Lips are delicate and prone to cracking, allergies and cuts. One common problem you may encounter is small white spots on your lips. Depending on the cause, they may be bumps, blotches, small dots or patches.
They may appear as little papules that are easily visible around the mouth when stretched, or even under the skin.
It is easy to think they are herpes or STD symptoms. But what are the causes? Here are the causes and pictures and how to get rid of them.
Do you have small white or yellow colored small bumps on your lips? Are they painless? Most people complain of having white dots on lips that do not show symptoms, no pain and discomfort. The only type of discomfort that you may feel is the cosmetic trauma they may cause.
What are these white dots on the lips? White dots, spots, blotches, patches and bumps around lips and mouth are as a result of mild inflammation on the lips.
They may be caused by any mild trauma that the lips may suffer, maybe due to an infection such as an STD, cold sore or soreness and many other reasons that may not be specified.
Having small raised white bumps on lips can also mean Fordyce spots. These are painless but small raised yellowish white granules that form on the lips.
They are said not to be harmful, but it is important to see a doctor to avoid any health problems with your lips.
How do white bumps around lips look like? The actual appearance of the botches will depend on the cause. Some bumps or spots are raised dots on lips, others are clusters of white spots that look like a rash on the lips.
Fordyce spots, for example, appear as yellowish or whitish granules on the lips, either the upper lip or the lower lip.
STD or HPV (herpes) spots can appear as painless blister-like spots on your lips. Cancer dots on the mouth can be hard and recurring. Below are images and pictures of white spots on lips to help you distinguish your symptoms.
Causes of white dots on the lips may vary depending on the actual type of papules or bumps on the lips. For instance, Fordyce granules may be normal only that they appear on the lips (where they are actually not supposed to appear).
STDs such as herpes (HPV), HIV, and cancer, smoking, common cold, vitamin deficiency, fungal infections, stress, sun exposure and allergic reactions can all cause white dots on lips.
1. Fordyce spots
Fordyce spots are also called Fordyce granules. They can be about 1 millimeter to 3 millimeter. They appear as small white granules or tiny white dots. Typically, Fordyce dots are small bumps that appear on the border of your lips or on the lip line. Fordyce dots and granules form within the part of the mouth tissue that is colored.
Do not worry about Fordyce granules and spots because they are normal oily glands which may just be visible because of reasons of skin complexion and variation in the pigmentation. Some people notice Fordyce spots as white dots on lips when stretched. Note that:
- Fordyce patches and granules are painless
- They are harmless glands
- These dots are not an STD, but you should see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.
See pictures of white Fordyce bumps to be able to distinguish them from other conditions that manifest themselves in the same way. See the end for Fordyce spots on lips treatment.
2. STD, herpes or HPV
Another possible cause of white bumps on lips is herpes or human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. Normally, the symptoms of HPV are visible on other parts of the body as well, such as the vagina, penis and in the throat.
According to WebMD, “…sexually-transmitted HPV viruses are spread through contact with infected genital skin, mucous membranes, or bodily fluids, and can be passed through intercourse and oral sex.”
Sharing drinks, utensils such as spoons, cups and glasses with an infected person can easily transmit HPV to other people. White dots around the mouth after kissing could also be a cause of these bumps on your lips.
3. HSV virus and cold sores or fever blisters
Another possible cause is the herpes simplex virus (HSV). This one causes cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth and nose.
Yellowish white areas on the lips may be caused by HSV1 on the lips and may appear as tiny white blisters around the mouth or corners of the mouth.
Sometimes, the blisters may be formed on the lip line, upper lip or lower lip, and may become itchy and eventually rapture. They start as small itchy pimples and may grow into a blister in two days.
4. Milia spots
Milia spots appear as little whiteheads. They may keep coming and going away. Milia spots are small white cysts that are found in clusters or groups. They are caused by “keratin that becomes trapped beneath the surface of the skin.”
According to Dermadoctor, milia spots can occur on the cheeks, mouth, and even mucous membranes of the body.
“Certain lipsticks, lip balms and products meant to help with chapped lips may be the cause of little white pearly milia developing around the lipstick edge (aka vermillion border) of the lips.” [Dermadoctor.com]
5. Allergic reaction
Rashes form on the lips due to contact with some irritants such as titanium and mica chemicals.
Symptoms of contact allergy rash on the mouth include burning sensation, white bumps or white rash, and even peeling.
Antihistamines and steroid creams may be used to treat contact allergy and inflammation of the lips. It will help a lot to get rid of the white spots on lips if you avoid contact with the allergen that caused the rash in the first place.
6. White pimple on lip
A white spot on the lip line could be a pimple or whitehead. Pimples or acne spots are caused by clogged pores.
When pores are clogged with sweat, excess oil and dead skin cells, bacterial activity leads to an infection within the pore. The result will be a small raised dot.
Exfoliating your lips regularly can really help get rid of whiteheads and pimples. Anti-acne medications can also help reduce flare-ups. If you have a painful pimple around your mouth, anti-inflammatory medications can help relieve the pain.
