Do I have a Canker Sore or a Cold Sore?

Canker sores and Cold sores are quite similar and can be hard to tell a part.  Still there are many differences between the two also. 

Cold Sores

Cold sores or Oral herpes form small blisters that will form around the mouth.  If the cold sore gets inside your mouth it will generally appear on the roof of your mouth.  Theses blisters will be filled full of a clear fluid that is caused by the herpes virus.  The virus survives in your nerve tissue and is activated by certain things such as stress or a cold.  cold sore

The herpes lesions are also called fever blisters, but you have to remember that cold sores are not the same as hsv-2 or genital herpes.  The virus may lie dormant for an entire life and not appear.  Of the population who carry the virus, only about 20 percent actually have outbreaks.

If you have herpes you would probably get your first breakout when you are young.  You might have been sick with the flu, had a sore throat, with swollen glands and body aches.  This often times accompanies a cold sore.

When you get a cold sore the blister will rupture and start to crust over.  The fluid is highly contagious and it is recommended that you do not come in contact with anyone during this time.  Do not share utensils or drinks when you have an outbreak.

The cold sore normally does not leave a scar, but there will be redness in the area where you broke out.  Some things that have been shown to cause outbreaks in people are exposure to the sun, chocolate, jet lag and a lack of sleep.

Canker Sores

A Canker sore can be very painful, it usually forms on the inside of the mouth or cheek.  They can also show up as pimples on your tongue.  They tend to start near or on moving parts of the mouth such as in the corner of your mouth.  It will start out as a swelling round spot before it turns into a blister.

The main difference between a cold sore and canker sore are that the canker sore is caused by bacteria and a cold sore is caused by a virus.  The canker sore will take about two weeks to heal and will often times leave a scar.  Most people will have a canker sore between the ages of 10 and 20.  Canker sores vary by the person, some people will never have one, others will get them a few times a year and others will continually get them one after another.

canker sore
Canker sores are not contagious and women tend to get them more than men.  People who get them continually are often given steroids to help with the issue.  It is hard to tell a canker sore from a cold sore just by looking at them.

If you get Canker sores frequently, it could be a sign of something serious like Behcet’s or Crohn’s disease.  The only person that can tell you if that is your issue would be an oral pathologist.  If you are having numerous outbreaks, that should be your first move.

Just remember that cold sores tend to be on the outside of the mouth and will be a cluster of little blisters.  Canker sores tend to be inside the mouth, near a moving part.  I hope this helps you distinguish the difference between a cold sore and canker sore.

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