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Mouth Sores and Lip Conditions

Sores on the lips and mouth are common and can be harmless or serious health problems. One must be sure to have a persistent mouth sore examined and diagnosed by an expert, because cancer of the lips with a basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma is common, particularly in older patients. Basal and squamous cell cancers can be symptomless, or can bleed and be sore. Patients who have sun-damaged lips, known as actinic cheilitis, are at higher risk for skin cancer of the lips. Dark brown or black single flat spots are usually benign oral melanotic macules, but as with any dark skin lesion, one needs to make sure that the lesion is not a melanoma.

Common benign lesions on the outside of the lips include rashes due to allergic contact dermatitis, chapped lips, warts, Fordyce spots, herpes simplex, and milia. Sometimes people become sensitive to allergens touching the lips such as lanolin in lip balm or ChapStick®; even eating mangoes can cause the lips and skin around the lips to break out in a rash. Fordyce spots are a term for normal oil glands (sebaceous glands) of the lips; sometimes people notice them for the first time and mistakenly think the spots represent a skin disease. Milia are very common little white cysts that can occur on the border of the lips or anywhere on the face. Cold sores, or herpes simplex, are also called "fever blisters." People frequently experience tingling or itch before the small blisters of a cold sore come out. Herpes is a recurring viral infection.

Inside the mouth, persistent white lesions can be concerning. Oral lichen planus is a benign condition of the inside cheeks, lips, or tongue. This diagnosis should be made by a professional, because white lesions inside the mouth can also be squamous cell carcinoma. A common cause of white lesions in the mouth is oral candidiasis, which is a yeast infection. Candidiasis is more common in people who recently took antibiotics, in diabetics, and in immunocompromised patients.

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Thrush (Oral Candidiasis) Thrush (oral candidiasis), also known as oral moniliasis, is a yeast infection of the mouth or throat (the oral cavity). The yeast that most commonly causes oral candidiasis is Candida albicans.
Lichen Planus Lichen planus (LP) is a disease of the skin and, less often, the scalp, fingernails, toenails, and/or inside the mouth or genitalia (mucous membranes). Lichen planus can resolve on its own without treatment or be…
Cold Sores (Orofacial Herpes) Herpes simplex infection of the mouth and face, known as orofacial herpes simplex, herpes labialis, cold sores, or fever blisters, is a common, recurrent skin condition associated with infection by the herpes…
Canker Sore (Aphthous Ulcer) Canker sores (aphthous ulcers), or aphthae, are the most common cause of periodic (recurring) ulcers inside the mouth and genital linings (mucous membrane surfaces). Their cause is unknown, but stress, lack of…
Allergic Contact Dermatitis Allergic contact dermatitis is a delayed hypersensitivity reaction (the reaction to the allergen occurs 48–72 hours after exposure). The most common allergens causing allergic contact dermatitis…
Milia Milia are a common skin finding in people of all ages. They are formed when dead skin does not slough off normally but instead remains trapped in a tiny, round pocket on the surface of the skin. An individual milium (the…
Oral Mucocele An oral mucocele is a harmless, fluid-containing (cyst-like) swelling of the lip or mouth lining (mucosa) due to mucus from the small salivary glands of the mouth leaking into the soft tissue, usually from injury…
Fordyce Spots Fordyce spots are normal large, superficial sebaceous (oil-producing) glands seen on the moist tissue that lines some organs and body cavities (mucosal surfaces). The "spots" are asymptomatic and can be found on…
Common Wart Warts are growths of the skin and mucous membranes (the mouth or genitals) that are caused by over 100 types of the human papillomavirus (HPV). Common warts are usually found on areas of the body prone to trauma, such…
Chapped Lips (Cheilitis) Chapped lips (cheilitis) are lips that appear dry, scaly, and may have one or more small cracks (fissures). Often, the lips are sensitive, and there may or may not be redness (erythema) and swelling (edema) present.
Actinic Cheilitis Actinic cheilitis, sometimes known as "farmer's lip" or "sailor's lip," is a precancerous condition related to cumulative lifetime sun exposure. The lower lip is most often affected. Individuals with actinic…
Angular Cheilitis Angular cheilitis (perlèche) is a chronic inflammatory condition of the corners of the mouth. Usually associated with a fungal (Candidal) or bacterial (Staphylococcal) infection, those…
Oral Melanotic Macule Oral melanotic macule is a non-cancerous (benign), dark spot found on the lips or inside the mouth. An oral melanotic macule found on the lip is sometimes called a labial melanotic macule.
Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC) Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), also known as basal cell epithelioma, is the most common form of skin cancer. Basal cell carcinoma usually occurs on sun-damaged skin, especially in light-skinned individuals with a…
Pyogenic Granuloma Pyogenic granuloma is a common, benign growth that often appears as a rapidly growing, bleeding bump on the skin or inside the mouth. It is composed of blood vessels and may occur at the site of minor injury.
Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is the second most common form of skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma usually occurs on sun-damaged skin, especially in light-skinned individuals with a long history of chronic sun…