Discovering a scab on your lip can be distressing. Scabs in this area can make daily activities like eating and drinking difficult, and since they're so visible, they may reduce your self-confidence. There are many possible causes for a scab on the lip, but rest assured, there are ways you can help it heal.
Possible Causes of Lip Scabs
There are many possible causes of scabs on the lips. A scab can develop from something as simple as a small cut on the lip that's beginning to heal. Scabs can also occur when the lips become chapped and cracked.
Cold sores may lead to scabs on the lips. These sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1. During cold sore outbreaks, tiny blisters, known as fever blisters, form on the lips. The blisters then pop, forming painful sores that can have scab-like crusts.
Occasionally, scabs on the lips can signal more serious problems. An irregular, red patch on the lip that becomes crusty and scab-like may be a sign of lip cancer.
Encouraging the Healing Process
Since scabs on the lips can be uncomfortable, you may want to speed up the healing process. Resist the temptation to pick at the scab. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) explains that scabs protect the tissue underneath from germs, so removing a scab could lead to an infection.
If the scab is caused by a cold sore, holding a damp, cool cloth against the scab may help it heal more quickly. Cold sore ointments, which are available over-the-counter, can also help shorten outbreaks.
To soothe chapped lips, the NIH suggests applying beeswax or petroleum jelly to the lips. In the winter when the air is especially dry and cold, drinking additional fluids can help keep your body and lips hydrated.
Rest assured that scabs on the lips heal relatively quickly. If the scabs are caused by cold sores, they will usually heal completely within eight to 10 days. Scabs that are caused by small cuts or dry skin may heal in even less time.
When to See a Doctor or Dentist
If a scab doesn't heal by itself, see your dentist or doctor. The scab may be a sign of another serious issue or lip cancer. When they're caught early, lip cancers may be curable.
You should seek medical attention if the scab becomes infected. The University of Wisconsin-Madison explains that redness streaking from the scab, increased pain or swelling of the scab and pus drainage could be signs of an infection.
A scab on the lip has many possible causes, but in most cases, it will go away on its own within a short period of time. If you're concerned about a scab that doesn't seem to be getting better, seek the advice of your doctor or dentist.