Canker sores are painful ulcers that occur on the mucous membrane surface of the mouth, cheek, or tongue. They can occur singly or in groups, and occur more in women than in men.
Symptoms of canker sores range from mild to severe. In both types of canker sores, recurring attacks are common, with several to many ulcers appearing each time. The ulcers have whitish centers surrounded by redness.
Mild symptoms usually associated with canker sores that are less than one centimeter in diameter, last ten days to two weeks and heal without scarring.
Severe symptoms usually associated with canker sores that are more than one centimeter in diameter, last several weeks to several months, and leave scarring.
Bowel flora imbalances due to parasites, poor digestion, food sensitivities, chronic constipation or diarrhea, and/or Crohn`s disease can all cause or exacerbate canker sores. Many naturopathic physicians believe that the basic cause of canker sores is most likely an allergy to wheat and/or other grains. If canker sores are persistent, each of these factors needs to be ruled out and/or addressed before long-term healing can be achieved.
Canker sores can also be due to stress, extreme heat, physical exertion, extreme fatigue, fever, localized trauma such as after dental work, and nutrient deficiencies such as lysine, iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid. They can also be contagious if they result from an infectious agent.