Anatomy & Organs

Lips – structure, function & diseases


The lips represent an important organ of the human body, which takes on important tasks and functions in everyday life. At the same time, however, they can also be affected by diseases or indicate specific diseases by showing certain symptoms.

What are lips

The lips , which are also referred to as the labium oris in medical terminology, are the soft tissue folds found in the lower area of ​​the face .

They are a paired organ that shields the oral cavity from the external environment and is characterized by great mobility. In addition, the lips together with the cheeks form the outer edge of the oral vestibule and fulfill some important functions in human everyday life, which primarily include eating or forming speech.

However, the lips are not only found in humans, but also in mammals, in which they are often referred to as so-called lips and fulfill similar functions as in humans.

Anatomy & Structure

The lips are made up of an upper and a lower lip, which lie above and below the opening of the mouth and are joined together at the corner of the mouth.

In addition, both the upper and lower lip are bound to the gums on the inside with a mucous membrane fold, which is also known as the frenulum of the lip. The upper edge of the upper lip has a curved furrow in its middle, which embodies the so-called Cupid’s bow. Between this cupid’s bow and the nose there is also a depression, which is called the philtrum and can appear in different dimensions.

While the lips are covered on the inside with oral mucosa, they are surrounded on the outside by a thin skin consisting of three to five cell layers. In addition, the orbicularis oris muscle, which extends around the mouth, is decisive for the basic shape and texture of the lips.

Other components of the facial muscles also lead to a high degree of mobility. The inferior labial artery and the superior labial artery, both of which originate from the facial artery, ensure that the lips are adequately supplied with blood.

Functions & Tasks

The lips fulfill some important functions and tasks in everyday life. In the foreground is the support of food intake, in which the lips, due to their great mobility, in cooperation with the cheek, move the food or liquids into the oral cavity and to the teeth.

In addition to the function of eating, the lips also play a major role in communication. They are an important component for correct language formation and contribute to the formation of lip sounds (e.g. P, B, F and M). However, the lips can influence communication not only through language formation, but also through their special role in facial expressions.

In this way, people are able to express their emotions correctly through the lip movements guided by the facial muscles. The lips can use targeted movements to ensure that, for example, anger, sadness or joy are correctly perceived by the person you are talking to. In addition, there are numerous nerve endings in the lips, through which a tactile function can be ascribed to them.

Diseases & Ailments

Since the lips are an organ of the human body, they can be affected by numerous diseases or show signs of certain diseases.

A very common disease is the so-called herpes labialis – simplified cold sores – which represents a form of herpes simplex infections and is noticeable through the formation of small, painful blisters on the lips.

While herpes simplex infections are usually harmless, they can lead to serious complications within certain risk groups. These people at risk include people with a weak immune system such as HIV patients or newborns, but also people with chronic skin diseases such as neurodermatitis , in which the cold sores can spread to large areas of skin. Drying of the lips is often found in the unconscious as well as in healthy people.

Increased consumption of tobacco, strong exposure to the sun, inadequate oral hygiene or malformations of the teeth can also lead to cancerous growths on the lips. The upper lip in particular can be affected by diseases such as basal cell carcinoma due to increased exposure to UV rays. In addition, the inversion of the lips enables a favorable view of the oral mucosa , which can indicate an existing anemia.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.