Aphthous Ulcer

Aphthous Ulcer


An Aphthous Ulcer, also known as a Canker Sore, is a small round or oval sore that forms beneath the mucous membrane in the mouth or at the base of the gums. They are non-contagious but can make eating and talking quite painful. Typically, aphthous ulcers heal on their own in 7-10 days.

Signs and symptoms

Most aphthous ulcers are small round or oval pustules, white or yellow in colour with a red outline. They are typically found on the insides of the cheeks, under the tongue, on the gums, or on your soft palate. They are usually extremely painful and you must seek medical help immediately if your ulcers are accompanied by a fever.

Causes and risk factors

The exact cause of aphthous ulcers is uncertain, but it seems to be a combination of factors. The ulcers could be triggered by food allergies, hormonal shifts, minor mouth injury from dental work or harsh brushing, Coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease or any other auto-immune condition. Aphthous ulcers can occur in anyone but they are more common among teenagers and young adults, especially females. There also appears to be a relation to family history.


Aphthous ulcers on their own are usually not serious and resolve themselves in 1-2 weeks. However, if they are acute, they could be symptoms of Crohn’s disease, Coeliac disease or an auto-immune disorder.


Patients affected by minor aphthous ulcers do not require tests. They can be diagnosed by a physical examination conducted by the doctor. For recurring or complex aphthous ulcers, the doctor may require a blood count, B-12 and folate studies, in addition to a Gluten Anti-body test for Coeliac disease and a Fecal Calprotectin test for Crohn’s disease.

Treatment and Surgical Interventions

Minor aphthous ulcers usually don’t require any medication. With proper diet, hydration and oral hygiene, the ulcers will heal on their own in 1-2 weeks. Large or persistent ulcers will benefit from medical mouth rinses and topical products to relieve pain and speed up healing. If topical applications do not work, the doctor may prescribe oral medications to speed up healing. In extreme cases, the doctor may recommend cauterisation of the sores to reduce bleeding and reduce pain.


Aphthous Ulcers often recur so if you have a history of them, here are some precautions you can take – avoid foods you are allergic or sensitive to, drink plenty of water, follow good oral hygiene practices and practice techniques like meditation or mindfulness to reduce stress.


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