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Cold sores

Cold sores (so called “fever blisters”) are pretty common health condition – it is lip blister or a group of blisters around the mouth which often create uncomfortable and unpleasant pain. Usually after cold sores first appear, they have a tendency to recur frequently in the same spot.

Causes

In most cases cold sores are triggered by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) which is contagious and could be transmitted from person to person by saliva (kisses, direct contacts, using same cups or bottles, using same razors, etc.). Sometimes dental procedures (stretching lips) could occasionally trigger the virus and cold sores. It is not recommended to touch cold sores because infection could be transmitted to other places or to other people.

Cold sores

In many cases this virus (HSV-1) exists in the body inactive – in the nerves of the face. It is well known that several factors could “activate” the virus and initiate cold sores. Risk factors of cold sores include stress (physical, mental and/or emotional), weakened immune system, different diseases, trauma of lips and some other factors.

Patients with sores very often feel sensation of heat, tingling, irritation or itching about 24 hours before a blister appears. In most cases the fluid-filled blister frequently breaks in the first few days and total healing usually takes 5-10 days.

Mentioned health condition called “cold sores” or “fever blisters” because they usually appear when a person has a cold or fever. Very often clinical signals of cold sores appear after sun exposure, stress, emotional discomfort, lip trauma or during hormonal disturbances (menstrual periods, menstrual dysfunctions, etc.).

Symptoms

Cold sores are fluid-filled blisters (single or group of small blisters) which could appear on the lip or around the mouth. Sometimes sores could appear inside the mouth (in cases of medical problems or weakened immune system). Usually the skin around the blisters is red, swollen and sore. Sores break easy themselves and clear fluid could be visible.

Sometimes cold sores are combined with fever, headache, nausea and/or vomiting. In all cases cold sores are unpleasant and sometimes they can be painful.

First signal of cold sores in a very specific feeling – tingling, burning, heating or itching. Second signal of cold sores is lip swelling and redness on isolated area combined by pain. Third signal of cold sores appears after 24 – 48 hours – tiny blister which grow during hours and 1-2 days. After some period (usually 5-10 days) the sores eventually are covered by crusts, which look like scabs.

Diagnosis

It is very easy to recognize cold sores. Your doctor could ask several questions about your health conditions and about factors which could trigger cold sores. Your doctor could also ask about your contacts because cold sores are contagious.

In most cases medical tests are not made but sometimes virus identification could be needed.

Diagnostic criteria could be considered also duration of cold sores stages. In most cases cold sores symptoms last 5-15 days. Cold sores usually crust within 4 days and heal completely within 8 to 10 days.

Prevention

• Avoid direct contacts (kisses, touching, using same cups, etc.) with people who suffer from cold sores time to time;

• Apply sunscreen on your lips, avoid sun exposure and avoid direct UV radiation;
• Avoid cold winds;
• Avoid risk factors which can trigger cold sores – stress, colds, flu and/or unnecessary medications;
• During active cold sores wash your hands much often and avoid virus spreding to other parts of your face and body;
• Keep your lips soft because dry lips are more prone to outbreaks of sores. Use special lip steaks during cold winter;
• Regularly use stress management tools (stress balls, stress thermometer, stress eraser, etc.).

Cold sores causes

Treatment

Market is full of medications for sores – some medicines can help sores heal faster; some can relieve pain and/or discomfort; some can even prevent recurrent sores.

Usually prescribed drugs cannot get rid of the virus but can cure sores. It is recommended to take medicine each time you can feel sore preliminary signals but once you have blisters on your lip, the medicines will not help much.

Local treatment of cold sore also can be very effective.

Prognosis

Cold sores prognosis is positive and negative at the same time. First, HSV-1 infection is a lifelong problem and once you have it, it will stay long. Second, sores are considered a simple disease with not life threatening symptoms.


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