Tingling Lips

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What are tingling lips?

Tingling lips, a feeling of “pins and needles” in your lips, can have a number of causes, including chapped lips, allergic reactions to food or facial products, and cold sores. Tingling lips can also be caused by nerve damage from extreme heat or cold or from toxic substances.

Alternatively, tingling lips may be caused by neuropathy, or nerve damage. Chronic conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, can sometimes cause tingling lips. Tingling lips can also occur as a result of hyperventilation.

Depending on the cause of the tingling, it may occur in lips only or in other areas of the body, as well. A tingling feeling may be the only symptom you experience or it may be accompanied by pain and numbness. The duration and course of lip tingling vary widely, depending on the cause. Symptoms caused by injury or allergy often have a sudden onset, whereas lip tingling resulting from underlying neuropathy develops slowly and persists or worsens over time.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) ifasudden lip tingling sensation is accompanied by numbness or weakness on one side of your body; a change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness; or the worst headache of your life, as these can be signs of stroke.

If your tingling lips is persistent or causes you concern, seek prompt medical care.

What other symptoms might occur with tingling lips?

Tingling lips may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the lips also involve other body systems.

Lip symptoms that may occur along with tingling lips

Tingling lips may accompany other symptoms affecting the lips including:

  • Burning feeling
  • Chapped lips
  • Dryness
  • Numbness
  • Pain
  • Redness, warmth or swelling

Other symptoms that may occur along with tingling lips

Tingling lips may accompany symptoms related to other body systems including:

  • Changes in sensation
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Impaired coordination
  • Muscle weakness
  • Nerve pain
  • Numbness or tingling in other parts of the body

Serious symptoms that might indicate a life-threatening condition

Sudden lip tingling accompanied by numbness or weakness on one side of the body can be a sign of stroke. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you, or someone you are with, have tingling in one hand along with other serious symptoms including:

  • Change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness

  • Change in mental status or sudden behavior change, such as confusion, delirium, lethargy, hallucinations and delusions

  • Garbled or slurred speech or inability to speak

  • Paralysis or inability to move a body part

  • Sudden change in vision, loss of vision, or eye pain

  • Worst headache of your life

What causes tingling lips?

Tingling lips can be the result of peripheral nerve or skin damage in the lips and surrounding tissues. Chemicals, food, and sun exposure can cause burns that lead to tingling lips, and disorders that affect the nerves, such as peripheral neuropathy, may also cause tingling lips.

Common causes of tingling lips

Tingling lips may have several common causes including:

  • Allergic reactions to food
  • Chapped lips
  • Chemical burn
  • Cold sore (herpes simplex virus infection)
  • Exposure to extreme cold or heat
  • Lip injury
  • Sunburn

Disease causes of tingling lips

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

  • Cancer

  • Cervical spinal stenosis (a disorder of the spine in the neck area, that can cause nerve damage)

  • Guillain-Barré syndrome (autoimmune nerve disorder)

  • Multiple sclerosis (disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties, and other problems)

  • Shingles (reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus, which remains in the body in an inactive state following chickenpox)

  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)

  • Vitamin deficiency, especially vitamin B12

Serious or life-threatening causes of tingling lips

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

  • Cranial nerve trauma

  • Stroke

  • Transient ischemic attack (temporary stroke-like symptoms that may be a warning sign of an impending stroke)

Questions for diagnosing the cause of tingling lips

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

  • Are you currently taking any medications?
  • How long have you had the tingling in your lips?
  • Do your lips tingle all the time?
  • What other symptoms are you experiencing?
  • When do your symptoms occur?
  • Are your symptoms worsened or relieved by anything?

What are the potential complications of tingling lips?

Because tingling 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 (if tingling lips are due to a stroke)
  • Permanent nerve damage
  • Spread of infection
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jan 10
  1. NINDS paresthesia information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/paresthesia/paresthesia.htm.
  2. Peripheral neuropathy fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/peripheralneuropathy/detail_peripheralneuropathy.htm.
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