Tingling or Numb Lips
Lip tingling is abnormal feeling, and lip numbness is decreased or absent feeling in the lip. Both sensations, medically called paresthesia, arise from conditions affecting sensory nerves in the lips, but usually not from neurological diseases. Skin diseases also rarely cause tingling or numbness but rather itch, burning or pain in the lips.
Main causes of tingling and numb lips are listed below.
Food allergy can result in tingling or swollen lips, tingling mouth, itchy throat or skin, appearing within few minutes (early reaction) or several hours (delayed reaction) after a meal, and lasting for several minutes to few hours. Other symptoms include hives, nausea, diarrhea, dizziness and shortness of breath. Read about common food allergies in children and adults.
Chemical allergies. Allergic reaction to cosmetics, soap, medicines or other substances can also result in tingling lips.
2. Mineral Deficiences
Hypocalcemia, hypokalemia and deranged levels of sodium, potassium or phosphate can result in tingling lips.
Tingling lips can be a symptom of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose level), occurring, for example in diabetes, because of insulin overdose or skipped meal, or due to rapid stomach emptying (dumping syndrome) after a meal. Other symptoms of hypoglycemia are nausea, hunger, pale skin, rapid heart beat, dizziness and coma.
Raynaud’s Disease or Phenomenon
Tingling or pain in the lips, nose, ears, nipples, fingers or toes, changing from white to blue and red, triggered by cold, physical or emotional stress and disappearing in minutes to hours, are due to abnormal arterial spasms. When a cause is not known, the condition is called Raynaud’s disease and in a known cause, like systemic sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), vasculitis or rheumatoid arthritis, it is called Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Ciguatera Fish Poisoning
Big tropical fish, like tuna or meckerel, can cause tingling in the lips or other parts of the body few minutes or several hours after ingestion. Reversal of hot and cold sensations is also characteristic. Symptoms, lasting from hours to months, are caused by ciguatera toxin, produced by coral algae, accumulating in tropical fish and ingested by a human. Ciguatera poisoning is common in Central America, Caribbean, Australia and South Asia.
In fish, not properly stored after being caught, histamine, the same substance as released in allergies, may build up and cause food allergy-like symptoms (see above).
Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP)
Seafood, like clams, mussels, oysters, snails or scallops contaminated by certain toxins produced by sea alge can cause tingling around the mouth, and nausea, followed by muscle paralysis and death from respiratory failure. First aid in PSP.
Horseshoe Crab Poisoning
Poisoning with horshoe crab flesh, viscera or eggs mostly occurs in some parts of Asia, like Thailand. Symptoms are like in PSP (see above).
Shingles, caused by Herpes zoster virus, when affecting facial sensory (trigeminal) nerve, usually result in itchy or painful red rash that crusts over, tingling or numbness usually appearing on one side of the face (lip).
Leprosy (Hansen’s Disease)
In last years, leprosy (Hansen’s disease), infection caused by Mycobacterium leprae, was reported only from Brasil, Myanmar and some African countries. Several years after infection, neurological symptoms may appear in the lips, other parts of the face (eyes, eyelids) or distal parts of the limbs. Numbness and reduced sensitivity to hot and cold are typical symptoms.
Tingling or numbness in the lips (and usually in other parts of the face and body) can occur in multiple sclerosis.
Shocking electrical pains, tingling or numbness affecting various parts of the face, including the lips, usually only on one side, speak for trigeminal neuralgia.
Read about other causes of tingling lips: Tingling and Numbness in the Face and Back of the Head
- Itchy Face
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on August 3, 2013