Why You Shouldn’t Worry About Canker Sores in Your Throat
Canker sores are bad enough when they’re in your mouth and make it difficult to eat your favorite foods. But canker sores are even worse when they pop up somewhere unexpected — like your throat!
If you notice a canker sore causing discomfort around your tonsils, don’t worry. Canker sores in the throat aren’t as scary as they sound.
What Are Canker Sores?
Canker sores, or aphthous ulcers, are shallow white lesions with inflamed pink borders that occur inside the lips and mouth. Small canker sores may only grow to 1 mm in size, but aggressive sores can be larger than 5 mm.
Canker sores themselves are not dangerous. These non-contagious ulcers appear sporadically and heal between attacks. The most common triggers for canker sores include:
- NSAIDs (Motrin®, Aleve®)
- Vitamin deficiencies (low vitamin B12 or iron)
- Foods high in citric acid, such as oranges, tomatoes and some cheeses
- Underlying autoimmune conditions (such as HIV/AIDs, Lupus or Behçet’s disease)
- Chronic high stress or a traumatic life event
- A family history of canker sore outbreaks
Canker sores emerge in different shapes, sizes and severities, so it’s helpful to know which type of canker sore you’re currently experiencing.
Minor canker sores are the most common, accounting for about 80% of canker sore cases. These are small sores that cause some discomfort but no scarring. In most cases, minor canker sores heal within a week.
Major canker sores are less common and more unpleasant. These sores can last more than two weeks and grow to over 1 centimeter in diameter. Patients usually experience extreme pain and difficulty eating and drinking during major canker sore outbreaks.
Herpetiform canker sores are tiny blisters that occur in clusters of up to 100. They can develop anywhere in the mouth, including:
- On the inside of the lips
- On the roof of the mouth
- Inside the cheeks
- Under the tongue
- At the base of the gums
This type of mouth ulcer causes a tingling or burning sensation before the sore itself forms. After a herpetiform canker sore emerges, you may also notice these symptoms:
- Tiny clusters merge into one large, painful canker sore
- Ulcers are white or yellow in color
- Irregular edges around the ulcers
Fortunately, herpetiform canker sores typically heal on their own within one to two weeks, so no additional medical attention is needed.
Canker Sores on the Tonsils
Some canker sores don’t appear in the mouth, but down in the throat instead. Canker sores in the throat tend to be especially painful with distinct red edges and a white, gray or yellowish center.
If you feel pain on one side of your throat, it’s likely that a canker sore has developed on your tonsil. Other symptoms include tingling, burning and stinging, especially when you eat or drink something acidic. Unfortunately, tonsil canker sores are often bigger than regular canker sores and may scar the tissue in your throat.
Why Do Canker Sores Develop on the Tonsils?
When canker sores do develop on the tonsils, there’s not always a clear reason. However, the following are the most common risk factors associated with canker sores in the throat.
A Weak Immune System
Your immune system is designed to work with your body to protect against foreign invaders, but sometimes it doesn’t work properly.
In particular, autoimmune diseases like celiac disease and Crohn’s disease make the body more vulnerable to infection and cause the body to attack itself and inflict unnecessary damage. Over time, untreated autoimmune diseases can lead to serious health complications, including numerous oral health issues like chronic canker sores.
Vitamin or Mineral Deficiency
Vitamins and minerals such as iron, zinc, folic acid, and vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12 and C are fundamental to your core health and wellness. Untreated nutrient deficiencies are known to contribute to canker sore development.
Food or Oral Care Allergies
An allergic reaction to specific foods or oral care products may also trigger complex canker sores.
Toothpaste and mouthwash products containing sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) are especially notorious for irritating the mouth. SLS functions as a “surfactant” that produces cleansing and foaming action. Though the FDA claims SLS is safe, thousands of studies have explored the toxicity of SLS and associate the ingredient with skin irritation and organ system toxicity.
Other triggers may also play a role in the formation of canker sores in the throat:
- An existing viral infection
- Too much bacteria in the mouth
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Nutritional deficiencies
Stress weakens your immune system. When you experience physical, mental or emotional stress, your immune system struggles to properly fight antigens and invaders. This is why you always seem more susceptible to infections and illnesses when you’re under intense stress. Existing research also suggests a high correlation between canker sores and anxiety, depression and psychological stress.
