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Canker Sores in Throat: What You Need to Know

Updated: Feb 28

Closed-up Canker Sores in Throat.

Canker sores, medically known as aphthous ulcers, are painful lesions that typically form on the soft tissues within the mouth or near the gums' base. Though they most often appear in the mouth, they can also affect the throat, leading to discomfort and challenges with swallowing. To effectively manage this condition, it's crucial to comprehend the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention methods associated with canker sores in the throat.

Understanding Canker Sores in Throat

What are Canker Sores?

Canker sores are characterized by shallow, round, or oval-shaped ulcers with a white or yellow center encircled by a red border. They commonly manifest on the tongue, gums, inside of the cheeks, and even at the back of the throat. These ulcers often result in discomfort and pain, particularly during eating or speaking engagements.

Types of Canker Sores

Canker sores, medically termed aphthous ulcers, come in various sizes, severities, and durations. Recognizing the different types of canker sores is key to effectively managing symptoms.

Minor Canker Sores

  • Minor canker sores are the most prevalent type, comprising roughly 80% of cases. They usually manifest as small, round, or oval-shaped ulcers with a white or yellow center and a red border.

  • These sores typically measure less than 1 centimeter in diameter and commonly heal within one to two weeks without leaving scars.

  • Although minor canker sores may cause discomfort, they are generally manageable with home remedies and over-the-counter treatments.

Major Canker Sores

  • Major canker sores are larger and deeper compared to minor canker sores, often surpassing 1 centimeter in diameter.

  • These ulcers may inflict more pain and can take several weeks to fully heal. In some instances, they might leave behind scars.

  • Major canker sores can significantly disrupt eating, drinking, and speaking, necessitating medical intervention for pain management and healing.

Herpetiform Canker Sores

  • Herpetiform canker sores are the least common type, comprising approximately 5-10% of cases.

  • Contrary to their name, herpetiform canker sores are not caused by the herpes virus. Instead, they resemble the pattern of herpes sores.

  • These sores are characterized by clusters of multiple small ulcers that merge to form larger lesions.

  • Herpetiform canker sores may be particularly and may require several weeks to heal completely.

Causes of Canker Sores in the Throat

Canker sores also referred to as aphthous ulcers, can develop in the throat due to various factors. Although the exact cause of canker sores remains not fully understood, several potential triggers and contributing factors have been identified:

Minor Trauma

  • Minor injuries to the throat, such as accidental bites or scratches caused by sharp foods, have the potential to induce the formation of canker sores.

  • Trauma from dental procedures or dental appliances may also contribute to the development of ulcers in the throat.

Dietary Factors

  • Specific foods and beverages have the potential to irritate the delicate tissues of the throat, thereby increasing the likelihood of canker sore formation.

  • Spicy or acidic foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, and nuts are among the common culprits known to exacerbate throat irritation and inflammation.

Hormonal Changes

  • Hormonal fluctuations, especially in women during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause, can increase susceptibility to canker sores.

  • Changes in hormone levels may disrupt the normal healing process of oral tissues, making them more vulnerable to injury and ulcer formation.

Nutritional Deficiencies

  • Deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, iron, zinc, and folic acid, have been associated with an increased risk of developing canker sores.

  • Ensuring adequate nutrient intake is crucial for maintaining healthy oral tissues and supporting the immune system.

Stress and Emotional Factors

  • Stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil can diminish the body's immune response and compromise oral health.

  • Individuals experiencing high levels of stress may be more prone to developing canker sores in the throat, as stress hormones can exacerbate inflammation and impair tissue repair.

Oral Hygiene Practices

  • Not taking good care of your mouth, like not brushing, flossing, or rinsing regularly, can make it easier for canker sores to form.

  • Too many bacteria or infections in your mouth from not cleaning it well enough can increase the chances of getting canker sores in your throat.

Underlying Health Conditions

  • Some medical problems, like autoimmune disorders, gastrointestinal diseases, and not getting enough nutrients, can make people more likely to have canker sores often.

  • Conditions such as inflammatory bowel diseases, celiac disease, and problems with the immune system can make it hard for the body to control swelling and repair damaged tissues.

