Canker Sores, medically termed as aphthous ulcers are small round lesions that usually occur on the soft tissues on the inside of cheeks, under your tongue, at the base of the gums or in the back of your throat. They are quite painful and are usually characterized by a grey centre surrounding by a red edge.

canker sores symptoms

Unlike cold sores which happen on the lips and are contagious, the canker sores do not occur on the inner surface of the lips and are mostly non-contagious. These sores can make eating and talking fairly difficult and painful.

Although the exact cause of getting canker sores is unknown, yet conditions such as stress, food allergies, lack of vitamins and minerals, hormonal changes, menstrual periods, lack of sleep, trauma, or even viral infection can play a key role in triggering these sores.

Canker Sores can also occur in certain medical conditions like Celiac disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, Behcet's disease or HIV. Also Read: Ulcerative Colitis: Types, Symptoms And Treatment

Canker Sores can be categorized into 3 types:

Minor Aphthae:

These are usually small, oval-shaped with red border and heals within 1-2 weeks.

Major Aphthae:

These are extremely painful round-shaped deeper sores with a distinct irregular edge and takes around 6 weeks to heal.

Herpetiform Aphthae:

These sores are quite uncommon and are caused by the herpes simplex virus. They are pinpointed in size but occur in a cluster. They have irregular edges and can take up to 2 weeks to heal.


The common symptoms include:

  • A small white or grey coloured oval-shaped ulcer in the mouth
  • A painful red area around the lesion
  • Fever
  • Itching or burning sensation
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Difficulty in swallowing or talking
  • Physical lethargy

Diagnosis And Treatment:

Although, the canker sores usually heal on its own but if the symptoms are extremely painful, recurring or cause severe difficulty while eating or talking, it is highly advocated to consult a doctor. The doctor usually detects these lesions by a routine physical check-up followed by blood tests to know the underlying cause of the sores. The doctor may prescribe for some over the counter pain medications or anti-inflammatory medications to reduce the pain or swelling.

One can also opt for some self-care guidelines to get relief and prevent canker sores from recurring:

  • Avoid foods and juices that irritate the mouth e.g. spicy food and citric juices.
  • Regularly brush and floss to prevent a bacterial infection from the food stuck in between teeth and promote oral hygiene. Also Read: The Importance Of Good Oral Hygiene
  • Apply protective paste on the sore to prevent rubbing.
  • Maintain a well-balanced diet.
  • Get adequate sleep.
  • Use prescribed antibacterial mouthwashes.