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Canker Sores

Canker sores

Definition

Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are small shallow sores or ulcers that appear inside the lips, inside the cheeks, or on the gums. They begin as small, reddish swellings. Then they burst, and the rupture sores are covered with a white or yellow membrane. The edges of the sores are still red and look like a painful red halo. Without treatment, canker sores heal in two weeks or less.

Description

Canker sores occur inside the mouth, usually inside the lips, cheeks, or soft palate. They can also occur on or under the tongue and in the throat. Often, several canker sores appear at the same time and may be inclusters. Canker sores appear as a whitish, round area with a red border. The sores are painful and sensitive to touch. The average canker sore is about 0.25 inch (0.6 cm) in size, although they can occasionally belarger. Canker sores are not infectious.

Demographics

Anyone can get canker sores, but they are most common among teenagers and people in their twenties. Females are slightly more likely to get canker sores than males. Some people have one or two episodes a year; others have almost continual problems. Females are likely to have canker sores during their premenstrual period.

Approximately 20 percent of the U.S. population is affected by recurring canker sores. That means as of 2004 some 56 million Americans suffer annually from these small but painful ulcers. Fortunately, certain safe, natural remedies are effective in treating canker sores.

Canker sores are sometimes mistaken as cold sores (also known as fever blisters). Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. The sores caused by this disease, also known as oral herpes, can occur anywhere on the body. Most commonly, herpes infection occurs on the outside of lips and much less often inside the mouth. Cold sores are infectious.

Causes and symptoms

There is some evidence that canker sores are due in part to nutritional deficiencies and a lack of vitamin B12, folic acid , and iron. Gastrointestinal problems correlate with canker sores as well. Frequent recurrent canker sores may suggest a metabolic imbalance. The sores appear during times of stress or as a reaction to hormonal imbalances in women. Pregnancy causes remission. A tendency to get canker sores may be inherited.

As of 2004 data suggest that aphthous ulcers are a form of autoimmune disease. Other proposed causes for canker sores are trauma from toothbrush and toothpick scrapes (trauma), hormones, and food allergies .

Symptoms

The first symptom is a tingling or mildly painful itching sensation in the area where the sore will appear. After one to several days, a small red swelling appears. The sore is round and is a whitish color with a grayish colored center. Usually, there is a red ring of inflammation surrounding the sore. The main symptom is pain . Canker sores can be very painful, especially if they are touched repeatedly by the tongue or silverware.

When to call the doctor

Infants and children may have difficulty sleeping because of the pain. The doctor should be called for pain relief remedies or medication to help the child through this period. The doctor should be called if the child runs a fever, refuses to eat or drink, and if the child shows signs of dehydration .

Diagnosis

Canker sores are diagnosed by observation of the blister, which generally appears in the mouth or throat. Canker sores are bacterial infections and not contagious.

Recurrent canker sores may indicate a metabolic imbalance, dietary deficiency, stress, and a lack of rest. Children who have frequent canker sores may benefit from dietary supplements of B-complex vitamin or may undergo blood and allergy tests to see if some other underlying cause can be identified.

Treatment

Since canker sores heal by themselves, professional treatment is not usually necessary. Topical anesthetics may relieve the pain. The use of corticosteroid ointments sometimes speeds healing. If an ointment is used to treat a canker sore, the parent should first dry the sore. Next, a small amount of medicine should be put on a cotton swab and applied to the sore. The child should not have anything to drink or eat for 30 minutes to keep the medicine from washing away. Parents can also try preparations of tea tree oil, goldenseal, propolis, licorice, myrrh, and lysine, products with healing nutrients that are backed by research.

There are several treatments for reducing the pain and duration of the sores. The drugs frequently recommended are anti-inflammatory steroid mouthwashes, analgesics , and numbing ointments containing benzocaine.

The following treatments may be effective in relieving symptoms or shortening the duration of canker sores in their children.