Genetic Predisposition

  • Your family history might matter when it comes to getting canker sores, meaning you might inherit the tendency to get them.

  • If people in your family often get canker sores, you might be more likely to have them too.

Symptoms of Canker Sores in the Throat

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, can make your throat uncomfortable. They might make it hard to eat, drink, or talk normally. Knowing the signs of canker sores in the throat can help you find the right treatment and ways to manage them.

Soreness or Irritation: When you have canker sores in your throat, you might feel a constant soreness or irritation in the throat area. It can be uncomfortable or painful, especially when you swallow or talk.

Difficulty Swallowing: When you have canker sores in your throat, swallowing can become difficult and uncomfortable. You might feel like something's blocking your throat or it might just be uncomfortable to swallow food and liquids.

Swelling and Inflammation: When you have canker sores in your throat, the tissues around them might swell up and become inflamed. Your throat might look red, swollen, or irritated, especially in the areas where the sores are located.

Red Patches or Spots: When you have canker sores in your throat, you might notice red patches or spots on the lining of your throat. These areas can be sensitive when touched and might bleed or feel irritated, especially when you eat or drink certain foods.

Swollen Lymph Nodes: Sometimes, when you have canker sores in your throat, the lymph nodes in your neck might swell up or feel tender. You might be able to feel them when you touch your neck. Swollen lymph nodes might come with other symptoms like fever or feeling tired.

Difficulty Speaking: Severe canker sores in the throat may interfere with the ability to articulate words clearly or speak fluently. Individuals may experience hoarseness or vocal strain due to throat discomfort.

Fever (In Severe Cases): In rare situations, people with extensive or severe canker sores in the throat might get a fever or systemic symptoms. A fever usually means your body is responding to the ulcers, especially if they're extensive or don't go away easily.

General Malaise: Canker sores can make you feel generally unwell or tired, especially if the discomfort lasts for a long time. You might feel like you have less energy and your overall sense of well-being might decrease.

Who Gets Canker Sores?

Canker sores, also known as aphthous ulcers, can impact people of all ages. However, certain factors might raise the chances of developing these painful sores. Recognizing who is more prone to canker sores can assist individuals in taking preventive steps and seeking timely treatment when needed. Here's a breakdown of who is more likely to experience canker sores:

1. Age

Canker sores can show up at any age, but they're seen most often in people between 10 and 40 years old. Children, teenagers, and young adults are more likely to get canker sores, although they can happen to anyone, no matter how old they are.

2. Family History

Family history and genetic factors might make people more likely to have canker sores. Some individuals could inherit a genetic tendency to get oral ulcers, which increases their chances of developing canker sores in their throat, mouth, or other parts of the mouth.

3. Stress and Anxiety

Feeling stressed or anxious can make your immune system weaker and trigger canker sore outbreaks in susceptible individuals. When stress levels are high, inflammation can get worse and compromise the body’s ability to heal, which can lead to more often and more severe canker sore outbreaks in the mouth.

4. Weakened Immune System

People with weakened immune systems, like those with autoimmune diseases, viral infections, or immune deficiency disorders, might be more likely to get canker sores. When the immune system isn't working well, it's harder for the body to fight off infections and keep the mouth tissues healthy, which can lead to more canker sores.

5. Hormonal Changes

Changes in hormones, especially in women during their periods, pregnancy, or menopause, might raise the chances of getting canker sores. When hormone levels change, it can affect how well the immune system works and the health of the tissues in the mouth.

6. Underlying Health Conditions

Some medical conditions, like autoimmune disorders (such as Crohn's disease, and celiac disease), inflammatory bowel disease, and HIV/AIDS, might make people more likely to have canker sores often. These conditions can weaken the immune system and cause problems with the health of the tissues in the mouth.

7. Nutritional Deficiencies

Not having enough of certain vitamins and minerals, like vitamin B12, iron, or folic acid, could make it more likely to get canker sores. It's important to get the right amount of essential vitamins and minerals to keep the tissues in the mouth healthy and help the immune system work well.

