There are many types of mouth sores, most of which make eating, drinking and even talking painful. The irritation and inflammation caused by mouth sores is at times unbearable, but most sores will clear up on their own. From the more common canker and cold sores to sores caused by illness or medication, mouth sores should be observed and a doctor notified if they persist. Certain types of mouth sores can be accompanied by fever, sore throat or may even be the symptom of a serious illness. Here are various types of mouth sores and potential causes:
- Canker sores, or aphthous ulcers, occur on the soft tissue on the inside of your mouth or at the base of your gums. These sores become inflamed and can take up to one week to heal completely. Medicines that numb the pain and ease inflammation are available over the counter or by a doctor’s prescription.
- Cold sores. This type of sore is actually a fluid filled lesion that develops from an infection by the herpes simplex virus type 1. Often painful, these sores can remain on the mouth anywhere from 10 to 14 days. There are several anti-viral and topical treatments that your doctor can prescribe for the most effective treatment.
- Medications. Certain medicines are known to cause mouth sores. Chemotherapy, sulfa drugs, phenytoin and gold compounds are a few medications linked to the development of mouth sores.
- Chickenpox. Chickenpox, or varicella, is a common virus most known for the red, itchy rash of red blisters that spread across the body. Chickenpox sores can occur in the mouth or throat, appearing as raised bumps (papules) that turn into shallow ulcers.
- Herpangina. Occurring most often in children, this virus, also known as Coxsackie virus or Hand-foot-and-mouth disease, includes symptoms such as high fever, sore throat, headache and painful ulcers (sores) that occur in the back of the mouth within 24 to 48 hours of the fever. This illness can last 7 to 10 days and doctors usually recommend fluids and over-the-counter pain relievers and/or fever reducers to treat the symptoms of this virus.
- Oral cancer. Oral cancer can develop in any part of the oral cavity, and your risk is greatly increased if you smoke, use smokeless tobacco or drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Oral cancer can show up as mouth sores that don’t heal or white or reddish patches on the inside of the mouth, amongst other symptoms.
- Skin diseases. Certain mouth sores are the result of inflammatory conditions caused by immune system diseases such as lichen planus, pemphigus vulgaris, lupus, pemphigoid or erythema multiforme.
- Impetigo. This highly contagious skin infection mainly affects young children. Impetigo appears as red sores on the face, specifically around a child’s nose and mouth. The sores may ooze or become crusty and are usually itchy.
- Injury. Mouth, tongue and lip sores can be caused by accidental biting, chewing or burning. Piercings can also cause sores due to irritation by the jewelry or the pierced area itself.