  • for pain relief in a prescription, 2 percent viscous lidocaine, applied with a cotton swab (Q-tip) several times daily
  • prescription steroid ointment, Kenalog (triamcinolone) or Orabase; also tetracycline syrup or tetracycline capsules dissolved in water
  • an anti-inflammatory ointment, Aphthasol, which is only modestly effective
  • over-the-counter benzocaine preparations (Anbesol and Oragel); ointments such as Orabase or Zilactin-B to coat the ulcers and provide some protection and comfort
  • for older children, zinc lozenges, taking vitamin C or vitamin B complex, using a sage and chamomile mouthwash, or taking lysine supplements
  • tincture of propolis, available at health food stores, the "cement" made by honeybees to make their hives with remarkable antiseptic and healing properties
  • for symptomatic relief of sores caused from food allergies , mixed equal amounts of milk of magnesia and Benadryl liquid, a teaspoon of which is swished by the child in his mouth for about one minute and then spat out, every four to six hours, to reduce pain

Alternative treatment

Alternative therapies for canker sores are meant to heal existing sores and prevent their recurrence. Several herbal remedies, including calendula (Calendula officinalis ), myrrh (Commiphora molmol ), and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis ), may be helpful in treating existing sores. Compresses soaked in teas made from these herbs are applied directly to the sores. The tannic acid in a tea bag can also help dry up the sores when the wet tea bag is used as a compress. Taking dandelion (Taraxacum officinale ) tea or capsules may help heal sores and prevent future outbreaks. Home remedies and herbal preparations may not be readily available as over-the-counter in forms suitable for pediatric patients. Since canker sores are often brought on by stress, stress-relieving techniques such as cuddling and rocking babies until they fall asleep may help relieve the stress associated with the severity of pain.

Prognosis

There is no cure for canker sores, and they occur more often with age. Treatments are to relieve symptoms or shorten the duration of the sore. If observation suggests a secondary infection, topical application of tetracycline to the lesion, three or four times daily, shortens healing to two to four days. Left untreated, canker sores can last as long as two weeks. Sores that persist for a longer time should be checked by a doctor.

Prevention

Children should avoid trauma, such as biting the inside of their mouth and tongue, or vigorous tooth brushing. Injury to the mucous membranes of the mouth and gums leaves places where bacteria can grow. This may make canker sores worse.

To decrease the incidence canker sores, parents may consider changing to a toothpaste free of sodium laurylsulfate.

Nutritional concerns

Eating certain foods can be painful to a child with canker sores. Parents should remove spicy foods and citrus fruit from the child's diet. These foods may aggravate the sores and cause unnecessary pain. Parents should encourage their children to eat yogurt with active lactobacillus cultures because it may prevent outbreaks.

Parental concerns

Parents are mainly concerned with the comfort of their babies and small children. They must also pay attention to the nutritional intake of infants and small children who may refuse to eat because of the pain from canker sores.

KEY TERMS

Anti-inflammatory A class of drugs, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and corticosteroids, used to relieve swelling, pain, and other symptoms of inflammation.

Inflammation Pain, redness, swelling, and heat that develop in response to tissue irritation or injury. It usually is caused by the immune system's response to the body's contact with a foreign substance, such as an allergen or pathogen.

Over-the-counter treatments Medications that can be purchased without a prescription.

Recurrent Tendency to repeat.

Sore A wound, lesion, or ulcer on the skin.

Ulcer A site of damage to the skin or mucous membrane that is characterized by the formation of pus, death of tissue, and is frequently accompanied by an inflammatory reaction.

Resources

BOOKS

Parker, Philip M., et al. Canker Sores: A Medical Dictionary, Bibliography, and Annotated Research Guide to Internet References. Boulder, CO: netLibrary, 2003.

WEB SITES

"Canker Sores." MedlinePlus, January 13, 2003. Available online at <www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000998.htm> (accessed December 14, 2004).

