Cold sores are blisters on the lips or around the mouth caused by herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and occasionally by herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). Unlike canker sores, which happen inside the mouth, cold sores are contagious.
Cold sores are painful blisters that develop on the lips or around the mouth after a individual has turn out to be infected with the herpes simplex virus. The herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) that generally causes cold sores is related to the herpes simplex virus (HSV-2), that typically causes genital herpes but can also trigger cold sores.
People who become infected with HSV-1 develop cold sores within twenty days of infection, although some might develop symptoms sooner. The first episode of infection (called the primary infection) may not have any symptoms or may trigger two to three weeks of fever and blisters/sores both in and around the mouth. In most cases, the recurrence of symptoms is preceded by a prodrome, or period of warning symptoms before the main phase of the illness.
The prodrome of cold sores usually consists of a tingling, itching, or burning sensation that starts one or two days before the blisters appear. The area of skin where the blisters will erupt may swell up, turn red, and be sore to the touch. The sores themselves last for about a week after they erupt. They appear most commonly on the lips or the region of skin between the upper lip and the nose. The blisters are little and thin-walled, filled with a clear fluid, and become sores after a number of days. The HSV-1 virus is shed in the fluid from the sores and could be transmitted to other people if they come in contact with the blisters. This is the stage in the development of cold sores when the infection is most contagious.
After a few days, the ulcers form a yellow crust that eventually drops off, leaving an region of pinkish skin underneath. There's no permanent scar from a cold sore. Individuals who get cold sores might have one or two recurrences per year, although some have an outbreak every month and some by no means have relapses.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 80 percent of individuals in the United States are infected with HSV-1. Most acquire the infection as children from contact with oral fluids from an infected person. Infection with the virus is thought to be equally common in both sexes and all races and ethnic groups. People with weakened immune systems, like patients being treated for cancer or HIV infection, are at increased risk of getting cold sores if they are exposed to HSV-1.
The trigger of cold sores is usually herpes simplex virus 1 or HSV-1, although occasionally type 2 might cause the process. The virus enters the body through tiny breaks in the tissues lining the mouth, which is one reason it can effortlessly be spread by kissing or by sharing drinking glasses along with other food utensils. HSV-1 then lies dormant in the cells of the nervous system until it's activated by stress, an upper respiratory infection, or some other trigger.
It then travels back down the nerves to the skin surface, usually in the same area of skin each time. HSV-2 oral infection generally doesn't have recurrences. The symptoms of cold sores have already been described. In most instances, people do not need to see the doctor for ordinary cold sores. They should, nevertheless, make an appointment if they have any of the following symptoms or conditions:
Most people can tell regardless of whether they have cold sores by the way they feel and where they appear. If essential, the patient's physician can run a blood test to tell regardless of whether the individual is infected with HSV-1. The virus can also be cultured from the blister fluid or the sore.
There's no permanent cure for HSV-1 infection. After a individual is infected with the virus, it hides within nerve cells, making it difficult for the immune system to find and destroy it. HSV-1 remains in the body, so that cold sores can reappear at any time. Recurrences of oral herpes could be triggered by a number of factors, including getting the flu or a cold, not getting enough sleep, having dental work or oral surgery, getting traveler's diarrhea, menstruation, emotional tension, an injury to the mouth or lips, or exposure to the sun for lengthy periods of time. The connection between colds and flu in reactivating HSV-1 is the reason why oral herpes is commonly known as cold sore or fever blister.
The very best time to begin treating cold sores is during the prodromal stage before the blisters appear. The doctor can prescribe an antiviral medication to shorten the length of the outbreak and reduce discomfort. Other treatments that can be used are topical anesthetics applied directly to the sores, and aspirin, Advil, or Tylenol to bring down fever. Some people also find that ice applied to the blisters helps to relieve discomfort.
Most instances of cold sores heal with out long-term problems; nevertheless, HSV-1 can cause an eye infection that may lead to permanent blindness if fluid from the sores gets into the eyes. For this reason it is essential for people with cold sores to steer clear of scratching or squeezing the blisters.
The NIH recommends the following measures to lower the risk of spreading HSV-1 to other parts of the body or to other individuals, and to lower the frequency of recurrences.
Cold sores are likely to continue to be a typical health problem in the general population. Although researchers are working on vaccines against both HSV-1 and HSV-2, an effective vaccine against either herpes virus is a minimum of several years away.
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