Cold Sores vs. Canker Sores

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Cold Sores vs. Canker Sores

Many people who contract a cold sore misdiagnose it as a canker sore. This can happen for many reasons. In some cases, the person does not want to believe they have contracted herpes. In other cases, the person has had canker sores before, and it simply doesn’t occur to them that they could have a cold sore. Pictures of cold sores and canker sores show the difference. In either case, there are some fairly recognizable differences that can help you differentiate between a cold sore and a canker sore:

Canker Sores:

  • Occur inside the mouth: on the inside of the cheeks, on or under the tongue, on the gums, on the underside of the lips, the throat area.

  • Manifest as dark red round or oval sores that tend to be covered by a whitish/yellowish plaque film that can be scraped off and usually have a red ‘halo’ outlining the sore.

  • Although recurrent, canker sores can be caused by bacteria, viruses, allergies or simply general ‘irritation’ in the mouth.

Cold Sores:

  • Usually occur outside the mouth: on or around the lips, on the cheek, chin, nose and in some cases the eyes or eyelids.

  • Manifest as red bumps that eventually turn into full blown blisters, usually red or transparent like in color.

  • Cold sores are caused exclusively by the Herpes Simplex Virus

Probably the easiest way to determine whether you have a cold sore or a canker sore is by the location of the sore. Cold sores are rarely found in the mouth, and if they are, they take on a much more ‘blister’ like quality. Cold sores in the mouth also tend to be very small in comparison to canker sores.

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Cold Sores vs. Canker Sores