Difference Between Cold Sore and Canker Sore

Cold Sores and canker sores are confused with each other very often, but cold sores are fluid filled blisters while canker sores are wounds, and cold sores look like canker sores after the blisters have broken.

Cold Sore

Cold sores are also known as fever blisters. They occur outside the mouth and genitalia. They occur in clusters, and the skin around the blisters is warm, reddened and painful. These blisters rupture overtime and exude a clear, straw colored fluid and crust over. Healing takes around one to two weeks. Fever, enlarged lymph nodes, runny nose, malaise, loss of appetite may accompany the sores.

Diagnosis of cold sore is clinical. This condition is self-limiting and treated if they are very painful. Antiviral skin creams, ointments can be used, sometimes in concert with oral treatment in severe cases. Cold sores can be prevented by using separate drinking cups, plates, and cutlery, proper hand-washing and avoiding kissing an infected person. Direct exposure to sunlight may induce a flare up. Herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 and 2 both cause cold sores. Some individuals carry the virus without having symptoms. HSV is transmitted via direct contact and is very contagious. Sharing eating utensils, sharing shaving equipment, coming into contact with saliva of an infected person are some common routes of transmission. It enters the body through damaged skin and mucus membranes.

Canker Sore

Canker sores are of unknown origin. These occur inside the mouth cavity. Itching, tingling or pain may precede the sore. Sore is oval in shape, white grayish in color and is surrounded by a reddened area. Fever, enlarged local lymph nodes, and malaise accompany the sore. There are two types of canker sores. Simple canker sore occurs in people around 10-20 years of age and may recur three to four times per year. Complex canker sores are rarer than the simple canker sores and occur only in those who have had simple sores previously. Complex canker sores may be caused by nutritional deficiencies, immune deficiencies and may accompany celiac disease and Crohn’s disease.

Canker sores usually resolve within a few weeks. If persistent and troublesome, antibiotic mouth wash, pain killers, and oral steroid creams may be used to treat canker sores. Preventive steps like, avoiding irritant foods (citrus fruits), avoiding gum chewing and using a toothbrush with soft bristles are very important, especially to prevent complex canker sores.

What is the difference between Cold Sore and Canker Sore?

• Cold sores are caused by a virus while the origin of canker sores is uncertain.

• Cold sores are highly contagious while canker sores are not.

• Cold sores appear outside the mouth while canker sores appear inside the mouth.

• Cold sores are fluid filled blisters while canker sores are wounds.

• Cold sores look like canker sores after the blisters have broken.