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Cold Sores Vs Canker Sores – What’s the Difference?

By JB Harrison

A cold sore (HSV-1) is a small blister or blisters that take form around the outside of the mouth. Sometimes they may appear inside of the mouth, usually found on the roof of the mouth. They are clear and filled with fluid and are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Also referred to as fever blisters, cold sores are not the same as genital herpes. They may lie dormant for years or symptoms may never appear; about 20% of people that have the virus actually have a cold sore outbreak. Most people get their first cold sores as children. People can experience flu-like symptoms, swollen glands, a sore throat and body aches with HSV-1, but such extreme symptoms are rare as the main symptom is a painful blister. The pain worsens once the blister has ruptured and post- lesion “crusting” begins. They are highly contagious, it is recommended that you do not kiss anyone, share eating utensils, a toothbrush or any other items with anyone when you have an outbreak. The lesions can last as long as 14 days, but acting fast in treating the cold sore at the first sign of any symptoms can reduce the healing time quite a bit. They usually do not leave a scar behind, but some redness in affected area will occur. Some people have found that adding L-Lysine to their diets can help their outbreaks. Sunlight, chocolate, seeds or gelatins are also things a person can avoid if they have frequent cold sores.

A canker sore is painful, open sore that usually develops on the inner membranes of the mouth or cheek, they can also resemble pimples on the tongue. They are generally found on the movable parts of the mouth and often starts out as a round swelling before it becomes a blister. They are caused by bacteria, this being the main difference between this type of lesion and cold sores which are a viral infection. A canker sore generally takes about two weeks to heal, can leave a scar and most people will have their first canker sore between the ages of 10 and 20. Some children do develop canker sores but they are more prominent in pre-teens and adults. Some people experience canker sores a few times a year while others may have them one right after the other. They are not contagious and women are more likely than men to have recurring breakouts. Cankers sores, if recurring frequently, can in some cases be a sign of a more serious ailment known as Crohn’s or Bechet’s disease. An oral pathologist can make the distinction in these cases and it is recommended to seek professional advice. People who have frequent cases of canker sores are some time prescribed steroids or other immune-suppressant medications by their physician to help. It is difficult at best to tell a cold sore from a canker sore by simply looking at them. It is best if you have a sore and do not know if it is a canker sore or a cold sore, err on the side of caution and treat is as a cold sore.

OTC and prescribed canker sore treatments such as; Anbesol, Orabase and Zilactin are readily available. Although, none of these products are cures, they may greatly reduce the amount of pain experienced and speed up healing for the sufferer.

Although the physical and spatial similarities between the two lesions are many, they do vary in nature; most notably Canker Sores’ bacterial origins vs. HSV-1s’ viral beginnings. As always consult your primary physician with any specific questions or concerns you may have.

About The Author:

JB Harrison is a genital and oral herpes researcher as well as fellow sufferer. For great tips on cold sores vs. canker sores, visit a very informative resource for herpes and cold sore sufferers. They offer a free E Book on managing stress, a major contributing factor to break outs.

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