New research comes to terms with old ideas about canker sores

March 29, 2017

A burning pain sensation - and treatments that do not work. This is what daily life is like for many of those who suffer from recurrent aphthous stomatitis. Research from the Sahlgrenska Academy now sheds new light on the reasons behind this condition found in the mouth.

"There are many misconceptions regarding the reasons for the ulcers and the care of this patient category is hugely neglected despite the fact that many suffer a great deal from their symptoms. Patients may experience a general feeling of illness, and they have difficulties in eating and speaking and may not be able to go to school or work for several days due to the lesions," says Maria Bankvall, dentist and postdoctoral researcher in Odontology.

Mouth blisters, cold sores or apthae are words that are normally used to describe this specific type of lesion, which in medical terms is called recurrent aphthous stomatitis (RAS). The condition is considered one of the most common lesions of the oral mucosa found in the world today.

The lesions have a typical appearance with a red halo surrounding a whitish area, and they can appear anywhere in the non-keratinized mucosa, i.e., on the inside of the cheeks and lips, at the floor of the mouth, on the sides of the tongue and in the throat.

Lots of different causes

The lesions smart and burn and can be greatly disabling for anyone affected. Today there is no cure, instead treatment strategies are aimed at relieving the symptoms using none prescription and/or prescription drugs.

"For a long time, it was believed that this condition was due to a virus, in the same way as mouth herpes, and many physicians and dentists treat aphthous stomatitis and herpes in the same way, also because it can be difficult to clinically distinguish the two conditions. The patient is often given anti-viral medication, which is a suitable treatment for herpes, but does not relieve aphthous stomatitis," says Maria Bankvall.

"RAS should probably not be regarded as a specific disease but as a general symptom of the body due to an imbalance similar to a headache or a fever," says Maria Bankvall. Her research points to the fact that there is great complexity and multiple interacting factors.

Hereditary is an important factor as well as the bacterial flora in the mouth, our immune system and environmental factors. The thesis presents a theoretic frame for causality based on existing research and their own patient studies.

Genes and bacterial flora

A number of different genes have been identified as being of importance. The research also shows that the bacterial flora in the healthy oral mucosa seems to differ in people with RAS compared to healthy control subjects.

A certain sub-group of patients may also suffer from a food allergy, but we do not know that much about tolerance mechanisms in the mouth. The importance of the immune system in the oral cavity has also been studied in the thesis, initially with experiments on mice.

"Today there is a great deal of knowledge regarding the two major conditions in the oral cavity, i.e., caries and periodontitis. However, there are still large information gaps when it comes to different types of oral mucosal lesions. Hopefully, our conclusions can contribute to increasing the knowledge regarding the most common lesions that affect this part of the mouth," says Maria Bankvall.
-end-
Link to the thesis: https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/48668

Head researcher: Maria Bankvall +46 (0)736 579 962; maria.bankvall@odontologi.gu.se

Press contact: Margareta Gustafsson Kubista +46 (0)705 301 980; margareta.g.kubista@gu.se

University of Gothenburg

Related Immune System Articles from Brightsurf:

How the immune system remembers viruses
For a person to acquire immunity to a disease, T cells must develop into memory cells after contact with the pathogen.

How does the immune system develop in the first days of life?
Researchers highlight the anti-inflammatory response taking place after birth and designed to shield the newborn from infection.

Memory training for the immune system
The immune system will memorize the pathogen after an infection and can therefore react promptly after reinfection with the same pathogen.

Immune system may have another job -- combatting depression
An inflammatory autoimmune response within the central nervous system similar to one linked to neurodegenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS) has also been found in the spinal fluid of healthy people, according to a new Yale-led study comparing immune system cells in the spinal fluid of MS patients and healthy subjects.

COVID-19: Immune system derails
Contrary to what has been generally assumed so far, a severe course of COVID-19 does not solely result in a strong immune reaction - rather, the immune response is caught in a continuous loop of activation and inhibition.

Immune cell steroids help tumours suppress the immune system, offering new drug targets
Tumours found to evade the immune system by telling immune cells to produce immunosuppressive steroids.

Immune system -- Knocked off balance
Instead of protecting us, the immune system can sometimes go awry, as in the case of autoimmune diseases and allergies.

Too much salt weakens the immune system
A high-salt diet is not only bad for one's blood pressure, but also for the immune system.

Parkinson's and the immune system
Mutations in the Parkin gene are a common cause of hereditary forms of Parkinson's disease.

How an immune system regulator shifts the balance of immune cells
Researchers have provided new insight on the role of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in regulating the immune response.

Read More: Immune System News and Immune System Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.