Aliene S. Linwood, RN, DPA, FACHE

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"Canker Sores." Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence. . Encyclopedia.com. 21 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Canker Sores." Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/canker-sores

Canker Sores

Canker sores

Definition

Canker sores are small sores or ulcers that appear inside the mouth. They are painful and often recur from once every few years to almost continually. Canker sores are known medically as apthous ulcers or apthous stomatitis.

Description

Canker sores occur on the inside of the mouth, usually on the inside of the lips, cheeks, and/or soft palate. They can also occur on the tongue and in the throat. Often, several canker sores will appear at the same time and may be grouped in clusters. They are painful and sensitive to touch. The average canker sore is about onequarter inch in size, although they can occasionally be larger. The sores may last for weeks at a time and leave a scar. The initial symptom is a tingling or mildly painful itching sensation in the area where the sore will appear. After one to several days, a small red swelling appears, which eventually becomes a grayish ulcer with a red ring of inflammation surrounding the sore. Canker sores can be very painful, especially if they are touched repeatedly (e.g., by the tongue). They last for one to three weeks.

Approximately 20% of the United States population is affected with recurring canker sores, and more women than men get them. Women are more likely to have canker sores during their premenstrual time.

Canker sores may be confused with cold sores caused by the herpes simplex virus because the appearance of both is similar. However, herpes infections occur most commonly on the outside of the lips, on the hard palate, and on the gums, whereas canker sores usually occur on the soft tissues inside the mouth. Unlike canker sores, herpes cold sores are infectious.

Causes & symptoms

The exact cause of canker sores is unknown. There seems to be at least some link to immune reactions. There may also be a genetic tendency to develop canker sores. Accidental injuries to the mouth from vigorous toothbrush scrapes, poorly fitted dentures, braces, or self-inflicted bites may give rise to canker sores. They can also be triggered by stress , dietary deficiencies, hormonal changes, and food allergies . Sodium lauryl sulfate, which is an ingredient in many toothpastes, may contribute to the development of canker sores by stripping the mucous coating inside the mouth.

Diagnosis

Canker sores are diagnosed by observation of the sore. A distinction between canker sores and cold sores should be made because the latter is infectious. Other disorders of the mouth may need to be ruled out as well; a skin lesion biopsy may be required for further diagnosis.

Treatment

Many alternative therapies for canker sores try to heal the existing sores and prevent their recurrence. Several herbal remedies may be helpful in the treatment of existing sores. These include:

  • calendula (Calendula officinalis )
  • chamomile (Matricaria recutita )
  • goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis )
  • licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra )
  • myrrh (Commiphora molmol )
  • peppermint (Mentha peperita )
  • slippery elm (Ulmus fulva )

The herbs can be made into a strong tea. Compresses soaked in the tea can be applied directly to the mouth, or the tea can be swished in the mouth for several minutes.

The deglycyrrhizinated (DGL) form of licorice root, Glycyrrhiza glabra, is soothing to the mucous membranes of the mouth and can shorten the healing time for canker sores. The powdered DGL should be mixed with warm water to make a thin paste that can be used twice daily. It should be swirled in the mouth for several minutes and then spit out.

B-complex vitamins, folic acid , and iron (taken separately or combined in a multivitamin) can help prevent recurrent outbreaks, since canker sores are often associated with deficiencies in these nutrients.

Canker sores often occur during stressful times. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, guided imagery , and acupressure may help prevent or lessen the severity of outbreaks.

Allopathic treatment

Since canker sores heal themselves in most cases, treatment usually isn't necessary. Topical anesthetics, such as lidocaine and similar remedies, may be used for pain relief. Corticosteroid ointments may be used to reduce inflammation and speed healing. A protective paste, like Orabase, can be used to prevent irritation of the sores by teeth, dental appliances, or fluid intake.

Severe cases may be treated with the antibiotic tetracycline. This is not recommended for children, however, because it may permanently discolor any teeth that are still forming. Chemical or physical cautery or low-powered laser treatments may also be used to decrease severe pain. Ulcers tend not to recur where a laser has been used.

