Aphthous Ulcers

Aphthous Ulcers is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Emergency Consult.

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Painful ovoid or round ulcerations on the mucous membranes of the mouth, tongue or genitals:
  • Commonly referred to as “canker sores”


  • Unknown
  • Etiology likely multifactorial with some correlation with:
    • Immunologic dysfunction; alteration of cell-mediated immune system
    • Infection
    • Food hypersensitivities (i.e., gluten)
    • Vitamin deficiency
    • Pregnancy
    • Menstruation
    • Trauma
    • Stress
    • Ethnicity
    • Immunodeficiency
    • Medications: β-blockers, anti-inflammatory
  • Epidemiology: Usually occurs in children and young adults (Peak age of onset: Between 10 to 19 yr old)
    • Most common inflammatory ulcerative condition of the oral cavity (20-40% of general population)
    • More common in women
    • May be familial

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