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Canker Sores

Canker Sores (aphthous ulcers), or aphthae, are the most common cause of periodic (recurring) ulcers inside the mouth and genital linings (mucous membrane surfaces). Their cause is unknown, but stress, lack of sleep, trauma, and perhaps some vitamin deficiencies, toothpastes, and foods can make the condition worse. Some people with anemia and other medical conditions that weaken the immune system may be more likely to develop canker sores.

There are 3 types of canker sores:

  • Minor aphthae account for approximately 80% of cases. They usually heal within 1-2 weeks.
  • Major aphthae or Sutton disease, account for approximately 10% of cases. They can be extremely painful, last 2-4 weeks, and generally leave scars.
  • Herpetiform aphthae account for the remaining 10% of cases.

Internet Resources

MedlinePlus: Canker Sores
Developed at the National Library of Medicine specifically for health care consumers, this site is a portal for both government-sponsored and privately developed health information targeting the lay public. Site features extensive information about canker sores and how to manage it.

The Family Doctor website is operated by the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), a national medical organization representing more than 93,700 family physicians, family practice residents and medical students. All of the information on this site has been written and reviewed by physicians and patient education professionals at the AAFP.

VisualDxHealth is a consumer-focused Web site dedicated to providing quality health information and access to some of the best medical images in the world.

Management of Aphthous Ulcers
The American Academy of Family Physicians is one of the largest national medical organizations, representing more than 94,000 family physicians, family medicine residents, and medical students nationwide. The mission of the AAFP is to improve the health of patients, families, and communities by serving the needs of members with professionalism and creativity.


  • The Mouth: Diagnosis and Treatment. Eisen, D & Lynch, D. 1998

Journal Articles

  • “Treatment of recurrent aphthous stomatitis with clofazimine.” de Abreu MA. Hirata CH. Pimentel DR. Weckx LL. Oral Surgery Oral Medicine Oral Pathology Oral Radiology & Endodontics. 108(5):714-21, 2009 Nov.
  • “Aphthous ulcers.” Bischoff EW. Uijen A. van der Wel M. BMJ. 339:b2382, 2009
  • “Recurrent Aphthous Ulcers Today: A Review of the Growing Knowledge”. Natah S., Konttinen Y., Enattah N., Ashammakhi N., Sharkey K., and Hayrinen-Immonen R. International Journal of Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery. 33(3):221-34, Apr. 2004.

Contact Us

For more information, please contact the  Health Learning Center  at 312.926.5465 or HLC@nmh.org.

Last UpdateMarch 19, 2012