Cold sores are caused by a virus infection. Specifically, cold sores – also known as fever blisters – are caused by the HSV-1 virus. Cold sores shouldn’t be confused with genital herpes. Genital herpes is usually caused by the HSV-2 virus, while oral herpes is usually caused by the HSV-1 virus.
Difference between the cold sore and genital herpes
The two forms of herpes (oral and genital) are essentially the same. The viruses are more similar than different. The main difference between the two organisms is that the HSV-1 virus is more likely to infect the mouth and the HSV-2 virus is more likely to infect the genitals. The DNA of both types of herpes viruses is almost identical. Therefore, there is no good or bad herpes virus. There just seems to be a social stigma associated with genital herpes while oral herpes has no social stigma attached. The infections are essentially the same, just located in different places.
Description of a cold sore
Cold sores are most commonly seen on the outer lip. Oftentimes, they are usually located on the corner of the lip, on the upper or lower lip, and inside of the nostrils. Though, cold sores are most often found on the outside of the mouth, they can also appear on the inner side of the lips, on the inside of the cheeks and on the roof of the mouth. Some people may confuse cold sores with genital herpes; they are not the same – Cold sores and genital herpes are caused by different forms of the herpes virus. Cold sores are very common; most people have had the HSV-1 virus since they were children. The virus may remain dormant until an individual becomes immunosuppressed for some reason.
Symptoms of a cold sore
The symptoms of cold sores could include sore throat, swollen glands, and flu-like symptoms. The individual may feel like he/she is getting a cold or flu. Cold sores are usually a bit uncomfortable. They can be painful and annoying, because you can’t help by notice them. Most often, pain is the chief complaint associated with cold sores. The pain becomes more severe when the lesion begins to crust over. Movement of the mouth (from eating or talking) can cause cracking to occur, which is very painful. Quite often, individuals will aggravate the discomfort associated with cold sores, just by constantly touching them with the tongue or fingers.
Causes of cold sores
Cold sores are extremely contagious. The HSV-1 virus can be transferred from one individual to another by direct and indirect contact. If you have a cold sore, you should refrain from kissing. The virus can also be transmitted by using someone else’s toothbrush. Never let anyone share your toothbrush. If you have cold sores, it is important to pay special attention to hand washing. If you touch something that has the virus on it, and then touch your lip or mouth, you can transfer the virus from an object to yourself. The lesions are likely to be present for about 14 days. They will eventually heal and not return until another outbreak of the virus.
There is no cure for cold sores. The Herpes Simplex Virus usually stays within the body in a dormant state until it is set free by a weakened immune system. You may only get outbreaks once in a while, or you may suffer from cold sores quite frequently. The frequency of your outbreaks largely depends on the overall health of your immune system.
Your doctor may suggest you get a lip balm such as HerPex. Using this lip balm seems to relieve the painful symptoms of the lesions; it seems to promote healing of the lesions also. Your doctor may also suggest that you go to the vitamin section of your pharmacy to get a product called Lysine. Lysine is an essential amino acid that can be taken to help to prevent breakouts of the virus.
Personal experience with cold sores