Have you ever had painful, circular lesions in your mouth causing extreme discomfort when you’re eating and talking? Known for their scientific name, aphthous ulcers, canker sores are said to be triggered by many factors, including stress and shallow wounds.
If you’ve had them before, read on to get basic information about canker sores: their symptoms, causes, risk factors. You can also find a few canker sore prevention tips below.
What Is a Canker Sore?
A canker sore is a shallow wound-like ulcer that form inside your mouth. It can appear near the sufferer’s gum base, on or under the tongue, on the soft palate, or inside the cheeks or lips.
These lesions are often round and with yellow, gray, or white center encircled by a red ring. They’re often mistaken for cold sores. But, these two could not get any different.
For one, unlike cold sores, a canker sore only develops inside your mouth. Cold sores, meanwhile, can show up outside of your mouth and other parts of your face—under the nose, around the lips, and on the chin.
Canker sores are non-contagious, and they’re not caused by a virus strain.
What Are the Symptoms of Canker Sores?
Before the red blisters could appear, a sufferer may experience a burning sensation in the affected areas inside the mouth. Around one day before the condition blows up, a small bump will appear. This will turn into a lesion just a few hours later.
Besides soreness and oral pain, there are no major symptoms that accompany canker sores. In severe cases, however, it can cause fever, lethargy, and inflated lymph nodes.
What Are the Types of Canker Sores?
Even if they all look the same, canker sores may vary in severity.
They’re the most widespread type, typically attacking unwilling victims aged 10 to 20 years old, three to four times annually. The sores are small, measuring less than one centimeter in diameter. Most individuals with minor sores heal in about one week.
As the name suggests, more serious canker sores are bigger and deeper than minor sores. As such, they take longer for recovery, up to one and a half month and with visible scars. They’re also very painful and uncomfortable.
Don’t be fooled by its name. Herpetiform sores are not set off by the virus that causes herpes, but they do look like cold sores that are caused by the said organism. Unlike the less and more severe types of canker sores, this type shows up as grouped tiny lesions. They also take on an irregular form versus the circular shapes taken by the other types. Like less serious canker sores, this type heals in 14 days or less.
Why Do Canker Sores Develop?
The actual cause of canker sores is still a subject of curiosity. Just about anyone can get them, although canker sore incidence is highest among teens and young adults. It’s also said that genetics may play a role, being that susceptibility to canker sores may run in the family. Either way, more tests are required to establish its primary cause of development.
There are several risk factors that may make an individual more vulnerable to canker sores.
- Emotional stress
- Minor mouth or dental injuries
- Poor nutrition, esp. deficiencies in vitamin B-12, zinc, folic acid, or iron
- Immune system issues
- Helicobacter pylori, which causes peptic ulcers
- Hormonal fluctuations during menstruation
- Allergies to food and oral products
- Certain acidic foods
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
- Specific health conditions such as Behcet’s disease, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)/ acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and other gastrointestinal diseases.
Getting canker sores is not a one-off deal. Once you’ve had it, the chances of having another bout are really high. At least one in every five persons who get canker sores suffer from the condition regularly. Check out here for more information about canker sores and how to manage them.
When do you need to see a doctor for Canker Sores?
Minor canker sores usually heal without any intervention in one of two weeks. More serious cases take longer to clear up and may need medical or dental attention.
Seek an appointment with your doctor or dentists if you have large sores that are spreading and show no signs of healing even after two weeks.
Also, consider having your canker sore checked if it’s causing you a high fever, extreme discomfort, and pain. A persistent and serious case of canker sores may be a red flag that you could be suffering from an underlying health condition.
The Bottom Line
Most cases of canker sores go away on their own after a week or two. Unlike cold sores, they’re not contagious but can be very painful. As with other conditions, don’t hesitate to seek the help of a healthcare professional if your situation becomes persistent or worsens over time.