Overview of cold sores
Cold sores additionally called fever blisters are a typical viral disease. They are little, liquid-filled blisters nearby your lips. Often these blisters are grouped in patches. After the blisters break, a crust forms that can last for several days. Cold sores usually heal within two to three weeks without leaving a scar.
Cold sores are spread from person to person through close contacts, such as kissing. It is usually caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), and the less common type 2 herpes simplex virus (HSV-2). Both of these viruses can affect your mouth or genitals and can be spread through oral sex. Cold sores are contagious even if you don’t see them.
There is no cure for cold sores, but treatment can help control their outbreak. Prescription antiviral tablets or creams can help the sores heal more quickly. It may reduce the frequency, length, and severity of future outbreaks.
Cold sores are brought about by the herpes simplex infection. There are two kinds of herpes simplex infection. The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) usually causes cold sores, and the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) usually causes genital herpes.
The actual sores are similar in appearance to both forms of the virus. It is also possible for HSV-1 to cause genital ulcers and HSV-2 to cause mouth ulcers.
Visible cold sores are contagious, but they may spread even when they cannot be seen. You can become infected with the herpes simplex virus through contact with infected individuals. This may occur through kissing, sharing beautifying agents, or sharing food. Oral sex might spread both cold sores and genital herpes.
Once infected with the herpes simplex virus, it cannot be cured but it can be managed. Once the sores have healed, the virus remains dormant in your body. This means that new sores can appear at any time when the virus is reactivated.
Some people with the virus report frequent outbreaks when their immune systems are weak, such as during illness or times of stress.
Cold sores symptoms
Cold sores often appear on the outside of your mouth and lips, but you can also affect your nose and cheeks.
You may develop cold sores up to 20 days after you become infected. The sore may appear near where the virus entered your body.
Cold sores occur in stages:
- Feeling of tingling, burning, or itching.
- After about 12 to 24 hours, blisters form. The area becomes red, swollen, and painful.
- The blisters break open and the fluid comes out. This usually lasts two or three days.
- A crust forms over the sore. It may crack or bleed.
- Scabies falls off.
You may also experience redness, swollen gums, swollen glands in your neck, fever, or muscle aches.
It can cause an infection for the first time, too:
- Burning and pain inside your mouth
- Sore throat
- Pain when swallowing
- Upset stomach
People with frequent outbreaks can control them at home by recognizing the signs and using medications.
However, consult a healthcare provider if Cold sores occur:
- Symptoms are severe.
- The sore does not start to heal within 10 days.
- Gums swell.
- The person has a weak immune system.
- Other symptoms cause anxiety.
A doctor can usually diagnose the problem by looking at symptoms and performing a visual examination, but in some cases – such as if a person has a weakened immune system – they may also order a blood test or take a sample of the sore fluid for testing.
Some of the factors that can weaken the immune system include HIV, post-transplant medications, some types of cancer, and some cancer treatments.
Cold sores usually go away on their own without treatment within 7 to 10 days
However, antiviral creams are available from pharmacies without a prescription. If used properly, it can help relieve symptoms and speed up recovery time.
To be effective, these remedies must be applied as soon as the first signs of a cold sore appear – when you feel a tingling, itchy, or burning sensation around your mouth. Using an antiviral cream after this initial period is unlikely to have a significant effect.
Cold sore patches are likewise accessible that contain hydrocolloid gel, which is a viable treatment for skin wounds. The patch is placed on the cold sore until it has healed.
Antiviral tablets may be prescribed for severe cases.
Cold sores are an irritating issue for the vast majority who get them, yet they improve with no particular treatment. In any case, in individuals with certain kinds of immunosuppression, (for example, individuals going through chemotherapy, or taking high portions of corticosteroids, for example, prednisolone), Cold sores can spread all the more broadly and symptoms can be more severe. Medication may be required in these situations.
Include uncommon complications that require medical attention:
- Bacterial infection: Possible symptoms include redness around the blisters, pus in the blisters, and a fever
- Cold sores that spread to the eyes, fingers, or other parts of the body: A cold sore in the eye causes red-eye pain. Immediate medical attention should be sought because the herpes virus causes a corneal ulcer that can damage eyesight. However, permanent damage can usually be prevented with early treatment, including medications to suppress the virus. Other more common causes of red eye pain also require a medical review.
To avoid contracting HSV-1, the following precautions should be taken for people with cold sores:
- Avoid kissing, intimate contact, and oral sex with someone who has a cold sore.
- Do not share towels, razors, plates, cutlery, straws, lip balms, or lipstick.
- Wash your hands before touching your lips, eyes, or genitals.
If you have already been exposed to HSV-1, do so to reduce the risk of a cold sore spreading:
- Try to stay healthy: A fever can lead to a cold sore, which is why it is sometimes called a fever blister.
- Get enough rest: Fatigue weakens your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to disease.
- Apply a lip balm with SPF: Protecting your lips from sunburn can help you avoid outbreaks.
- If you have a cold sore, be careful with children. Always wash your hands and do not kiss the child until the cold sore has completely healed.
Most people who get cold sores learn to live with and deal with their spread. In healthy people, cold sores usually clear up within 1-2 weeks and have no lasting effects. However, cold sores can cause life-threatening infections in young children, the immunocompromised, and those with eczema.