Mouth ulcer, medically known as aphtha, is an ulcer that occurs in the mouth, over the mucous membrane. Mouth ulcers can make talking, eating and drinking uncomfortable. They are very common and may occur in isolation or in association with various diseases. Ulcers in the mouth that do not heal within 2 weeks must be tested for oral cancer.
Mouth ulcers are generally not infectious and subside in about a week or two. Ulcers usually occur on the lips, inside the cheeks, tongue and gums.
Causes of mouth ulcers:
There is no definite cause of mouth ulcers but some factors may irritate the mucus lining of the mouth and trigger ulcers. Apart from the trigger factors given below, mouth ulcers can occur without any known reason too.
Many times mouth ulcers can be indicative of problems with digestive system like gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or stomach ulcers.
Some diseases that are associated with mouth ulcers are:
Aphthous stomatitis is a condition in which the mouth ulcers appear recurrently in a person. There are three types of aphthous stomatitis.
- Minor aphthous ulceration is the most common condition in which 1-6 round or oval sores of about 2-4 mm in diameter. They heal by themselves in one or two weeks without leaving any scars.
- Major aphthous ulcerations occur as larger and deeper sores than minor ones. Their edges are irregular and they take about six weeks to heal. They may result in long-term scarring.
- Herpeitform aphthous ulcerations are pinpoint size, but occur as clusters of 10 to 100, mostly affecting adults. Their edges are irregular but heal without scarring in about 2 weeks time.
Diagnosis of mouth ulcers:
Mouth ulcers are diagnosed by physical examination. If the doctor feels it necessary, based on the history of the problem, he or she would suggest further testing like culture or biopsy.
Treatment and management of mouth ulcers:
Home remedies for mouth ulcers work well in the management of the problem. Some ways to manage mouth ulcers at home include: