Cold sores are a beauty nightmare that are difficult to mask. When you have HIV, these recurring sores can pop up on your lips as well as the inside of your mouth. Nicknamed “fever blisters,” these painful sores come in the form of red, raised bumps. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus, and are difficult to treat without medical intervention. Your doctor will likely prescribe an antiviral medication, such as acyclovir, to keep cold sores at bay. Don’t stop taking your prescription medications without a doctor’s orders—when cold sores come back, they tend to be worse and more numerous.
Warts are small bumps that look like cauliflower. HIV can cause these bumps to sprout inside and around the mouth. They are often white, but warts can also be pink or gray. While not painful, warts in the mouth are bothersome. Depending on their location, HIV mouth warts can also be picked at and bleed. No oral medications can get rid of these warts. Instead, they are removed by surgery or prescription creams for the lips.
Also called aphthous ulcers, canker sores are extremely painful mouth lesions. Having HIV makes the sores even more painful, and they often don’t go away on their own. These sores are usually red, but are sometimes covered with a gray or yellow film. Location makes this mouth ailment more painful than cold sores because they develop on the insides of the cheeks and around the tongue. Corticosteroids are recommended to reduce inflammation and get rid of the sores quicker. These medications are available in rinses, but severe cases may require prescription tablet form.