Small bumps on the lips can have many causes, from mild to serious. In some cases, they may simply be acne brought about by hormonal imbalance or poor skin health. In other cases, they can indicate an underlying condition. When bumps appear on your lips, you should note their size and other general characteristics to help determine the cause, and seek the advice of your doctor to rule out a serious illness.
Colgate's World of Care website notes that cold sores are commonly caused by the HSV-1 virus, also known as herpes simplex 1 or oral herpes. These cold sores usually appear as small clusters of blisters. They can also manifest as smaller ulcers in the soft tissue of the lips and inside of the mouth. The HSV-1 virus is so common that most Americans will be infected with it by the time they reach adulthood. The primary dangers of HSV-1 lie in its complication of other conditions. This virus can cause complications if you are affected by cancer or malnutrition, and if your immune system is already compromised either by immunosuppressant or another virus, such as AIDS.
The National Cancer Institute lists several other symptoms that may accompany bumps on your lips if oral cancer is the cause. You may develop sores that do not heal, white or red patches on the gums and tongue, a swollen jaw, a change in voice and unexplained loose teeth. Tobacco use and heavy alcohol use can increase your chances of developing cancer on your lips and mouth, as can having the human papilloma virus. Men are also at higher risk of oral cancer than women. Because of the danger that cancer will spread to deeper tissue and is fatal if untreated, you should schedule regular dental checkups and have any unusual bumps examined immediately.
While sometimes mistaken for a sexually transmitted disease symptom, fordyce spots are harmless and are not contagious. These yellow or white-colored papules are actually variants of the sebaceous glands found in hair follices. DermNet NZ states that 80 to 90 percent of adults develop these spots on the soft tissue of their lips, inside their cheeks or on their gentials. They usually occur in groups of 50 to 100.