What is a Canker Sore?

Canker sores are also called aphthous ulcers. They are different from cold sores, which are technically herpes lesions. Many people often confuse canker sores and cold sores and they consider the two to be entirely interchangeable. However, they are different kinds of sores.

What Is A Canker Sore?Herpes lesions are easy to point out especially when they are visible on the lips. They are simultaneously bubbly and crusty. Aphthous ulcers are white with a red ring around them. It is thought that canker sores are the result of bacteria while cold sores are the result of a virus. Many people believe this because canker sores occur primarily on mucous membranes, whereas cold sores are found near keratinized tissues. However, this explanation of the causes of these two mouth sores is an understatement of the problem.

No one knows what causes canker sores. There are many theories about where they come from. There are also an equal number of theories about how to treat them. Some people believe that the causes of canker sores and of cold sores are the same. But while both types of sores share many characteristics, including being painful lesions that last from one to two weeks, they are not the same type of sore. Specialists can agree that canker sores and cold sores are very different and should be considered two distinct entities.

There are as many differences as there are similarities between cold sores and canker sores. Cold sores are actually very contagious, whereas canker sores are not contagious at all. Cold sores are also the product of the herpes virus and they have quite different characteristics. Canker sores can occur on the tongue, the floor of the mouth, on the lips and on the palate, while cold sores are usually limited to the lips and the hard palate.

What Is A Canker Sore?Because the cause of canker sores is still unknown, they are difficult to treat and hard to prevent. However, they are incredibly common and they may affect as much as 20% of the population. When there are only a few canker sores at once, they are called RAU minor. The RAU major canker sores are not very common but they do include a number of lesions in the mouth and they are often larger than the average canker sore and they are also very stubborn. They can take weeks or even months to heal. Another type of canker sore called Herpetiform RAU which usually occurs in the back of the mouth. As many as 10 to 100 small sores can form in clusters and they are often mistaken for the herpes virus.

Some doctors believe that bacteria aids in creating canker sores. The bacteria is not caused by canker sores but it seems that bacteria flocks to the open sores once they appear. Some doctors also believe that the immune system or a stressful life can trigger these sores, with other common culprits including trauma, hormones, vitamin deficiencies and allergies.

Since it is hard to tell what causes canker sores, healing them often requires patience. Many people let them heal on their own over time. If the pain is too much, some people try over-the-counter or prescription medications to relieve the pain of canker sores. Prednisone is often prescribed for canker sores but it is not truly effective as the sores often return as soon as the medication is stopped. Other drugs including thalidomide have been tried but they do not provide extended relief nor do they work for all patients.

What Is A Canker Sore?Many people also try over-the-counter ointments and treatment products. There are several pastes and creams available from pharmacies that protect the sores from further irritation so that they may heal faster. The main drug used in these creams is called aphthosol.

It is important for doctors to be able to distinguish between canker sores and cold sores so that they can better treat their patients. Medications should only be prescribed for patients only after a doctor determines what kind of sore it is.