Recurrent mouth ulcers are a source of worry for many people worldwide. It is an apparently simple condition that causes much more pain than is expected. Because of its relative commonness in some societies, it has gotten itself a variety of names such as canker sore, aphthous stomatitis or aphthous ulcer. Commonly, mouth ulcer, canker sore or whatever name you wish to call it, involves painful open sores that will exist in the mouth, believed to be due to the breaking off of the overlying mucous membrane.
In most reported cases, mouth ulcers starts off with a sort of tingling or burning sensation at the spot where the future mouth ulcer will occur. After a few days, a blister forms in the mouth with the top quickly sloughed off resulting in a red spot or a bump, which will then be followed by an open ulcer. The mouth ulcer appears as a white or yellow oval with an inflamed red border. Sometimes a white circle or halo around the lesion can be seen. The grey, white, or yellow colored area within the red boundary is due to the formation of layers of fibrin around the ulcer.
When at this final stage, a mouth ulcer, in common cases can be as wide as 3mm, while in extreme cases it could be as large as 1cm (in extremely rare cases, though). The main ulcer body can be really painful when agitated especially with the presence of food in the mouth. This is perhaps the most unacceptable part of the disease. Also, mouth sores are often accompanied by painful swelling of the lymph nodes below the jaw and this fact tends to make people confuse canker sores for toothache, initially.
Several reasons and factors have been cited as the cause of mouth ulcers, though none seems to be conclusive yet. Some evidence points to the role of infections like herpes, cytomegalovirus and yeast as the cause of mouth ulcers. However, several other viruses that have not even been conclusively identified are also being researched for their role in the cause of mouth ulcers.
Moreover, a person’s immune system seems to play an important role in the cause of mouth ulcers, in some people. This process is known as an autoimmune reaction, in which in the response to certain allergies, such as to chemicals in toothpastes and/or mouthwashes, a person’s immune system causes the formation of blisters in the mouth which then open up to result in ulcers. Although, no studies have been able to isolate bacteria or viruses enough to establish definite roles in mouth ulcers, some studies have shown a rise in a person’s immunity against herpes and cytomegalovirus when that person suffers mouth ulcers.
Mouth ulcers may last a couple of days or in some cases, up to about 4 weeks, with the pain and discomfort persisting throughout. They may disappear without treatment, though this rarely occurs.
There are several ways to prevent and manage mouth ulcers. However, the best prevention of the disease unarguably requires sound dental hygiene which eliminates the presence of harmful microbes in the mouth, and to avoid/reduce spicy, acidic or salty foods and drinks, which tend to predispose to it.
Medically, there are only a few treatment options available to choose from. In most cases, your doctor will have to inject a small amount of a type of cortisone called triamcinolone into each ulcer. This will get rid of the ulcers rather quickly, but it will not prevent them from recurring. However, the best home remedy you can employ is to pour salt on the surface of the main ulcer. This could be really painful though, but it relieves you of the continuous, daily pain that accompanies mouth ulcers.
The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of an oral paste known as amlexanox (Aphthasol). When applied, this paste reduces the swelling and discomfort of mouth ulcers. Moreover, clinical trials reported in recent journals, have established the efficacy of several treatment options for mouth ulcers. Some of these include the use of prednisone to suppress immunity (reducing autoimmune responses that are believed to cause mouth ulcers in some people), pentoxifylline, a drug that increases blood flow to the mouth, acyclovir to kill herpes, and colchicine, a gout medication.
As you can see, there are several options available when you really need to battle that troublesome sore in your mouth. You only need to choose the option most suited to you or contact your physician immediately you feel you have a canker sore or mouth ulcer, for advice.