8. Dietary Factors

Eating certain foods and drinks, like acidic fruits, spicy foods, nuts, chocolate, and citrus fruits, can irritate the tissues in the throat and mouth, increasing the risk of canker sore development.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Diagnosing Canker Sores in the Throat

Diagnosing canker sores in the throat usually includes checking your throat carefully, asking about your medical history, and sometimes doing more tests to make sure the throat problem isn't something else. Healthcare professionals like dentists, oral surgeons, and primary care physicians may perform the following steps to diagnose canker sores in the throat:

1. Medical History Review

During the diagnostic evaluation, healthcare providers will inquire about the patient's medical history, including any previous episodes of canker sores, oral health issues, dietary habits, stress levels, and underlying medical conditions. A detailed medical history helps healthcare professionals understand the patient's risk factors and potential triggers for throat canker sores.

2. Physical Examination

A thorough physical examination of the oral cavity, including the throat, is conducted to assess the presence of canker sores and evaluate their size, location, and appearance of any lesions or ulcers. The healthcare provider may use a tongue depressor and flashlight to visualize the back of the throat and examine any visible sores or abnormalities.

3. Symptom Assessment

The patient will be asked to describe any symptoms associated with the throat lesions, such as pain, discomfort, difficulty swallowing, or changes in voice quality. The healthcare provider will inquire about factors that may exacerbate or alleviate symptoms, including dietary habits, oral hygiene practices, and stress levels.

4. Differential Diagnosis

Canker sores in the throat may resemble other oral conditions, including viral infections (e.g., herpes simplex virus), bacterial infections (e.g., streptococcal pharyngitis), fungal infections, and oral cancer. Differential diagnosis may be necessary to distinguish canker sores from other potential causes of throat discomfort and determine the most appropriate course of treatment.

5. Biopsy or Culture (if necessary)

In some cases, a biopsy or culture of the throat lesions may be recommended to rule out other potential causes and confirm the diagnosis of canker sores. A small tissue sample may be collected from the affected area and sent to a laboratory for microscopic examination or microbial culture.

6. Imaging Studies (if necessary)

In rare instances, imaging studies such as computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be ordered to evaluate the extent of tissue involvement and assess for any underlying structural abnormalities or complications.

7. Referral to Specialists

Depending on the complexity of the case and the presence of underlying medical conditions, healthcare providers may refer patients to specialists such as otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists) or oral medicine specialists for further evaluation and management of throat canker sores.

Treatment Options

Treatment for canker sores in the throat aims to alleviate symptoms, promote healing, and prevent recurrence. The choice of treatment may vary depending on the severity of symptoms, the size and location of the ulcers, and individual patient preferences. Here are some common treatment options:

1. Topical Medications: To start, you might use topical medications. These are things you can buy without a prescription, like mouthwashes, gels, or ointments. They often have ingredients like benzocaine, lidocaine, or hydrogen peroxide. These medications can help numb your throat and give you some relief from the pain and discomfort caused by canker sores.

2. Corticosteroids: Another option is corticosteroids. These are stronger medications that you need a prescription for. They come in the form of mouth rinses or ointments. Corticosteroids can be helpful if you have severe or long-lasting canker sores in your throat. They work by reducing inflammation, easing pain, and helping the ulcers heal.

3. Antimicrobial Mouthwashes: Another option is antimicrobial mouthwashes. These mouthwashes contain ingredients like chlorhexidine gluconate or cetylpyridinium chloride. They can help decrease the number of bacteria in your throat and prevent secondary infections if you have canker sores.

4. Pain Relievers: Another treatment option is pain relievers. You can use over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). These medications can help reduce throat pain and discomfort caused by canker sores. Make sure to follow the instructions on the package and consult a healthcare professional if needed.

5. Dietary Modifications: Another treatment method involves making changes to your diet. It's advisable to avoid spicy, acidic, or rough-textured foods as they can irritate the throat and make canker sores worse. Instead, opt for a soft, bland diet that includes soothing liquids and soft foods. This can help reduce discomfort while eating.

6. Hydration: Staying hydrated is important for managing throat canker sores. Drinking plenty of fluids like water, herbal teas, and clear broths can keep the throat moist and aid in the healing process. Proper hydration helps maintain the health of oral tissues and supports overall well-being.

