Purple Spot on Lip: What Causes It?

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Discovering a purple spot on your lip that was never there before can be scary, and you may be curious to know what it is and where it came from. While there are a number of reasons you might see a purple spot on lip tissue, it may be a case of purpura. Here's what you should know about this condition.

What Is Purpura?

Purpura is the appearance of purple spots on the skin or on mucus membranes like the lining of the mouth or on the lips. These benign spots occur when small blood vessels burst under the skin and blood accumulates in this area.

Purpura spots typically measure between 4 and 10 millimeters in diameter, explains the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Any purple spots smaller than this are called petechiae. Larger spots are called ecchymoses.

Causes of Purpura

Injuries, steroid use and medications that affect the blood platelets or clotting may factor in the development of purpura. Purpura may also be associated with various conditions, such as amyloidosis, congenital rubella syndrome or congenital cytomegalovirus. Hemangioma, a growth caused by blood vessels building up abnormally in the skin, and vasculitis, an inflammation of the blood vessels, may lead to purpura.

In some cases, these spots may appear due to bleeding disorders that reduce the number of platelets, the cells that help your blood clot. An example of this is idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura. This disorder occurs when the immune system destroys the platelets and affects the blood's ability to clot. This can result in bleeding into the skin. This particular type of purpura is more common in women than men, states the NIH.

Diagnosis and Treatment

If you notice a purple spot on lip tissue, see your doctor or dentist right away. They can examine the spot and determine if it's purpura or another condition.

At your appointment, you can expect the doctor or dentist to perform a visual examination of your affected skin. They will also ask questions about your symptoms and medical history. This could include questions about the medications you take or other health conditions you have. According to the NIH, blood or urine tests may also be needed to determine the cause of the purpura. For example, your doctor may want to test the level of platelets in your blood.

In certain circumstances, the doctor may need to perform a biopsy of the purple spot. This procedure involves removing a sample of the tissue and examining it under a microscope. As Johns Hopkins Medicine explains, this examination can help determine what caused the tissue abnormality. It may also help the doctor rule out more serious conditions like lip cancer.

Since there are a number of possible causes of purpura, the treatments vary widely. After your dentist or doctor determines what caused the purple spot, they can recommend an appropriate treatment, if treatment is necessary.

Other Possible Causes of Dark Spots on Lips

Purpura isn't the only possible cause of dark spots on the lips. Dark spots can also form due to melasma, a common skin problem where brown or gray patches form on the skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these patches usually develop on parts of the body that get a lot of sun exposure, like the cheeks or forehead, but can also form near the lips. This condition can be treated with sun protection, like wearing a wide-brimmed hat while outside and applying sunscreen.

Dark spots on the lips can also be caused by pigmented contact dermatitis, an allergic reaction, explains a review published by the Journal of Pigmentary Disorders. When allergens come into contact with the lips, the skin can develop reddish, brown or gray discoloration. These allergens may include ingredients in lipsticks.

Vitamin deficiencies are another possible cause of dark spots on the lips. For example, B12 deficiencies may cause hyperpigmentation and result in brown spots on the lips and other parts of the skin, reports Clinical Observations.

If you've noticed a dark spot on your lip, or any other changes to the skin on your lips, see your doctor or dentist as soon as possible.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.