Can an FSA treat canker sores or cold sores?

Canker sores and cold sores are common health issues for American adults.If you have a flexible spending account (FSA), it can cover a huge selection of canker/cold sore treatments at, but understanding the nature of these conditions is invaluable in helping you alleviate them.

Let's dive into the major differences between canker sores and cold sores.

Canker Sores

A canker sore are small, painful ulcers on the inside of the mouth, tongue, lips or throat that are usually white or yellowish and surrounded by red, inflamed soft tissue. Canker sores share some of the same symptoms as and are often confused with cold sores, but as opposed to the latter, canker sores are not contagious and cannot be spread between two individuals.

Canker sores take on two different forms, simple and complex cankers. Simple canker sores will emerge about three to four times each year, and while they can be painful and inhibit an individual's ability to talk, simple canker sores will typically clear up in a week or two after the use of topical treatments.

While the direct cause of canker sores is still not known, physicians theorize that these mouth sores can emerge due to stress, tissue injury or even an excessive amount of acidic foods (oranges, lemons, tomatoes) that can damage soft tissues in the mouth.

Treatment Methods: Most canker sores will heal on their own, but more advanced sores can be treated with over-the-counter and prescription products (pastes, gels, creams, etc.) that may relieve pain and speed healing to individual sores if applied as soon as they appear. Oral steroid medications are considered a last resort, and some doctors may recommend dietary changes and nutritional supplements to fill dietary gaps that may contribute to canker sore flare-ups.

Cold Sores

Cold sores are a more advanced viral infection that is spread from person to person through close contact, most often by kissing. Cold sores are the result of a herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), which is closely related to the virus that causes genital herpes (HSV-2). These sores are known for their tiny, fluid-filled blisters that form on or around the lips that typically crust over and heal afterward. These blisters often group together in patches, but they will usually heal within two to four weeks without treatment.

It's vital for cold sore sufferers to know that the herpes virus can be spread from person to person, even if the sores aren't present on the skin. There is no cure for cold sores and they will continually re-occur over the course of a person's lifetime. In addition to being spread from person to person, cold sore sufferers can even spread the virus to other parts of their body, including fingertips, eyes, large patches of skin and even internal organs.

Treatment Methods: While there is no direct cure for cold sores, antiviral drugs have been known to speed up the recovery process, and even reduce the frequency of cold sore flare-ups. Popular antivirals to treat cold sores including Acyclovir, Valacyclovir, Famciclovir and Penciclovir, which are available in both topical creams and pills.

Shop for canker sore relief at (Please note: these items will require a prescription for FSA reimbursement)

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