There’s tons of causes of burning lips, and one of them is a pre-cancerous change.

“Burning lips or its cousin burning mouth syndrome can result from a number of causes,” says Dr. Rebecca Tung, MD, director of the dermatology division at Loyola University Health System, Chicago.

“Many times it can signal underlying medical conditions such as autoimmune disease (a condition called Sjogren’s disease which can also cause dry eyes); endocrine disorder like diabetes, thyroid disease or menopause; drug reaction; neurologic condition (the nerves that service the mouth are altered); sun damage or precancerous change; infection (a condition called perleche — where the most common culprit is yeast—these patients often get cracking of the skin at the corners of the mouth.”

More Causes of Burning Lips

“Another infection that can affect the lips and cause pain are cold sores or herpes,” says Dr. Tung.

“Stress, sunlight and even medical or dental procedures around the mouth can bring on an attack of the herpes virus).”

Many more causes are possible, such as poorly fitting dentures, and vitamin and mineral deficiencies,” says Dr. Tung. These can especially refer to B vitamins, zinc and iron.

“Some patients with burning lips may have allergies to topical products (lipsticks, metal or toothpaste or whitener ingredients). In other patients, the exact cause may not be clear.”

If your lips are burning, see a dermatologist to get a thorough physical exam—of not just your mouth but of all of your skin. This is important, says Dr. Tung.

“Sometimes a patient may have lesions on the mouth, eyes and genital areas as well as on the skin of the body, which can point to a severe but treatable condition which produces fragile blisters and ulcerations called pemphigus.

“Sometimes the dermatologist may take a sample (biopsy) of the affected skin on the lips or order blood work to find the correct diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.

“Depending on the cause, a course of therapy can be started which can help heal the skin and minimize pain.”

Dr. Tung’sdr. tung specialties include general dermatology with skin cancer surveillance, moles, melanoma, surgery (Mohs micrographic, laser, skin cancer reconstruction) and cosmetic dermatology.
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.  



Top image: Shutterstock/Sergey Golenko