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canker sores

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  • Canker sores are small and shallow lesions that develop in the soft tissues of your mouth or at the base of your gums
  • Canker sores often begin as small and reddish swellings that then burst and become covered with a white or yellow membrane
 

What Are Canker Sores?

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Canker sores are small and shallow lesions that develop in the soft tissues of your mouth or at the base of your gums. These sores actually go by many names, like aphthous ulcers1 or recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS).2

However, despite their small size, canker sores can be very painful and could lead to eating and/or talking difficulties.

When Are People Most Prone to Have Canker Sores?

Unfortunately, no one knows exactly when canker sores will affect you. These lesions do not pick an age, so anyone can develop canker sores3 — even children as young as 2 years old may have these sores already.4

Canker sores, however, tend to occur most often among teens and young adults. In fact, peak incidence of canker sores is recorded during these stages.5

Canker sores are more common in women compared to men.6 Caucasians, nonsmokers and people with high socioeconomic status also experience frequent instances of canker sores.7

Canker Sores Versus Cold Sores

While some people may think that that these two types of sores are similar to each other, this isn’t the case. Take note of these distinct differences between canker sores and cold sores:8

Canker Sores Cold Sores
The sores are found inside the mouth. The sores are most noticeable on the lips, but they can appear on the cheeks, nose or the eyes (although these are rare) too.13
Canker sores are typically white or yellow and surrounded by red and inflamed soft tissue.9 Cold sores are filled with fluid and form into a cluster.14
These aren’t caused by the herpes virus, but instead may develop due to heredity, shared factors in the environment like food or allergens,10 minor mouth injuries or emotional stress, to name a few.11 They are caused by either herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) or herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2) virus.15
Canker sores aren’t contagious. Cold sores are very contagious and can be transferred from one person to another via close contact.
They often begin as small and reddish swellings that then burst and become covered with a white or yellow membrane.12 Cold sores first begin as a blister, rupture and then turn into a sore.16

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