7. Stress Reduction Techniques: Learning stress reduction techniques like deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or guided imagery can be helpful in managing canker sores. These relaxation methods may lessen the frequency and intensity of outbreaks, especially for those prone to stress-related episodes.

8. Prescription Medications: In severe instances or for individuals experiencing recurring or long-lasting canker sores in the throat, healthcare providers may prescribe medications like corticosteroids, immunomodulators, or antiviral drugs. These prescriptions aim to manage symptoms effectively and reduce the risk of complications.

9. Laser Therapy or Cauterization: In rare instances, laser therapy or cauterization may be performed by a healthcare professional to help seal and promote the healing of stubborn or recurrent canker sores in the throat.

Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes

Managing canker sores at home means using natural remedies and making lifestyle changes to ease symptoms, encourage healing, and stop future outbreaks. Here are some helpful home remedies and lifestyle adjustments for dealing with canker sores:

Natural Remedies for Canker Sores

1. Saltwater Rinse: Gargling with a warm saltwater solution can help reduce inflammation, alleviate pain, and promote the healing of canker sores in the throat. Dissolve half a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water and rinse your throat several times a day.

2. Honey Application: Applying a small amount of honey directly to the affected area may help reduce inflammation and provide temporary relief from throat discomfort associated with canker sores. These natural substances possess antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Ensure that the honey is of high quality and free from additives.

3. Coconut Oil: Swishing a tablespoon of coconut oil in your mouth for a few minutes and then spitting it out can help moisturize the throat and reduce inflammation caused by canker sores. Coconut oil has natural anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.

4. Aloe Vera Gel: Applying pure aloe vera gel directly to the throat can help soothe inflammation and accelerate the healing process of canker sores. Aloe vera has cooling and healing properties that can provide relief from throat discomfort.

5. Chamomile Tea Compress: Rinsing the mouth with chamomile tea may help reduce pain and inflammation caused by canker sores. Brew a strong cup of chamomile tea, allow it to cool, and use it as a mouth rinse several times a day. Chamomile has natural anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties that can help calm irritated tissues.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Canker Sores

1. Maintain Oral Hygiene

Keep your mouth clean by brushing your teeth gently twice a day with a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing regularly. This helps prevent the buildup of bacteria and lowers the chances of developing canker sores in the throat.

2. Avoid Trigger Foods

Identify and avoid foods that could make your canker sores worse, like spicy, acidic, or scratchy foods. Try not to eat too many citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, and nuts, as they might irritate and inflame your mouth and throat. Instead, focus on eating a variety of healthy foods with lots of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to help your mouth and immune system stay strong.

3. Manage Stress Levels

Try relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to calm down and relax. Being stressed out for a long time can make your immune system weaker and make you more likely to get canker sores.

5. Stay Hydrated

Make sure to drink plenty of water every day to keep your throat and mouth tissues moist. Being well-hydrated helps to keep your mouth healthy and prevents dryness that can make canker sores worse.

6. Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol

Using tobacco and drinking too much alcohol can irritate your mouth and throat, making canker sores more likely. Avoiding tobacco altogether and keeping alcohol consumption moderate can help you get canker sores less often and make them less severe.

Complications of Canker Sores in the Throat

Secondary Infections: When you have canker sores in your throat, it can make the area more prone to getting other infections from bacteria or fungi. These infections can make the pain and swelling worse and might need extra treatment, like antibiotics or antifungal medicines, to go away.

Difficulty Eating and Drinking: When you have big or painful canker sores in your throat, it can be hard and uncomfortable to eat and drink. You might feel pain or discomfort and find it tough to swallow. This can make it tough to get enough food and drink, which might lead to dehydration, malnutrition, and weight loss if adequate nutrition cannot be maintained.

Impaired Speech: Severe canker sores in your throat can mess up how you normally talk. You might sound hoarse, strain your voice, or find it hard to say words clearly. This can mess with how you communicate every day and chat with others, making you feel frustrated and anxious.

