie A16 , Enterovirus 71, and Echovirus. It causes white sores with red borders to appear on the lips, mouth, throat, feet, hands and buttocks. These sores are very painful and can cause high fever. This viral disease is common in children below ten years and can spread faster among them especially if they attend school. Adults and older children can suffer from this viral disease but not as frequent as in younger children.
WHITE DOTS ON LIPS AFTER FILLER
Sometimes after getting lip fillers, you may notice white dots on your lips. These dots may be harmless especially if you already have Fordyce spots on your lips. The filler will only make the spots more pronounced than before. Also, the lips and vermilion have white glands, these are normal and can be seen as white dots along the edges of the lips. Some fillers like Radiesse can leave white dots on the lips. If you are not sure of the white dots, you should see your doctor.
HOW TO TREAT WHITE DOTS ON LIPS
These bumps can go away on their own within a few weeks or months. But if you want them to disappear from your lips, you can go for treatment. Treatment methods include making cuts on the lips in order to extract the bumps, this should be done by a doctor. An electric needle can be used and topical retinoids can be prescribed if the dots recur frequently.
2. Fordyce Spots
Just like milia, fordyce spots are harmless and painless. However, to treat them, electrosurgery or laser procedures can be used.
3. Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)
Oral antiviral medications is commonly used in treating herpes simplex, the drugs will also help to reduce the outbreaks. Topical creams can be used on the sores but you should wash your hands after applying the cream to avoid spreading the infection to other parts.
Some home remedies for treating herpes simplex sores are applying cold compress on the lips, using numbing gels like benzocaine or lidocaine to help relieve the burning and itching. You can also take over-the-counter pain relief medicines like acetaminophen or ibuprofen to reduce the pain.
4. Oral Thrush
The best treatment is to use prescription antifungal medicines, they will help to clear the yeast infection and balance the fungus in the mouth. You can also use topical antifungal creams to clear the dots and sores.
There is no cure for this autoimmune condition, you can only treat and reduce the white patches on the skin. You can use topical immunomodulators to help reduce the immune system response. Topical vitamin D analogs can help to regulate the body’s inflammatory and immune responses locally. Other treatment methods include tattos with micropigmentation, laser therapies and surgeries involving skin grafting.
6. Oral Cancer
Treatment options for oral cancer include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, targeted drug therapy and surgeries to remove the sores. Before any treatment method is used, tests including biopsy must be taken to check if the sores are cancerous.
Not all white dots on the lips are harmful, some are harmless and can go away on their own. However, it is important that you see a doctor if you notice any white spots on your lips. This will help to detect the cause and start medical treatment if there is any need for it.