Expected results

Canker sores tend to heal spontaneously. The pain usually decreases within a few days, and other symptoms resolve in one or two weeks. If symptoms last longer, if there are increasing numbers of outbreaks, or if the pain is severe, a doctor should be consulted.

Prevention

Good oral hygiene is necessary to prevent recurrent outbreaks as well as secondary bacterial infections during an outbreak. This includes regular brushing, flossing, and regular trips to the dentist. Dentures, braces, and fillings should be rechecked and possibly refitted. Toothpastes containing sodium lauryl sulfate should not be used.

Identifying food allergens and making dietary changes may help prevent outbreaks. Spicy foods should also be avoided because they may serve as irritants.

Resources

BOOKS

Larsen, D.E., ed. Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. New York: William Morrow, 1996.

Schlossberg, D. Current Therapy of Infectious Disease. St. Louis: Mosby, 1996.

OTHER

DrKoop.com. http://www.drkoop.com/conditions/ency/article/000998.htm (January 17, 2001).

The Merck Manual. http://www.merck.com/pubs/mmanual/section9/chapter105/105b.htm (January 17, 2001).

MotherNature.com. http://www.mothernature.com/ency/concern/canker_sores.asp (January 17, 2001).

Patience Paradox

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Canker Sores

Canker Sores

Definition

Canker sores are small sores or ulcers that appear inside the mouth. They are painful, self-healing, and can recur.

Description

Canker sores occur on the inside of the mouth, usually on the inside of the lips, cheeks, and/or soft palate. They can also occur on the tongue and in the throat. Often, several canker sores will appear at the same time and may be grouped in clusters. Canker sores appear as a whitish, round area with a red border. The sores are painful and sensitive to touch. The average canker sore is about one-quarter inch in size, although they can occasionally be larger. Canker sores are not infectious.

Approximately 20% of the U.S. population is affected with recurring canker sores, and more women than men get them. Women are more likely to have canker sores during their premenstrual period.

Canker sores are sometimes confused with cold sores. Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus. This disease, also known as oral herpes or fever blisters, can occur anywhere on the body. Most commonly, herpes infection occurs on the outside of the lips and the gums, and much less frequently on the inside the mouth. Cold sores are infectious.

Causes and symptoms

The exact cause of canker sores is uncertain, however, they seem to be related to a localized immune reaction. Other proposed causes for this disease are trauma to the affected areas from toothbrush scrapes, stress, hormones, and food allergies. Canker sores tend to appear in response to stress. The initial symptom is a tingling or mildly painful itching sensation in the area where the sore will appear. After one to several days, a small red swelling appears. The sore is round, and is a whitish color with a grayish colored center. Usually, there is a red ring of inflammation surrounding the sore. The main symptom is pain. Canker sores can be very painful, especially if they are touched repeatedly, e.g., by the tongue. They last for one to two weeks.

Diagnosis

Canker sores are diagnosed by observation of the blister. A distinction between canker sores and cold sores must be made because cold sores are infectious and the herpes infection can be transmitted to other people. The two sores can usually be distinguished visually and there are specific diagnostic tests for herpes infection.

Treatment

Since canker sores heal by themselves, treatment is not usually necessary. Pain relief remedies, such as topical anesthetics, may be used to reduce the pain of the sores. The use of corticosteroid ointments sometimes speeds healing. Avoidance of spicy or acidic foods can help reduce the pain associated with canker sores.

KEY TERMS

Inflammation A local reaction to tissue injury or damage, usually characterized by pain, swelling, and redness.

Sore A wound, lesion, or ulcer on the skin.

Ulcer A site of damage to the skin or mucous membrane that is characterized by the formation of pus, death of tissue, and is frequently accompanied by an inflammatory reaction.

