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What Your Lips Tell You About Your Health

Lips may hold the secret to other health issues going on inside your body. Read on to find out how to listen to what your lips are saying.
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Mum's the word! Lips hold more secrets to your health than you might think. While we decorate or ignore them, lips may provide real symptoms to something bigger going on in the body.

That's really no surprise. After all, the saying goes you are what you eat. Well, what we eat goes in our mouth. Whether you become more aware of a compromised immune system or remember to wear sunscreen from now on, I'm hoping this article gets you to pay a little more attention to your lips.

What Your Lips Are Saying

Dry or Chapped

With winter right around the corner, you're probably looking to stock up on all the lip balm you can find to fight off the annoying sensation that comes from chapped lips. There are a lot of factors that lead to chapped lips and weather is one of them but instead of immediately grabbing that lip balm, try drinking water.

Dehydration may be leading to your chapped lips and believe it or not, it happens a lot in the winter. When we get cold, we're not often thinking about getting something to drink and when we do, we go for something that might not be as hydrating as a bottle of water. Dry mouth and lips cause you to lick them, especially in the wind and next thing you know, they're chapped. Keep hydrated all winter long for better overall health.

Penn State teaches us about another unsuspecting culprit too. Toothpaste can dry your lips out too. It's the Sodium lauryl sulfate. I've written about this ingredients and its use in cleaning products before but as a reminder, it's used to add suds and foam, not to actually clean. So if you're getting irritation, try a toothpaste without it and see if that helps.

If you wake up with a dry mouth and lips, you could be breathing through your mouth at night. This can be caused by breathing difficulty which may come from allergies, snoring, sinuses or something more devious. A humidifier (adds moisture to the air for better allergies and sinuses), eucalyptus oil (helps clear airways in sinuses) or even just adjusting your pillows may help close you moth and breath better. If it continues, it's probably something to ask your doctor about.

Canker Sores

According to a publication by National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, about 20% of the population gets canker sores. The annoyance is universally felt. Canker sores are the result of an oral herpes virus flare up. Don't fret though, most people contract this one at the age of 10 or younger because it's so contagious. Once again, it's not uncommon.

If you're getting a flare up of canker sores, small or otherwise, you're immune system is probably compromised. This can happen if you're stressed (our old friend) or you've been slacking on taking care of yourself a little too long. The good news is that canker sores usually go away on their own. In the meantime, jumpstart your immune system with some supplements like echinacea or elderberry. Get back to a balanced diet and catch up on sleep. And if they're really annoying you, we do have a few things to help.

Burning

Burning lips are a symptom of a few different conditions. Allergic reaction, sunburn or neuropathy, burning could be a sign of something easily fixed or something much more dangerous, according to the staff at Health Grades.

Something you ate or put on your lips could be agitating your lips, causing them to burn. Food allergies are more likely to trigger and allergic reaction but metal or chemical reaction is a strong possibility too. Lean the area and backtrack what you last did and ate to pinpoint the cause. If you develop more severe reaction symptoms like numbness, become unable to breath, develop hives or dizziness, call your doctor, poison control or emergency services immediately.

Another possibility is sunburn. Lips are made of skin, after all. That's why it's important to keep hydrated and wear sunscreen lip balm. If you're lips are already burned, aloe or other soothing balm should help heal them. Make sure to always wear lip balm with sunscreen in it before heading outdoors or tanning to keep them from burning again.

Burning lips may also be a sign or neuropathy which is a kind of nerve damage. It can be cause from injury or disease, like diabetes. If you have any condition that causes neuropathy in other parts of the body, talk to your doctor about burning sensations in or around your mouth. Or, if burning doesn't go away, talk to your doctor to help narrow down if it's a sign of a more serious condition.


Scaly or Crusty

A severe inflammation of the lips is called cheilitis. It has different causes that aren't always known but it appears as dried, split or crusted lips and is sometimes called chronic chapped lips.

This could be a sign of eczema. The condition can flare up anywhere, even the mouth. Sometimes it's caused by excessive licking that dries lips out and causes crusting. If you have a lip-licking problem, try coating them in Vaseline or other natural jelly. This will keep the moisture in to help heal them and the taste will discourage you from licking them.

Another cause could be allergies. In one study by the Singapore National Skin Centre, many patients improved by replacing their toothpaste.  Other issues can come from cosmetics. Even if you don't wear cosmetics regularly, circumstances like kissing something who does can be enough to trigger an ongoing condition. Avoiding the substances is the best bet. Check all labels for allergies. If you don't know which sets you off, you may have to try a patch test. Common allergies to everyday ingredients include beeswax, vitamin E, castor oil and artificial dyes or preservatives.

Sometimes this condition is caused by a drug interaction. Check you medication and supplements for symptoms of dry mouth and talk to your doctor about trying an elimination test or replacing certain ones. 

Listen To Your Lips

Your lips can reveal symptoms of something more dangerous and give you an early warning sign. Talk to your doctor if you have:

  • A sore, lesion or lump on the mouth that doesn't go away
  • Red or white patches on the lip
  • Swelling of the jaw
  • Burning lips after injury or combined with confusion

  • These could be signs of a more serious problem. If you smoke or chew tobacco you're at a greater risk of lip cancer and these may be a sign of it. Other symptoms may be a sign of nerve or spine damage. When in doubt, talk to your doctor. Don't leave your lips out of your health conversation.

    Hope you're ready to tackle winter now. Don't keep your lips shut, tell us what you thought of today's article on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages! And check back soon for more health tips and news to keep living healthy!

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