Canker sores are tiny shallow ulcerations located inside the mouth or the base of the tongue. Canker sores tend to disappear on their own within a week or two. They may be painful enough to cause difficulty talking or eating. Though commonly confused as cold sores, canker sores are not the same.
The symptoms of canker sores are recurrent, tiny, shallow, oval, painful ulcerations with irregular margins located anywhere inside the mouth or the base of the tongue, with the exception of lips and hard palate. A tingling feeling on the tongue cheek may precede canker sores. Canker sores may result in difficulty in speaking or eating. Canker sores may be single or multiple. In severe cases, fever, lymphadenopathy, and malaise may be experienced. Most canker sore symptoms resolve themselves with the pain regressing within a few days and the ulcer resolving within two weeks. Canker sores related to an underlying disease may manifest with the other symptoms related to the particular illness.
The precise cause of most canker sores remains unknown. It is, however, speculated, that stress, hormonal imbalances, bacteria or tissue trauma play a role in simple canker sores. Canker sores can be triggered or aggravated by certain foods and citrus fruits such as strawberries, apples, oranges, figs, pineapples and lemons.
Canker sores may also be indicative of an underlying medical condition, particularly large and persistent canker sores that unresponsive to standard therapy. Canker sores may exist concurrently with the following conditions: nutritional deficiencies of iron, folic acid, zinc, or Vitamin B12, cancer, HIV, Behcet's disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and other intestinal diseases, such as Celiac disease.
The diagnosis of canker sores is usually based on the presenting clinical signs and symptoms as established by taking a careful history and visual examination of the sore for its typical features. Canker sores are recurrent, tiny, shallow, oval, painful ulcerations with irregular margins located inside the mouth or the base of the tongue.
Additional testing is rarely required. However, if the diagnosis is unclear, or an underlying medical condition is suspected, blood tests and biopsy of the ulcer may be considered. This will help to rule out cancer, fungal infection, herpes, HIV, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and other intestinal diseases.
The treatment of canker sores depends on the size and the degree of associated discomfort. For minor canker sores, the mainstay of treatment is simply waiting for the sore to dissipate. The pain often subsides in a few days, and the ulcers heal spontaneously without medication in a week or two. Larger, more painful and persistent ulcers, may necessitate medical attention. Treatment options for canker sores include the following.
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