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What are Lip Blisters?

By J.M. Willhite
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Fluid-filled, inflamed bumps that form on the lips are known as lip blisters. Frequently referred to as fever blisters, lip blisters present with exposure to the infectious type 1 herpes simplex virus. Once exposed, the virus lies dormant in an individual’s system and may re-manifest at any time. The contagious virus may be passed through close, interpersonal contact, such as sharing drinking glasses or eating utensils and kissing. Treatment for blisters on the lip generally involves the administration of topical and, sometimes, oral medications to alleviate symptoms and discomfort.

Lip blisters form in the wake of exposure to a specific presentation of the herpes simplex virus. Similar to that which causes genital herpes, type 1 herpes virus causes the formation of lesions on the lips that fill with liquid, rupture, and scab over. After exposure to active infection, the site where infection entered the individual’s system is where the blister will present. Fever blisters may then form repeatedly on the original area of infection or the immediate area.

Due to their tell-tale presentation, lip blisters may be diagnosed by sight. Unlike canker sores that form on the inside of the oral cavity, fever blisters form on the outside of the mouth, such as on the lips. Generally, such blisters do not necessitate a physician's visit and heal on their own within a couple of weeks. Usually, only those who experience severe, frequent presentations of fever blisters or those who have compromised immunity are instructed to seek medical attention.

Tingling or discomfort at the site of infection generally occurs a few days in advance of blister formation. The blisters themselves adopt an inflamed, swollen appearance as they form. As the blisters fill with clear liquid, they become more sensitive to the touch and may last several days. Once the blisters rupture, they may seep an opaque, discolored liquid before scabbing over. The infectious liquid within fever blisters can cause reinfection if not handled cautiously, so individuals who handle the liquid directly should avoid touching their eyes or other delicate mucous membranes until they have washed their hands.

Lip blisters are a contagious condition and remain infectious until they have completely dried and healed. Individuals should avoid interpersonal situations where it may be possible to pass on the infection to a third party, especially young children and those with compromised immunity who may experience a more severe presentation if infected. Those who develop severe blisters should take proactive measures to cautiously avoid the spread of infection to other parts of the body, especially to the eyes which may result in blindness.

Over-the-counter (OTC) topical medications may be administered to alleviate symptoms and discomfort. In some cases, prescription antiviral medications may be administered to alleviate discomfort for those who experience frequent episodes of blister formation. Individuals are encouraged to recognize what triggers the recurrence of their fever blisters and avoid such triggers if at all possible. Those who experience frequent episodes of blister formation may be prescribed a topical medication to shorten the duration of infectious blister presentation.

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Discussion Comments
By serenesurface — On Sep 30, 2013

@literally45-- It can take anywhere from one to two weeks. Mine usually last a week but I do home remedies and I also use antiviral cream.

I heard that there is a supplement at the pharmacy that helps prevent lip blisters and helps them heal faster. I don't recall the name, but it's something that strengthens the immune system. I'm sure the pharmacist knows.

There are also home remedies you can use. Some people dab a drop of diluted tea tree oil. I personally use salt. It stings but it prevents the blister from filling up with fluid and makes it scab over faster. You should also keep your lips moisturized. There are lip balms with pain relieving ingredients.

By literally45 — On Sep 29, 2013

I have lip blister right now! My lip started hurting two days ago and now it's a full blown blister. It's so painful! How long does it take for a herpes lip blister to go away?

By discographer — On Sep 29, 2013

When I first learned that lip blisters are caused by a herpes virus, I was shocked. But now I think that almost everyone has it. It's nothing to worry about.

I'm quite sure that I got the virus from my mom. We used to drink from each other's glass all the time and she always gets blisters on her lips in winter. When I told her about the virus, she was shocked too.

I don't ever share a glass with her anymore though. I heard that even if two people have herpes type 1, they can still infect each other again. So I'm very careful about keeping glasses, utensils and personal items to myself now. Plus, I don't want to pass the virus to anyone else.

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