Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are small lesions that develop on the soft tissues in your mouth or at the base of your gums. Unlike cold sores, they do not occur on the surface of your lips and are not contagious. While they can be painful and make eating and talking difficult, most canker sores are typically very small, measuring less than 1 millimeter in size. In some cases, they may grow to be 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter.
There are two types of canker sores: simple canker sores and complex canker sores. Simple canker sores tend to appear a few times a year and usually last up to a week. On the other hand, complex canker sores are less common and occur more frequently in individuals who have previously experienced them.
Fortunately, most canker sores heal on their own within a week or two. However, it is advisable to consult with your doctor or dentist if you have unusually large or painful canker sores, or if the sores do not seem to heal.
Canker sores often have a circular or oval shape, featuring a white or yellow center surrounded by a red border. They typically develop inside the mouth, either on or beneath the tongue, inside the cheeks or lips, at the gum line, or on the soft palate. It is common to experience a tingling or burning sensation a day or two prior to the appearance of the sores.
The most typical canker sore:
Major canker sores are less frequent, and:
Herpetiform canker sores are infrequent and typically emerge during later stages of life, yet they do not result from an infection with the herpes virus. These particular canker sores:
If you experience unusually large canker sores, recurring or frequent outbreaks with new sores developing before old ones heal, persistent sores lasting two weeks or more, sores extending into the lips, uncontrollable pain, extreme difficulty eating or drinking, high fever along with canker sores, or if sharp tooth surfaces or dental appliances trigger the sores, it is advisable to consult your doctor or dentist for further evaluation and appropriate care.
Although the exact etiology of canker sores is still unknown, researchers believe that a number of circumstances, even within the same person, can induce outbreaks.
Canker sores can be triggered by various factors, including:
Canker sores can be associated with various conditions and diseases, including:
Canker sores can develop in anyone, but they are more frequently observed in teenagers and young adults, particularly in females. They are most found in individuals in their teens and twenties, and women and those assigned female at birth are more prone to experiencing them compared to men and those assigned male at birth. Hormonal changes are believed to play a role in this gender difference. Additionally, individuals with a family history of canker sores often experience recurring episodes, possibly due to hereditary factors or shared environmental triggers such as specific foods or allergens.
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