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Upper lip swollen and numb. Gums and tongue are irritated. What is causing this and which specialist should I contact?

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General & Family Physician
Practicing since : 2009
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My upper lip has been swollen and a little numb for three months. At times it is worse than others but it never completely goes away. My gums, lips and tongue are also very easily irritated. I do not have any sores. I also find that I am not making as much saliva and need to sometimes clear food with water. I have been to my regualr doctor, an endochronoligist, my dentist and to an allergist where I was tested for allergies. What are other possible causes? I'm starting to get nervous.
Posted Mon, 20 Aug 2012 in Ear, Nose and Throat Problems
Answered by Dr. Aparna Kohli 1 hour later
Thanks for writing in.
To specifically answer your question, other causes could be stress, anxiety, depression, nerve damage, vitamin deficiencies, diabetes, autoimmune disorders or medication.
Now, since you do already have pre-diabetes, it could be contributing to this situation. To let me help you better, please answer the following questions:
a. Do you find yourself becoming excessively worried or feeling very anxious?
b. Have you undergone any surgery or are you currently receiving any medication?
c. Do you have any problems chewing your food or moving your lips as well?
d. Have any tests been done for you? Can you share the reports?
e. Do you feel any dryness in your eyes?
f. How many servings of fruits and vegetables do you take in a day?

Awaiting your reply
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Upper lip swollen and numb. Gums and tongue are irritated. What is causing this and which specialist should I contact? 7 hours later
Thank you for your response. To answer your follow up questions:
a. When I intially woke up three months ago and my lip was swollen I was very nervous about it. I went to the doctor in the first 24 hours because it had come on so quickly and I intially thought I was experiencing some sort of allergic reaction. In general, I am not anxious or nervous. As a matter of fact, it is my family and friends around me who feel I need to be more agressive in seeking a diagnosis since it has been over three months and it continues. I thought it would pass as mysteriously as it appeared - but it is not.
b. I have not undergone any surgery and I currently take no medication where I am (other than this) in very good health.
c. My lips feel very weird and it does interfere with both chewing and sometimes speaking. My gums hurt and I feel as if I don't chew carefully and avoid sharp food (like toast) or I feel as if my lips and gums have been scratched up. I also find it odd that I know seem to have a lot of food and debris left in my teeth and gums after eating and need to brush or swish water in my mouth right away to clear. Although I do not feel like my mouth is dry other than that and my eyes are not dry at all either.
d. My doctor has done extensive testing and except for slightly elevated sugar levels all seem fine and within normal limits.
e. My eyes are not dry at all.
f. I was eating a banana every morning in my cereal but I sopped that about a month ago thinking I should try eliminating things in my diet. I always eat a healthy salad for lunch and generally have at least two servings of vegetables with my dinner. I cut out orange juice (which I used to drink 2-3 times a week because I thought the acid might be bothering me.
Its very strange and as I said, there are times my upper lip is so swollen I can't close my lips (more so in the morning) and other times its barely swollen but I always feel as if I ate too many salty pototoe chips, even though I rearely or ever eat salty snacks. My next step is to go to a rheumatoligist then a ENT.
Answered by Dr. Aparna Kohli 4 hours later
Thanks for writing back.
I think we're looking at some kind of nerve dysfunction here. Possibly the fifth and seventh and maybe 9th to 12th cranial nerves are involved and they could be involved for a variety of reasons. I think our next step here should be to get a CT scan or a MRI to evaluate the course of the nerve. We need some formal testing to look for nerve dysfunction. Sometimes, when the nerve supply to a region is disrupted, it leads to the problems you are having.
I think the next step here should be an evaluation by a neurologist and an ENT surgeon. We need some formal tests and a thorough exam to find out what is going on.
Hope that helps
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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