7. Hard spot from oral cancer
This symptom may extend into white patches in the throat and on tonsils. This could be an indication of oral cancer, which is a dangerous problem altogether that you will need to seek medical attention soonest possible.
Oral cancer may manifest itself in an array of symptoms, among them hard white bumps on the lips, mouth, throat and areas around the oral cavity.
Sometimes, you may find that the patches, dots and bumps become open sores and lumps that do not heal, and may remain hard.
If you have a problem of white lumps around the mouth, ensure you see a doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
8. Fungal infection or oral thrush
Oral thrush or fungal infections in the mouth are likely to lead to white patches or white dots.
Different strains yeast of the candida fungus can cause oral thrush patches, the most common one is candida albicans.
Women on birth control pills and patients on corticosteroid medications and some antibiotics are likely to get white dots and patches on lips more often. White spots on lips in babies are also common due to the high risk of fungal infections they are prone to.
People who suffer from immune depleting diseases such as diabetes, cancer and anemia can experience oral thrush a lot more than those who are healthy. Other factors that increase the risk of fungal infections in the mouth include smoking, wearing dentures and pregnancy.
9 Smoking, white marks on lips after Juvederm, stress and sun exposure
Other causes of white dots on lips include smoking, stress and too much exposure to the sun. Some people who have undergone juvederm complain of white marks on lips. These may be unrelated or coincidental.
Smoking is a major cause of leukoplakia in the mouth. Leukoplakia manifests as white patches in the mouth. Therefore, white dots on inner lips may be a sign of leukoplakia patches spreading in the mouth.
Stress and vitamin deficiency may also lead to white bumps on lips. When stressed, the body is likely to produce excess oil that leads to acne breakouts. Stress rash is also another common occurrence on the lips.
Canker sores are also another cause of white dots that are not raised. They appear as if they are white dots under skin on lips. They are likely come and go or won’t go away easily. On the other hand, small vitiligo spots appear when lips are stretched.
Little dots or small white spots
Little white dots on lips are the most commonly reported symptom when people suffer from different conditions that manifest themselves as with small granules or bumps. Some of these may be a result of white fungus. Some people may experience white patches inside the mouth as well.
It is highly likely that when you have this sign, you could be having Fordyce spots. However, it could turn out to be something else as well as tiny white dots can also be hard, painless or even soft, tender and easy to rapture. In this case, an underlying bacterial infection, fungal infection or just the normal Fordyce could cause them.
- If the little white dots are flat on the lips, then they are not likely to be Fordyce.
- Raised tiny bumps are likely to be Fordyce white dots on lips.
- White patches around your lips could be thrush and can spread to other parts of the mouth.
- Vitiligo is the loss of your skin pigmentation or color and can show by small white dots around the mouth.
Bumps on the edge or corner of lips
It is common for herpes to form on the corners of lips or on the edges of lips. However, herpes is not a conclusive finding since the symptoms may differ from one person to another.
To be specific, white dots on corners of lips may be herpes lesions, which are generally known to begin on the corners of the mouth.
Important characteristics that may identify them as herpes are as follows:
- The papules may also appear on other parts of the body such as the tongue
- The white lip dots may appear as small blisters especially at their onset
- The small tender white bumps on the lips may rapture
- Some papules may become ulcerated before rapturing
- Most importantly, white dots on the lips and mouth corners may be painful if they are a sign of herpes
- Lastly, they can crust time before they heal.
White spot on lower lip and upper lip
Both the lower and the upper lip can get affected with white spots and dots. The causes may be any of those discussed above. The dots may appear as itchy, raised, small or large, on the upper lip line, as single dots or as clusters of white dots on the lower lip or upper lip depending on the cause.
Note that you should see a doctor as soon as possible if you have a growing bump on upper lip or lower lip. Painful and itchy dots on lips should be properly diagnosed because they could be caused by cancer, which can be fatal if not managed early enough.
There is no known working way to prevent white vitiligo spots or even cure them. However, if caused by herpes or a fungal infection, the doctor may prescribe a treatment that is an anti-fungal, antibacterial or antiviral medications.
The treatment of white pots around and on your lips may depend on the causes or the underlying cause. Small white papules on lips are treated or cured by eliminating the underlying cause. Below are the common treatments that are applied to get rid of white lip dots after a diagnosis by the physician.
- Cold sores are treated using antivirals that get rid of herpes simplex.
- White spots caused by sunburn can be treated using vitamin E ointments and creams for the lips.
- If the cause is contact allergy, you may get rid of white spots on lips by taking ant-allergens and avoiding those substances that cause the allergic reaction.
- Fordyce spots on lips treatment involves laser treatment of the lips, which uses pulse dye laser beams.
- Oral thrush and lip cancer may be treated the same way other cancers are cured. This may involve removal of the cancerous tissue on the lips or even using chemotherapy treatments.
There you have it! The treatments and symptoms, causes of white dots on the lips that you should probably be aware of. Of importance to note is that you must see a doctor before making any assumptions about what could be the problem of white dots on lips.
- WebMD: HPV/Genital Warts Health Center
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Genital HPV Infection – Fact Sheet
- Healthline Networks: What Is a Milium Cyst?
- Dermadoctor: Milia