Canker Sores: Causes & Treatment

Canker Sores: Causes & Treatment

The uncomfortable feeling which you get often times inside your mouth is a lot worse than it sounds. It is a minor medical condition which is called canker sores. They are also called aphthous ulcers when they are of a more severe nature.

Canker sores are very common. They can show up anytime for both men and women of all ages. For some reasons, they are more prevalent in women which are between 10 and 40 years of the age, the data suggests.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) states that 20% of the total population of USA get these canker sores at any stage of life.These sores are painful, uncomfortable, scratchy but not contagious.

What Are The Types And Symptoms?

Canker sores are chiefly divided into three categories.

  • Minor: Most common cases of canker sores. They can be up to half an inch wide in diameter. Their shape is usually oval. They go away on their own without receiving any clinical treatment in 1-2 weeks.
  • Major: These sores are less common. They can grow more than half an inch. Their borders are irregular and they last for 1-2 months. Sometimes they can leave a scar.
  • Herpetiform: These are the rarest form of canker sores. They usually attack older people. Unlike other two types, Herpetiform sores appear in a cluster of 10-100. They are small in size, approximately 3mm each. Their borders are also irregular and they take at least one to two weeks for healing.

The Common Symptoms

  • Painful blisters inside the mouth.
  • The common areas to have sores are tongue, soft palate, inside of cheeks and behind lips.
  • A tingling sensation before the sore actually appears in the mouth.
  • Visible mild white sores
  • Mild fever (Rare symptom)
  • Swollen lymph nodes (Rare symptom)


What Causes Canker Sores?

There is no exact cause of canker sores. Usually, stress or a minor injury can induce a sore. Sometimes certain foods which include acidic foods can also initiate a sore. It makes the condition worse if the sores have already hit the mouth.

Rarely, impaired immune system can also be an underlying cause of developing canker sores. Nutritional deficiency such as vitamin B12 and iron if are deficient will cause it. Sometimes a digestive problem also triggers it.

The recent studies have concluded that a genetic reasoning with family history is evident for the severe canker sores. It is published by National Library of Medicine that people with a family history of canker sores are more likely to have it.

anxiety is also a key factor. Usually, it hits women. It can also appear during a woman’s menstrual cycle along with facial pimples. These two factors are linked with women, suggesting why are they more common in women.

Lastly, they can be an allergic reaction to any toothpaste, mouthwash or mouth freshener too. The high amount of chemicals may irritate the inner lining of the mouth and initiate the sore formation.

Canker Sores Vs. Cold Sores

Many people mistake canker sores for cold sores. These two conditions are very different from each other. A canker sore is always inside the mouth and a cold sore is not. It usually outbreaks as small blisters around the lips. Cold sores are contagious and canker sores won’t transmit like that. However, the healing time of both is same.

What Is The Treatment For It?

Canker sores usually go away on their own. However, one can use any over the counter option to ease the process. These products include carbamide peroxide, menthol, eucalyptus, and benzocaine, all of which are helpful to provide comfort. You should immediately rush to a medical practitioner if any of the following symptoms appears.

  • High fever
  • Spreading sores by size
  • Spreading sores by number
  • A very large sore appears
  • Severe pain and inflammation
  • Condition persists for over three weeks.

The oral rinsing solutions can be of a great help. For example, anything with DEXA mesathone is useful with severe canker sores. The tropical ointments which contain benzocaine (known as Orabase), amlexanox (known as Aphthasol) and fluocinonide (known as Lidex and Vanos) may also be prescribed by your doctor. All of these reduce pain and the healing time of the sore. Some home remedies are also helpful such as gargling with salt water.

For a severe sore condition, along with the up listed medicines, a doctor may also prescribe vitamin B tablets or iron tablets which suggest that nutritional deficiency can also worsen it.

How To Prevent It?

There is no way to prevent the canker sores to form. However, one can try to avoid unnecessary foods that are oily, fried, acidic or spicy. A regular oral hygiene practice also reduces the risk of canker sores.



The author is a Medical Microbiologist and healthcare writer. She is a post-graduate of Medical Microbiology and Immunology. She covers all content on health and wellness including weight loss, nutrition, and general health. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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