Chronic Pain and Discomfort: Recurrent or persistent canker sores in the throat can result in chronic pain, discomfort, and irritation, negatively impacting overall quality of life and emotional well-being. Chronic throat pain may require ongoing management and treatment to alleviate symptoms effectively.

Scarring and Tissue Damage: In some cases, severe or deep canker sores in the throat may lead to scarring or tissue damage, particularly if the ulcers become infected or fail to heal properly. Scars might make it harder to swallow, and you might need extra medical help to deal with them.

Psychological Impact: Living with chronic or recurrent canker sores in the throat can take a toll on an individual's mental health and emotional well-being. Persistent throat discomfort, difficulty eating, and social stigma associated with oral ulcers can contribute to feelings of anxiety, depression, and social isolation.

Impact on Daily Activities: When someone has bad canker sores in their throat, it can make simple things like eating, drinking, talking, and hanging out with friends really hard to do. These limitations can affect productivity, relationships, and overall quality of life.

Compromised Immune Response: Chronic inflammation and irritation of the throat caused by recurrent canker sores may compromise the immune response, making individuals more susceptible to other infections and illnesses.

How Long Do Canker Sores in the Throat Last?

Canker sores in the throat, also known as aphthous ulcers, typically follow a similar healing timeline to those occurring in other areas of the mouth. While the duration can vary depending on factors such as the size, severity, and individual healing capacity, most canker sores in the throat resolve on their own within one to two weeks.

Here's a general timeline of the stages of canker sore development and healing:

Initial Formation: Canker sores in the throat often begin as small, red or white lesions on the soft tissues of the throat. The initial onset may be accompanied by discomfort, pain, or irritation, particularly during swallowing or speaking.

Progression and Healing: Over the course of several days, canker sores may increase in size and become more painful as they reach their peak inflammation. During this stage, individuals may experience difficulty eating, drinking, or performing other activities that involve throat movement.

Healing and Resolution: After reaching peak inflammation, canker sores in the throat gradually begin to heal. The ulcers may develop a white or yellowish center as they form a protective layer of tissue to facilitate healing. The surrounding redness and inflammation gradually subside, and the pain diminishes over time.

Complete Resolution: In most cases, canker sores in the throat fully heal within one to two weeks from the onset of symptoms. As the ulcers heal, the discomfort and pain subside, and normal throat function is restored.

When to See a Doctor

While most canker sores in the throat resolve on their own, it is advisable to consult a healthcare professional if:

  • The sores persist or worsen despite treatment

  • You experience frequent outbreaks of canker sores

  • You develop additional symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, or difficulty swallowing

  • The sores interfere with your ability to eat, drink, or speak

If you're struggling with the pain of canker sores in your throat or any other health issues, Center One Medical is here to help. Our team of skilled healthcare professionals is committed to offering tailored care and effective solutions for your health needs. Contact us and book a consultation today. Let's start your journey towards a healthier, pain-free you!


In conclusion, dealing with canker sores in your throat can be painful and bothersome. However, by taking the right steps in treatment and prevention, you can ease symptoms and lessen the frequency of outbreaks. Understanding what causes these sores, recognizing the symptoms, and knowing your treatment choices empower you to effectively manage this condition.


1. Are canker sores in the throat contagious?

  • No, canker sores are not contagious and cannot be spread through contact.

2. Can stress trigger the development of canker sores in the throat?

  • Yes, stress is considered a common trigger for canker sores, including those occurring in the throat.

3. How long does it take for canker sores in the throat to heal?

  • The healing time for canker sores in the throat can vary depending on factors such as severity, treatment approach, and individual healing capabilities. In general, most ulcers resolve within 1 to 2 weeks.

4. Are there any foods that can worsen canker sores in the throat?

  • Spicy, acidic, or rough-textured foods may exacerbate discomfort associated with canker sores in the throat and should be avoided during outbreaks.

5. Are there any over-the-counter remedies for relieving discomfort from canker sores in the throat?

  • Over-the-counter oral rinses, pain relievers, and topical treatments may offer temporary relief from symptoms associated with canker sores in the throat. However, consult a healthcare provider for guidance on appropriate usage and potential interactions.

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