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Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 2004 Apr;33(3):221-34.

Recurrent aphthous ulcers today: a review of the growing knowledge.

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Gastrointestinal Research Group, Department of Physiology & Biophysics, University of Calgary, AB, Canada;


Recurrent aphthous ulcers represent a very common but poorly understood mucosal disorder. They occur in men and women of all ages, races and geographic regions. It is estimated that at least 1 in 5 individuals has at least once been afflicted with aphthous ulcers. The condition is classified as minor, major, and herpetiform on the basis of ulcer size and number. Attacks may be precipitated by local trauma, stress, food intake, drugs, hormonal changes and vitamin and trace element deficiencies. Local and systemic conditions, and genetic, immunological and microbial factors all may play a role in the pathogenesis of recurrent aphthous ulceration (RAU). However, to date, no principal cause has been discovered. Since the aetiology is unknown, diagnosis is entirely based on history and clinical criteria and no laboratory procedures exist to confirm the diagnosis. Although RAU may be a marker of an underlying systemic illness such as coeliac disease, or may present as one of the features of Behcet's disease, in most cases no additional body systems are affected, and patients remain otherwise fit and well. Different aetiologies and mechanisms might be operative in the aetiopathogenesis of aphthous ulceration, but pain, recurrence, self-limitation of the condition, and destruction of the epithelium seem to be the ultimate outcomes. There is no curative therapy to prevent the recurrence of ulcers, and all available treatment modalities can only reduce the frequency or severity of the lesions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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