Mouth ulcers are sores or open lesions in the mouth.
Oral ulcer; Stomatitis - ulcerative; Ulcer - mouth
Mouth ulcers are caused by many disorders. These include:
A skin sore caused by histoplasmosis may also appear as a mouth ulcer.
Symptoms will vary, based on the cause of the mouth ulcer. Symptoms may include:
Most of the time, a health care provider or dentist will look at the ulcer and where it is in the mouth to make the diagnosis. You may need blood tests or a biopsy of the ulcer may be needed to confirm the cause.
The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms.
The outcome varies depending on the cause of the ulcer. Many mouth ulcers are harmless and heal without treatment.
Some types of cancer may first appear as a mouth ulcer that does not heal.
Complications may include:
Contact your provider if:
To help prevent mouth ulcers and complications from them:
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James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Disorders of the mucous membranes. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 34.
Pham KL, Mirowski GW. Oral disease and oral-cutaneous manifestations of gastrointestinal and liver disease. In: Feldman M, Friedman LS, Brandt LJ, eds. Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 24.
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.