What Do HIV Mouth Sores Look Like?
HIV mouth sores Mouth sores are a common symptom of human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV). In fact, one-third of people with HIV will develop mouth complications
due to a weakened immune system. These mouth sores can interfere with your
well-being. In the case of HIV, these sores and infections are more difficult to treat,
and can also interfere with eating and medication. Read on to see what these sores look like
and how to treat them. What do these mouth sores look like?
COLD SORES Herpes simplex, or cold sores
Fighting off infections and viruses is more difficult when you have HIV. One of the most
common viruses that people have is herpes simplex, or oral herpes. Oral herpes usually
appears as red sores in your mouth. When they appear outside the lips, they may
look like blisters. Nicknamed “fever blisters,” these red, raised bumps can be painful. Anyone can get oral herpes, but in someone
with HIV or a weakened immune system, oral herpes may be more severe and last longer. Treatment: Oral herpes is very treatable with
medication. Your doctor will likely prescribe acyclovir, an antiviral treatment. This medication
helps reduce new outbreaks. Don’t stop taking your prescription medications
until your doctor tells you. Contagious? Herpes is contagious. Avoid sharing
foods when you have herpes. Aphthous ulcers, or canker sores
Canker sores are common mouth lesions that can cause pain, especially because they don’t
go away on their own. Canker sores are usually red, but can also be covered with a gray or
yellow film. They tend to develop inside the cheeks, lips,
and around the tongue. These locations may make the sores feel more painful because they
move when you speak or eat. Canker sores aren’t a symptom of HIV, but
having HIV can increase your risk for recurring and severe sores. Other factors that can cause
canker sores include stress, acidic foods, and mineral deficiencies that include: iron
carnitine vitamin B-12
Eating hot or spicy foods while you have a canker sore can also increase pain. Treatment: In mild cases, over-the-counter
(OTC) creams and mouthwashes can reduce inflammation and sores. You can also treat canker sores
with salt water. Your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids
in pill form if you have a severe case of canker sores. For cases of prolonged sores
that interfere with meals, try topical anesthetic sprays. These can help numb the area.
Human papilloma virus (HPV) warts HPV can cause warts anywhere around the mouth
or lips. Warts can look like small cauliflower-like bumps or masses with folds or projections.
They can sprout inside and around the mouth. Most of the time warts are white, but can
also be pink or gray. They’re generally not painful, but they can be bothersome. Depending
on their location, HIV mouth warts can be picked at and bleed. HPV is also strongly associated with oropharyngeal
cancer, or throat cancer. Treatment: Your doctor will need to perform
surgery to remove warts. You may use a prescription cream for warts on the lips. But there’s
no oral medication to treat warts. Contagious? Possibly, if broken and there’s
fluid. Candidiasis, or thrush
Thrush is a yeast infection that appears as white, yellowish, or red patches anywhere
inside the mouth. The patches are sensitive and may bleed or burn when accidentally wiped.
In some cases, thrush will cause painful cracks around your mouth (angular cheilitis). Thrush
may also spread to the throat, if left untreated. Treatment: The normal course of treatment
for mild thrush is antifungal mouthwash. But HIV can also increase this infection’s resistance.
If this is the case, your doctor may prescribe oral antifungal pills.
Gum disease and dry mouth Although these aren’t sores, gum disease
(gingivitis) and dry mouth are common problems. Gum disease causes the gums to swell, and
can be painful. In severe cases, it can lead to gum or teeth loss in as quick as 18 months.
Gum disease may also be an indication of inflammation, which increases your risk for heart disease
and stroke. Dry mouth occurs when you don’t produce
enough saliva. Saliva can help protect your teeth as well as prevent infections. Without
saliva, your teeth and gums are vulnerable to plaque development. This can also make
gum disease worse. Treatment: Drink water, floss, and brush your
teeth consistently to keep your mouth clean and hydrated. For gum disease, your dentist
will remove the plaque with a deep cleaning method. If dry mouth persists, ask your doctor about
saliva substitutes. Complications with HIV treatment
Mouth sores can also interfere with HIV treatment. Having a decreased immune function can increase
the spread of mouth sores, which tend to multiply in large numbers. This can make swallowing
difficult, causing some people to skip medications or meals. Talk to your doctor if you have a difficult
time taking HIV medications due to mouth sores so you can find other treatment options. Infections Untreated mouth sores can cause infections.
Canker and cold sores can pop when you’re eating or brushing your teeth. Warts and thrush
may accidentally be picked off. Open wounds leave you even more vulnerable to infections.
Dry mouth also increases the risk for infection because there is not enough saliva to naturally
fight bacteria. Talk to your doctor about treatment for your
mouth sores. Prompt treatment reduces the number of mouth sores and the risk for infection.
Preventive oral care One of the best ways to treat and prevent
HIV-related mouth sores is to see your dentist for regular checkups. A dentist can detect
problems early on or help prevent sores from worsening. Let your dentist know if you have
ongoing mouth sores or infections that won’t go away. They can help with treatment and
managing your symptoms. Where to find support
The key to managing HIV is to see your doctor regularly and take your medications. Having
mouth sores may make taking your medication more difficult. Talk to your doctor if you
have any concerns that interfere with your medication. You can also contact the CDC National AIDS
Hotline at 800-232-4636, if you want to talk to someone about your condition. Someone will
pick up your call and be able to offer accurate information about HIV and healthcare obstacles.
They can also share their experiences. Or check out other available hotlines at Project
Inform. There are hotlines for your state, for women, for people with disabilities, and
more. Article resources Email this page Your full name Your email Recipient’s email SEND EMAIL
Your privacy is important to us FEEDBACK: How helpful was it? This article changed my life! This article was informative. I have a medical question. How can we improve it? This article contains incorrect information. This article doesn’t have the information
I’m looking for. I have a medical question.
Medically reviewed by Timothy J. Legg, PhD, CRNP on November 28, 2016 — Written by Kristeen
Cherney top stories GENERAL HEALTH
Going Under Anesthesia May Impact Your Memory DEPRESSION
My Doctor Prescribed Daily HIIT Exercises for My Depression GENERAL HEALTH
Adam Rippon Opens Up About Starving Himself for a Figure Skater’s Body GENERAL HEALTH
Researchers May Have Stumbled Onto a Drug for Oral Herpes MENTAL HEALTH
How Tryptophan Boosts Your Sleep Quality and Mood