Ulcers in the mouth start off as a sore and are common symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases like HIV, herpes, syphilis, HPV and gonorrhea.

Herpes simplex

Herpes simplex viruses are very contagious for humans. There are two types of the virus: oral herpes simplex (HSV-1) and genital herpes simplex (HSV-2). Both may cause ulcers of the mouth depending on the mode of sexual intercourse that took place.

The virus is spread from one person to another through sexual intercourse even without the presence of sores. Apart from sexual intercourse, kissing, and sharing personal effects like toothbrushes with an infected person can transmit the virus.

How to identify herpetic mouth ulcers

Injuries to the mouth from herpes simplex can be located on the lips, the tissue of the hard palate (the front of the mouth) and gum tissue surrounding the teeth. They appear as small blisters within 2 to 12 days of contracting the herpes simplex virus. The blisters can rupture and join together becoming larger sores.

Herpes cannot be cured. Treatment involves symptom relief. Herpes symptoms will recur at a later stage (especially in HSV-2) when the immune system is weakened; often it affects the same areas where the initial symptoms occurred. In HIV positive patients, these sores tend to recur more often because the immune system is compromised. Symptoms accompanying herpetic sores are:

  • Fever.
  • General body weakness.
  • Joint pain.
  • Bodily discomfort.
  • Difficulty eating and drinking.
  • Pain in the affected areas.


Syphilis is caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Syphilis has been on the rise globally over the past years. The rise of syphilis is mainly between men who have sex with men.

White, yellow, green, and brown vaginal discharge

Thought is that the rising popularity of dating apps over the past years might have had an influence on the rising STD cases. Engaging in casual sexual relationships has become more common.

Identifying syphilitic mouth ulcer

Syphilis mimics the symptoms of other diseases. In almost all new oral syphilis cases, sores that appear on the mouth are found on the lips. They are called chancres. Chancres show up within 1 to 3 weeks of contracting syphilis. A chancre doesn’t cluster with others, like herpes would present itself; it appears singly on the lips of both males and females.

A chancre is colored red, purple or brown and is deeply embedded in the affected area. It is usually painless, round and firm. The chancre heals within 3-6 weeks, but the infection is still active. In this first stage the syphilis patient is most contagious.

Syphilitic ulcers can get complicated and may affect other areas of the mouth apart from the lips. The complication is common with untreated syphilis that has evolved into the secondary and tertiary stages.


The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a very common and highly contagious virus. There are more than 100 HPV types, each affecting different parts of the body.  HPV is mainly spread by vaginal, anal and oral sex. There is also evidence that HPV can be spread by skin-to-skin contact. HPV can survive outside of the host and is resistant to heat and drying.

Oral HPV is often asymptomatic, but it can cause lesions in the mouth/throat and even the nose.

6 reasons of vaginal discharge

Identifying oral HPV

The lesions indicative of human papillomavirus infection are most often squamous papilloma, a white colored type of wart. Symptoms that might accompany HPV lesions include:

  • Swelling of the mouth
  • Persistent earaches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Throat pain and difficulty swallowing


Gonorrhea is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. Gonorrhea can affect the genital area, the throat and the rectum. Oral contact with the pus-like fluid containing the bacteria present on the genitals, anus, or rectum, can cause oral gonorrhea. Oral gonorrhea ulcers may present as white spots in the mouth. Very often the only symptom is a sore (burning) throat, which could also be the indication of something else.


HIV compromises the immune system. Between 32-46% of HIV positive persons will develop outbreaks of oral sores and ulcers.