Aphthous Ulcer - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Aphthous ulcers, also known as a canker sore, are the most common type of mouth ulcers. A report said that one in five individuals might develop aphthous ulcers in any stage of their life. These ulcers in mouth are painful and recur from time to time.

Aphthous ulcers are the painful sores that affect the lining tissues of the oral cavity. These painful sores occur anywhere in the mouth except the hard palate (roof of the mouth) or on the gums present right beside the teeth. The ulcers appear as small, shallow lesions. These lesions cause difficulty to eat. This type of ulcer is most commonly seen in the age group of 10 to 20 years.

Symptoms of Aphthous Ulcer

  • Formation of a small, oval-shaped, white or yellow colored ulcer
  • Painful red area surrounding the ulcer
  • Tingling sensation in the mouth

Swollen lymph nodes, fever, and weakness found in some cases. Also, the canker sores or aphthous ulcer heals without scarring in one or two weeks.Then your doctor may suggest you certain laboratory tests to rule out other health conditions such as cancer.

When to seek medical advice?

You have to visit doctor if you have:

  • A large sore
  • Recurring sores
  • Persistent sores that do not heal within one to two weeks
  • Extreme pain that makes eating and drinking difficult
  • High fever

Diagnosis of Aphthous Ulcer

Your doctor may identify the aphthous sores with a visual exam. Therefore, no other test or particular diagnosis is required for canker sores. But, if you have persistent or recurrent canker sores.

The particular cause of aphthous ulcers remains unclear. The combination of certain triggering factors may lead to formation of these ulcers.

  • Injury: An injury to your mouth from dentures or an accidental cheek bite
  • Hormonal changes: In women, aphthous ulcers may occur during menstruation due to hormonal changes.
  • Genetics: A genetic predisposition may also cause aphthous ulcers.
  • Nutritional deficiency: Lack of iron and vitamins such as vitamin B12 and folic acid may cause ulcers in the mouth.

Other causes include food allergies, medications (nicorandil, anti-inflammatory medicines), smoking, viral and bacterial infections, and emotional stress.

There is no treatment for aphthous ulcer. But there are certain medications which tend to relieve the symptoms. For minor aphthous sores, treatment may not be required. If the sores are larger and persistent, your doctor may prescribe the following for aphthous ulcer treatment:

  • Mouth rinse - containing dexamethasone helps to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Topical applications - such as benzocaine, fluocinonide, and hydrogen peroxide may help relieve pain and promotes the healing process.
  • Oral medications - such as steroids and vitamin supplements may be given.

As there is no best treatment for aphthous ulcer, self-management is necessary. Consider the following tips to relieve pain, promote healing, and prevent recurrent aphthous stomatitis.

  • Cleanse your mouth using salt water or baking soda.
  • Take a small amount of milk of magnesia and spread gently on the ulcer.
  • Apply ice on the aphthous ulcers.
  • Avoid spicy foods, acidic fruit juices, and salty foods.
  • Practice good oral health and use a very soft toothbrush.
  • Correct the nutritional deficiencies with vitamin and mineral supplements.