Canker Sore Vs Cold Sore: What’s The Difference?

Canker sore Vs Cold sore, Many people confuse canker sore with cold sore but they are not the same. Both of them are painful and causing discomfort. However, they have different appearance, location, and cause. One of them is contagious and can spread from one person to another or to other parts of the body such as eyes, causing serious problems. The other is painful but there is no need to worry about. So, it is important to know the differences between them to get the appropriate treatment and prevent any complications.

Canker sore Vs Cold sore

Canker Sores

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, are non-contagious, painful mouth ulcers. They are round or oval with a white or yellow center and an inflamed red border. They are usually found on the mucous membrane, gingiva, tongue, and soft palate.

Cold Sores

Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are contagious, painful blisters that develop on lips or at the transition between the lip and skin. they are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and characterized by blisters filled with clear fluid that contains a high concentration of herpes simplex virus. The virus can be transmitted from one person to another through direct contact (such as kissing) or sharing items with an infected person. Also, the herpes virus can spread to other parts of the body such as:

  • Fingers or thumbs: leading to pain and swelling of the finger.
  • Eyes: leading to visual disorders up to blindness.
  • Genitals: the HSV can spread to genitals through oral sex, leading to genital herpes.
  • Brain: leading to herpesviral encephalitis.

Causes of Canker Sore Vs Cold Sore

Causes of Canker Sores

The exact cause of canker sores is unknown but researchers suggest that certain triggers can cause canker sores outbreaks, include:

  • Minor injuries to the oral cavity caused by sharp tooth edges or braces.
  • Irritation caused by sodium lauryl sulfate contained in toothpaste and mouthwashes.
  • Food allergies.
  • Vitamin B12, zinc, or iron deficiency.
  • Bacterial infection.
  • Stress.
  • Hormonal changes during menstruation.
  • Some medical conditions such as Behcet’s disease, celiac disease, or HIV/AIDS.

Causes of Cold Sores

Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV) that is subdivided into herpes simplex type-1 (HSV-1) and type-2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 usually causes oral herpes (fever blisters) and HSV-2 usually causes genital herpes (sexually transmitted disease). Once you have infected with the virus, it remains in the body for a lifetime. The herpes simplex virus hides in nerve cells and when it stimulated by some triggers, it migrates back to the skin, leading to cold sores outbreaks. These triggers include:

  • Cold and fever.
  • Prolonged sunlight exposure.
  • Stress.
  • Fatigue.
  • Dental treatments.
  • Hormonal changes during pregnancy and menstruation.
  • Immunodeficiency.

Treatment of Canker Sore Vs Cold Sore

Treatment of Canker Sores

Canker sores heal without treatment within one or two weeks. Your dentist may prescribe some medications to relieve the pain and reduce the healing time, include:

  • Topical products: such as creams, gels, sprays, and rinses that contain:
    • Benzocaine or lidocaine (anesthetic agents)
    • Chlorhexidine (antibacterial agent)
    • Steroids (Anti-inflammatory agent)
  • Oral medications: in severe cases that don’t respond to other treatments, the dentist may prescribe oral medications such as oral steroids.

Treatment of Cold Sores

Cold sores clear up without treatment within several days to two weeks. Your doctor may prescribe topical antiviral medications (creams and ointments) or oral antiviral medications (tablets) to reduce the frequency and duration of outbreaks. In severe cases, the doctor may inject antiviral medications into a vein.

These treatments can’t completely eliminate the cause of cold sores because the herpes simplex virus remains in the body for a lifetime. So, cold sores outbreaks can occur again at any time.

Prevention of Canker Sore Vs Cold Sore

Prevention of Canker Sores

The exact cause of canker sores is unknown but you may able to reduce the frequency of outbreaks by:

  • Avoid foods to which you are allergic.
  • Avoid acidic foods and drinks that may irritate the oral mucosa.
  • Brush regularly with a soft-bristled toothbrush.
  • Don’t use toothpaste and mouthwashes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate.
  • Manage stress.
  • Prevent nutritional deficiencies by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Visit your dentist to smooth sharp tooth edges or place a wax on braces.

Prevention of Cold Sores

If you are infected with herpes simplex virus, you should follow these tips to reduce the frequency of outbreaks:

  • Avoid prolonged sunlight exposure.
  • Use sunscreen.
  • Manage stress.
  • Visit your doctor if you develop cold sores frequently. He/She may prescribe antiviral medications to reduce the frequency of outbreaks.

To prevent the transmission of herpes simplex virus to other people or other parts of the body:

  • Avoid close contact with other people while blisters are present (such as kissing).
  • Avoid sharing items with other such as towels and razors.
  • Don’t touch the affected site.
  • Wash your hands to prevent the transmission of the virus to other parts of the body such eyes.