Alternative treatment

Alternative therapies for canker sores are aimed at healing existing sores and preventing their recurrence. Several herbal remedies, including calendula (Calendula officinalis ), myrrh (Commiphora molmol ), and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis ), may be helpful in the treatment of existing sores. Compresses soaked in teas made from these herbs are applied directly to the sores. The tannic acid in a tea bag can also help dry up the sores when the wet tea bag is used as a compress. Taking dandelion (Taraxacum officinale ) tea or capsules may help heal sores and also prevent future outbreaks. Since canker sores are often brought on by stress, such stress-relieving techniques as meditation, guided imagery, and certain acupressure exercises may help prevent canker sores or lessen their severity.

Prognosis

There is no cure for canker sores. They do not get larger or occur more frequently with age.

Resources

BOOKS

Larsen, D. E., editor. Mayo Clinic Family Health Book. New York: William Morrow, 1996.

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Canker Sores (Aphthous Ulcers)

Canker Sores (Aphthous Ulcers)

Ashleys Story

What is a Canker Sore?

What Causes Canker Sores?

How are Canker Sores Treated?

Resource

Canker sores, or aphthous (AF-thus) ulcers, are small, round sores in the mouth that quickly turn white and usually are painful.

KEYWORDS

for searching the Internet and other references sources

Aphthous ulcers

Oral inflammation

stomatitis

Ashleys Story

Ashley first noticed a slight tingle in her mouth one morning as she was brushing her teeth before school. It was inside her lower lip, on the soft, fleshy part in front of her bottom teeth. By the next morning, she felt a bump that hurt when her tongue touched it and when she tried to drink orange juice with her breakfast. By dinner time, when Ashley pulled down her lip (gently) to look at the small, round blister in her mouth, she saw that it was white and rimmed with a red ring that looked like a halo. It was Ashleys first canker sore, but it probably would not be her last.

What is a Canker Sore?

Canker sores are small, round sores that are found where Ashley discovered hers: inside the mouth. They may occur on the inside of the lips, on the tongue, on the roof or floor of the mouth, or inside the cheeks. They may appear as one small sore or in groups, and they can be quite irritating and painful to even the slightest touch. Contact with acidic, salty, or spicy foods and fluids, like chips or orange juice, can be particularly painful for people with canker sores.

Canker sores are not contagious*. They cannot be passed along from one person to another by kissing or by sharing food. It is important, however, to distinguish canker sores from other kinds of mouth sores, which may be caused by viral infections*, trauma, vitamin deficiencies, and sometimes, but not often, cancer. If a mouth sore has not healed within a week or two, it is important to see a doctor.

* contagious
means transmittable from one person to another.
* viral infections
cause mouth sores that are called fever blisters or cold sores. These are often caused by the herpesvirus, and they usually appear on the gums or around the mouth and lips. Unlike canker sores, fever blisters and cold sores are contagious.

What Causes Canker Sores?

No one is sure what causes canker sores, although they occur more frequently when people are experiencing stress. Often, the first sores appear as children near middle school age. Canker sores are more common among women.

How are Canker Sores Treated?

Ashleys canker sore disappeared on its own two weeks after she first noticed that sore feeling inside her mouth. Most canker sores clear up the same way, without treatment, although some people use over-the-counter medications to numb canker sores during the first four or five days when they are most painful. It also helps to avoid the sore while brushing teeth and to cut out foods that aggravate the pain, such as salty chips, citrus fruits, or spicy foods.

If canker sores recur or return, or if they do not heal on their own within two weeks, they may need to be seen by a doctor or dentist. But usually, canker sores go away on their own.

See also

Resource

U.S. National Institute of Dental Research (NIDR), Building 31, Room 2C35, 31 Center Drive, MSC 2290, Bethesda, MD 20892-2290. The U.S. National Institute of Dental Research publishes information about canker sores, fever blisters, and mouth care.

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"Canker Sores (Aphthous Ulcers)." Complete Human Diseases and Conditions. . Retrieved August 21, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/medicine/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/canker-sores-aphthous-ulcers