White spots on lips can be harmless or indicate the presence of a serious underlying disorder. Hence, it is important for all affected individuals to consult a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
The condition can be unsightly and cause embarrassment. Hence, even patients with harmless instances of this skin anomaly tend to get it cosmetically treated.
- These white spots may be mild or extensive as per the underlying cause of the condition.
- The spots may develop as tiny discolored patches on the lips, or may occur as large abnormal patches that are clearly visible. They appear throughout the lips and decrease the natural red/pink color of the lips.
- The abnormal patches may migrate into the oral cavity or spread to the skin areas surrounding the mouth.
Causes of white spots on lips
White spots on lips may be caused due to a number of reasons. The condition may occur due to oral viral infections such as HPV, mumps, herpes, measles, and rubella, etc., or due to other underlying diseases as listed below:
- Fordyce spots: It is characterized by the development of tiny, white spots on lips which may range from 1 to 3 mm in diameter. Also called Fordyce granules, the spots are not painful or dangerous. The exact cause of the condition is not known. However, it is thought that it may be occur due to trapping of oil in the sebaceous glands.
- Lip cancer: One of the most prominent types of cancer is skin cancer. The lips are usually the most common part of skin that are afflicted by cancer. Lip cancer often remains undiagnosed as the white spots on lips are mistaken for some other disorder. Lip cancer typically affects individuals over 50 years, and more men than women. It is mostly caused due to excessive contact with the UV rays of the sun and can be detected via a biopsy.
- Herpes: It is an infectious condition caused due to infection by the herpes simplex virus. It results in formation of painful, itchy, white blisters on lips. The disease spreads via direct ‘skin to skin’ contact. It cannot be cured but the symptoms and infection can be suppressed via medications.
- Vitiligo: In addition to white spots on lips, vitiligo also results in loss of pigmentation across different parts of the body. It is a progressive disease which migrates to all areas of the body. The cause is not known; but it is believed that the disorder may be related to skin cancer, autoimmune diseases, or inherited causes.
- Herpes infections can be treated via topical and oral antiviral drugs
- Psoralen photo-chemotherapy, topical steroids, and depigmentation are the available treatment options for vitiligo. Doctors may also consider surgical options like tattooing, skin grafts, and autologous melanocyte transplants for treating it.
- There is no cure for Fordyce spots. However, the white spots on lips can be removed via laser therapy. They may also be made less prominent via use of chemical peels, and anti-sebum ointments and creams.
- As per the stage, lip cancer may be treated via chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or both.