As innocent as a numb lip may sound, some causes can be quite serious–can one be ALS?

There are a number of causes for numbness in a lip, says Anthony P. Geraci, MD, associate professor of neurology at Donald & Barbara Zucker School of Medicine in New York.

Dr. Geraci further explains, “Have to be careful here, as some of the causes can be signs of serious problems.

“I have to be sure to inform your readers that if they have these symptoms they should see a neurologist or their medical doctor.”

Before you panic, though, review your recent history to see if there could be a benign explanation.

  • Were you just out in the freezing cold?

  • Did you accidentally bite your lip recently?

  • Did you have dental work earlier and the Novocain has not completely worn off?

  • Sometimes the lip gets very numb from this anesthetic and it can last quite a while after the procedure.

Dr. Geraci continues, “One of the more common and benign causes is due to hyperventilation.

“During heavy breathing while exercising or during anxiety, carbon dioxide becomes decreased in the blood and this cause metabolic changes in the blood that are sensed by the nerve endings–lips, finger tips and toes.”

Serious Causes of Lip Numbness

One can be a TIA: transient ischemic attack. This is a “mini stroke” or blood clot that causes temporary symptoms.

If you suspect a TIA, get to the ER immediately, as a TIA is a harbinger of a full-blown stroke (30 percent of people who have a TIA have a stroke within one year).

However, if numbness in your lip is caused by a TIA, you’ll have other symptoms with it (one or more of the following: slurred speech, facial numbness or paralysis, confusion, visual disturbance, one side of body suddenly weak, numb, heavy or paralyzed).

Another possible cause is multiple sclerosis.

If you have a numb lip from MS, you probably have some other symptoms as well (e.g. muscle spasms, balance problems, fatigue, slurred speech and vision problems).

ALS does not cause lip numbness.

Some Other Causes of Lip Numbness

  • leprosy
  • seafood poisoning
  • trigeminal neuralgia (facial nerve irritation; cause is sometimes unknown, but may be from the nerve coming in contact with a blood vessel, MS, aging, and rarely, a tumor; trigeminal neuralgia is also accompanied by facial pain)
  • shingles
  • arterial spasms (Reynaud’s disease)
  • low blood sugar
  • mineral deficiencies
  • cosmetic/soap allergies and food allergies.

That’s a LOT of potential causes for numbness in the lip. However, if all you have is a numb lip, and NO other symptoms, chances are not likely that you have anything serious.

This statement, however, is not absolute, and if your lip numbness persists, see a doctor.

Dr. Geraci is also the director of neuromuscular medicine at Northwell Health in New York.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.