What are Aphthous mouth ulcers?
Aphthous mouth ulcers also known as canker sores are painful sores that can occur anywhere inside the mouth. They are the most common type of mouth ulcer. At least 1 in 5 people can develop aphthous mouth ulcers at some stage in their life. Women are affected more often than men. These ulcers fall into three categories.
The first is minor aphthous ulcers are the most common (8 in 10 cases). They are small, round, or oval, and are less than 10 mm across. They look pale yellow, but the area around them may look swollen and red. Only one ulcer may develop, but up to five may appear at the same time. Each ulcer lasts 7-10 days, and then goes without leaving a scar. They are not usually very painful.
Next we have major aphthous ulcers occur in about 1 in 10 cases. They tend to be 10 mm or larger across. Usually only one or two appear at a time. Each ulcer lasts from two weeks to several months, but will heal leaving a scar. They can be very painful and eating may become difficult.
Lastly there is Herpetiform ulcers occur in about 1 in 10 cases. These are tiny pinhead-sized ulcers, about 1-2 mm across. Multiple ulcers occur at the same time, but some may join together and form irregular shapes. Each ulcer lasts one week to two months. Despite the name, they have nothing to do with herpes or the herpes virus.
How do they occur?
An Aphthous ulcer is not a contagious disease, and is frequently confused with herpes, however all of the research done so far has indicated that this is not related to any viral, bacterial or fungal infection. Probably the best explanation as to what is happening in aphthous ulcerations is that they are a type of unusual allergic reaction. In other words, the immune system, which normally protects the body by destroying invading organisms, gets confused and actually starts attacking the lining tissues of the body itself. We don't know what triggers this unusual reaction, although some patients can relate the...