White Spots on the Lips

What are White Spots on the Lips?

Fordyce’s spot refers to white spots on the lips and has been named after John Addison Fordyce, the dermatologist who discovered it. The spots are found in areas where hair follicles are absent and there are a lot of sebaceous glands. The spots are lighter in color, painless and slightly raised. The spots measure about three millimeters in diameter and may appear in both men and women, irrespective of their age. Sometimes the white spots may appear as symptoms of other diseases. However, most often the spots are not indicative of a serious health condition.

Image Source: Dermnetnz.org


  • Cancer: Oral cancer may be a result of excessive use of tobacco and alcohol. Painful and slightly raised white spots are one of the symptoms of oral cancer. White spots on the mouth known as leukoplakia which may also cause white spots to appear on the lips. Other symptoms of cancer may also be experienced at the same time. The spots may have fatal consequences if they are a result of cancer.
  • Fordyce Disease: Fordyce disease may be present among some individuals since birth. It is only later in life during the pubescent years when these spots become more evident. About 95% of adolescents suffer from the disease. Under such a condition white spots may also appear on the genital areas. However, these are not contagious and they often heal on their own after a period.
Image Source: www.pcds.org.uk
  • Herpes: White spots may occur due to herpes to people are affected by herpes simplex virus type 1 or type 2. The white spots due to herpes are known as herpes labialis where the spots may be filled with fluid and may also be painful. Such a condition is contagious and can be transferred through direct contact between individuals.
  • Milia: It is a condition that is common in babies. The affected areas are usually the face and the lips. In this case, small white bumps called milia appear as dead skin cells get trapped under the skin.
  • Oral Thrush: White lesions may appear on the gums, tonsils, lips or mouth as a result of fungal infection which is also known as oral thrush. The most common fungus to cause such a situation is Candida albicans.
  • Genetics: Variation in an individual’s genes can also be a possible reason behind the appearance of white spots. Just as moles and birthmarks, the white spots are also harmless.


In certain cases where the following symptoms accompany the appearance of white spots, the underlying health issues may be severe:

  • Numbness of the tongue
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Swelling of the neck or jaw
  • Trouble in chewing or swallowing
  • Bumps are painful
  • Bleeding from the bumps
  • Feeling of something being caught in the throat


  • Examination of the individual’s medical history
  • Conducting a physical examination
  • Examination of the inside of the lips
  • Checking for swelling in the jaw and the face
  • Examination of neck to check for swelling of lymph nodes
  • Laboratory test known as culture may be conducted using a swab of the lip to determine the bacteria causing fungal infection
  • Tests for cancerous cells if a case of oral cancer is suspected
  • Blood tests to check for the presence of herpes virus

Different Locations

  • Upper lip: The spots may vary in size from person to person and maybe a pimple like or flat. They can appear anywhere on the upper lip including the corners and the lip line. Spots that occur after threading or waxing are a result of infected ingrown hair and are visible on the lip line and beyond it.
  • Lower lip: The spots can be observed on the lower lip or, the lower lip line and may be flat or slightly raised. The lower lip is susceptible to hairy leukoplakia and mucous cysts. Also, the presence of a white spot that does not disappear within a stipulated span of time may be a sign of oral cancer.
  • Lip Line: Milia and Fordyce’s spots are the most common cause behind spots on the lip line. The spots are usually small and painless. Most often these spots are bumpy pimples and herpes simplex virus can also cause white spots to occur in the area.
  • Inside lip: Spots may also appear inside the lip which may be small or large, painless or painful, they may appear in clusters or singly. The may be filled with fluid. Fever blisters, canker sores, and infected piercings may also occur inside the lip.


  • Time: In case of Fordyce spots, the spots may heal on their own within some time. The best way to treat such a condition is to give it some time to treat itself.
  • Surgery: Some people may be affected by the appearance of the spots then they can undergo laser treatments or electrosurgery to remove the spots.
  • Chemotherapy: In case of oral cancer a doctor may suggest chemotherapy to treat the situation. It involves removal of lesions from the affected area and limiting the spread of cancerous cells by the use of radiation.
  • Medication: Use of antifungal mouthwash helps to remove the bacteria that cause the infection. In case of oral herpes antiviral medications can be used to cure the situation.

When to Visit a Doctor?

Although the white spots may not always be painful or accompanied by other symptoms, nevertheless they must be examined by a doctor to rule out any chances of a severe disease. Medical help must be taken especially in case of swelling, difficulty in swallowing, etc.

Leave a Reply