Possible Misdiagnoses for Throat Canker Sores
Many people don’t realize that canker sores can develop in the throat. When they feel the pain and stinging of a tonsil canker sore, they assume it’s another condition like tonsillitis or strep throat.
Tonsillitis is an inflammation of the tonsils. You have one tonsil on each side of your throat. Most cases of tonsillitis are triggered by viral infections. This condition causes a sore throat, swollen tonsils, tender lymph nodes and difficulty swallowing.
Tonsillitis can also cause symptoms that canker sores in the throat don’t, including:
- Bad breath
- Red, swollen tonsils
- White or yellow coating on the tonsils
- Enlarged lymph nodes
If your throat pain isn’t going away and you’re not sure of the cause, see a doctor.
Canker sores in the throat can also be confused with strep throat since both conditions cause throat pain.
Strep throat is a bacterial infection that makes the throat feel scratchy and extremely sore. Its defining symptoms include tiny red spots on the area at the back of the roof of the mouth, body aches, and streaks of white patches or pus on the tonsils. Canker sores in the throat don’t cause such severe symptoms — only the pain of the canker sore itself.
Be sure to schedule an appointment with your doctor if your throat pain or canker sores don’t get better within a week. Chronic problems may indicate a more serious issue, like throat ulcers.
How To Treat Canker Sores in the Throat
Most canker sores heal on their own over the span of a week, but you don’t want to suffer in pain that entire time! Use these treatments to increase your comfort during canker sore outbreaks and prevent future canker sores from forming.
Lysine supports human health in many ways. Research suggests that important functions of lysine include:
- Promoting tissue growth and recovery from damage
- Promoting collagen growth
- Supporting a strong immune system
- Helping the body absorb zinc, iron and calcium
- Producing hormones, antibodies and enzymes
However, it’s not widely known that lysine may help protect against canker sores as well.
Preliminary research suggests that 500 mg of lysine may help prevent canker sores from developing. A much higher dosage of 4,000 mg daily may also limit the length of time canker sores are present in the mouth.
Aside from taking a lysine capsule or tablet, you can also use lysine powder to make your own canker sore paste if you can reach your canker sores.
Follow these simple steps:
- Blend 1 tablespoon of lysine powder with 2 tablespoons of water
- Mix until a thick paste forms
- Apply the lysine paste at bedtime with a Q-tip or cotton swab
- Keep any leftover paste refrigerated
OTC Topical Products
Over-the-counter topical anesthetics like benzocaine (Kank-A) and Orajel provide safe, temporary numbing of painful sores. You can apply local anesthetics a few times a day to relieve discomfort until your canker sore heals completely.
If you prefer a natural or no-cost option to treat your canker sores, try a few time-tested home remedies if your sores are accessible.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a popular home remedy for canker sores because evidence suggests that the antimicrobial and antiviral properties of ACV help combat infections in the body.
Since vinegar is an abrasive substance, follow these tips to apply ACV to your canker sores safely:
- Dilute apple cider vinegar with water in a 1:10 radio. Soak a cotton ball in the solution. Apply to your canker sore once or twice a day until the ulcer heals
- Make a paste by blending honey and diluted ACV. Apply the paste once or twice daily for up to ten minutes.
Silver nitrate can also help canker sores by binding the injured tissue and obstructing blood vessels. This cauterizes the canker sore ulcer to reduce pain until it heals. Overall, research shows that treating canker sores with silver nitrate is a simple and affordable way to decrease the pain caused by ulcers, though the healing time remains about the same.
Light Therapy with the Luminance RED
Canker sores can cause weeks of discomfort, even with the help of home remedies. Treatment with high-powered light is a gentler, safer and more reliable way to alleviate even the worst canker sores.
Research proves the profound effects of high-powered light for canker sore prevention and treatment. Many studies show that applying medically-optimized light to canker sores significantly reduces pain. In one study, the group that received treatment immediately experienced a 92% reduction in pain versus a 1% reduction in the placebo group!
The Luminance RED Mouth Sore Treatment Device is designed to help you manage sores and ulcers inside your mouth or throat. With this device, you can easily shine concentrated wavelengths of pain-free, medically-optimized light directly onto your canker sores and the areas where they often develop.
Whether you have existing canker sores or you want to stop future sores before they start, this therapy makes it possible!