There are many possible causes of lip numbness, but the most common typically include allergic reactions, sensitivity, and mineral imbalances or deficiencies. Numbness or tingling that is persistent or doesn’t go away after a few hours may be caused by a more serious neurological or circulatory problem, or may be the result of an infection of the mouth or gums. Most of the time temporary or light tingling isn’t serious, but it isn’t usually considered “normal,” either. Anyone who experiences regular numbness should usually meet with a qualified medical professional to solve the problem and rule out any serious conditions.
The most common cause of temporary lip numbness, a condition medically known as paresthesia, is allergic reaction to certain food or chemicals. Food allergies often come in two forms: reactions that are internal, causing nausea, vomiting, and internal swelling; and those that are external, often presenting as rashes or redness where the skin comes into contact with the allergen. Lip numbness is sometimes a sign that a person has an external allergy to a certain food or ingredient.
Temporary tingling may also happen in response to certain lipsticks, glosses, or balms if a person has an allergy to any of the ingredients or coloring agents used in the product. In this case, numbness is often the only symptom, and it will usually go away once the offending product has been removed or washed off. Things can take a little bit longer with a food allergy, and numbness is frequently just one of many reactions when someone is allergic to something they’ve eaten.
The lips may also get numb in response to extreme temperatures, like drinking a hot beverage or biting into an ice cream cone. Sunburn or prolonged exposure to cold or dry air can have the same effect, as can certain spicy foods. People who have sensitive skin are most prone to this reaction, and in most cases the sensation will go away on its own. It is sometimes possible to speed the process by applying a basic, additive-free balm or petroleum jelly; doing this before encountering the sensitivity can often prevent this from the outset.
Numbness that seems to come and go on its own without any correlation to foods, products, or environmental exposure may be the result of a mineral deficiency. People who have low levels of sodium, potassium, or phosphate can develop a chemical imbalance in the blood that may cause numbness, tingling, or itching on the lips, hands, and feet. This problem is often fixed by taking supplements after a medical professional has confirmed which mineral has a low level, often by a blood or urine test.
Neurological conditions, such as multiple sclerosis and trigeminal neuralgia, might also be a cause, though in these cases numbness is often only one of many more serious symptoms. Disorders that impact how the nervous system functions often cause problems with sensation in many different parts of the body, and may also cause breathing trouble, blood pressure spike, and heart rate irregularities.
Peripheral neuropathy may also be to blame if one of the lip’s major nerves has been damaged or compromised. This condition sometimes happens on its own as a result of trauma or injury, but can also be a symptom of another underlying condition such as diabetes, an auto immune disorder, or toxin build-ups in the body.
Another common cause is poor blood circulation. A constriction of the blood vessels in and around the lips can cause lip tingling and numbness, usually only temporarily though the problem can be persistent or triggered by certain conditions. Reynaud’s disease, which causes blood vessels to spasm in response to cold weather, is one example.
People who have open sores in their mouths or who have untreated cuts or wounds on their lips or gums may experience numbness in response to infection. Infections happen when bacterial strains start multiplying and growing in injured cell tissue, and can cause a range of different problems. Loss of sensation in the lips is often one of the first signs of infection, particularly if the feeling is combined with an elevated body temperature.
When to Seek Medical Attention
Healthy people don’t normally experience numbness in their lips or anywhere else. Temporary tingling in response to changing temperatures or environmental elements doesn’t normally need medical attention, but suspected allergies should usually be evaluated, as food allergies in particular often grow more intense with each exposure such than an initial reaction that only caused brief tingling might progress to include swelling, rashes, or breathing problems as time goes by.
In general, most experts recommend seeing a doctor or qualified healthcare professional for any numbness that doesn’t go away on its own after about an hour, or that comes back repeatedly over a span of several days. Tingling that is accompanied by other symptoms like shortness or breath, dizziness, or loss of feeling in other parts of the body should usually get help right away.