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Herpes simplex infection of the mouth and face, known as orofacial herpes simplex, herpes labialis, cold sores, or fever blisters, is a common, recurrent skin condition associated with infection by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV infections occur in people of all races, of all ages, and of both sexes.Increasing age is associated with increased likelihood of infection.
The most common locations for HSV-1 infections include: Lips Mouth (including gums, tongue, roof of mouth, and inside the cheeks) Nose Chin Cheeks Shortly after exposure to the virus, a newly infected person may develop fluid-filled blisters, occurring singly or in a cluster of several blisters. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help reduce fever, muscle aches, and pain caused by cold sores. This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here. What You Need to KnowCold sores are proof that life can be unfair: Some people get them, others don't.
Yes, four out of five people have the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which causes those cold-sore blisters you sometimes see around people's lips. Oral herpes is more common than the other, sexually transmitted type: HSV-2, the dreaded genital herpes. Perhaps more troubling than the high infection rate for genital herpes is the fact that 85 percent of infected individuals don't know they have it [source: HerpesOnline].
It seems like it would be tough to miss the genital sores that characterize an HSV-2 flare-up and so avoid spreading the virus. In this article, we'll find out precisely how herpes spreads and why extraordinary caution is required if you or your partner has or might have the disease.
Chances are, if you have herpes, you contracted it when your partner was having a flare-up. Orofacial HSV usually appears as small blisters or sores around the mouth, nose, genitals, and buttocks, though infections can develop almost anywhere on the skin.
Up to 80% of Americans are infected with HSV-1 by the time they are 30 years old.Only 20% of people who are infected with HSV actually develop visible blisters or sores. These blisters may be yellow to gray and are fragile, so that many people never notice blisters but instead see tiny open sores (ulcers). Seek medical advice as soon as possible, especially if you are at risk for more serious complications. On occasion, however, a swab from the infected skin may be sent to the laboratory for viral culture, which takes a few days to grow. Besides being itchy and painful, cold sores (also called fever blisters) make you feel self-conscious.
It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances.
According to the CDC, just over 16 percent of Americans have genital herpes, primarily characterized by blisters, which then break and become sores, around any or all genital areas, including vagina, penis, anus, and buttocks [source: CDC]. With a virus that's pretty easily spread via both sexual intercourse and oral sex, that's problematic, to say the least. We'll also check out some practices that can reduce the likelihood of passing it on or contracting it. In addition to the indignity of wearing a bulging, weepy blister on your lip, sufferers also must contend with the stigma of its source: HSV-1, a type of herpes simplex virus. Furthermore, these cold sores may periodically come back in the same sites.Infections with HSV are very contagious and are spread by direct contact with the skin lesions. That means that approximately 80% of people with HSV infections have not been diagnosed and are unaware of their condition.
Blood tests may also be performed.Untreated HSV infections will go away on their own, but medications can reduce the symptoms and shorten the duration of outbreaks.


It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. HSV-1 spreads like wildfire among kids -- it's passed by the briefest skin-to-skin contact, as simple as one HSV-carrying child touching a sore and then another kid in class. But unlike HSV-2, the virus that usually causes genital herpes, cold sores are not usually sexually transmitted (though they can be).
There are 2 types of HSV: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. HSV-1 infections usually occur around the mouth, lips, nose, or face, while HSV-2 infections usually involve the genitals or buttocks. Adam Friedman, director of dermatologic research at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York.
Because it so contagious, HSV causes a primary infection in most people who are exposed to the virus. In severe cases of HSV infection, cold sores may involve the entire lining of the mouth and both lips. They're caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), passed on through contact with infected skin or body fluids. However, only about 20% of people who are infected with HSV actually develop visible blisters or sores. These severe infections may be accompanied by fever, sore throat, foul breath, and difficulty eating.Repeat (recurrent) HSV infections are often milder than the primary infection, though they look alike. However, some people never develop the symptoms of a primary HSV infection and may mistake a recurrent infection for a primary infection. The hardy virus, which stays in your body your whole life, survives by moving up the sensory nerves after initial infection and vacationing in nerve bundles, where immune cells can't find and destroy it.
Triggers such as stress, fatigue, sun exposure, picking at your lip or having a cold or the flu can reactivate some infected cells, which travel back to the initial infection site to cause a new outbreak. Nevertheless, the virus remains in the body, hibernating in nerve cells.Certain triggers can cause the hibernating (latent) virus to wake up, become active, and travel back to the skin.
These recurrent HSV infections may develop frequently (every few weeks), or they may never develop. Who Gets Cold Sores and WhyMore than half of us have been infected with the HSV-1 virus, usually from well-meaning kisses from relatives or romantic partners. Cullen and fellow researchers hope to find a way to disrupt the processes that keep the virus latent, so that they can coax it out of hiding all at once and ambush it with medication. Recurrent infections tend to be milder than primary infections and generally occur in the same location as the primary infection.Most people get cold sores as children, through contact with a friend or family member who is already infected with HSV. It can be spread (transmitted) by kissing, sharing eating utensils or drinking vessels, or by using the same towel. HSV-1 has been implicated in a number of diseases, including Alzheimer's, though that link is disputed. Prevention and treatment Though the virus is most contagious during an outbreak, when the virus is "shedding," it's also possible to transmit when no outbreak is visible.
According to a study published in 2008 in an oral medicine journal, at least 70 percent of people with HSV-1 shed asymptomatically at least once a month. Many people have familiar triggers that tend to bring HSV-1 out of seclusion, causing cold sores. Friedman recommends keeping your mouth away from others when you feel a cold sore coming, during the outbreak and for a few days after it goes away.
That includes oral sex, as HSV-1 can be transmitted from mouth to genitals (HSV-2 also can be transmitted from genitals to mouth).


Some people get cold sores twice a year; for others, it's a frustrating, stressful, monthly ritual. Taking prescription antivirals such as acyclovir (Zovirax) or valacyclovir (Valtrex) can reduce healing time or prevent a blister from forming at all, clinical trials have shown. Canker Sores Aren't the SameCold sores usually appear on the lip; canker sores affect the inside of the mouth.
It's best to attack during the "prodrome" stage, when many people feel tingling or itching at the infection site, or have flulike symptoms, before a blister appears. Friedman suggests applying ice at the first hint of a cold sore, holding it against the infected site for no more than 15 minutes, to reduce swelling. You might also soak a cotton ball in whole milk and hold it against the sore for 10 to 15 minutes daily, Friedman said.
Finally, cover a blister with a thick emollient such as petroleum jelly to speed healing and protect the wound from bacteria, Friedman said. When You're ContagiousA cold sore is caused by skin damage as the herpes virus reproduces inside infected cells. Cold sores are most contagious when blisters are present and just after they break open, until the skin is completely healed and looks normal again.
But some people can transmit the virus through their saliva at any time, even if they never get cold sores. The cold sore virus is usually present on an infected person's lip, even if there's no obvious sore.
Because HSV-1 can also live in saliva, sharing kitchen utensils or drinking glasses can also spread it. Easing Cold Sore PainWhile the first outbreak can last up to 2 weeks, recurrent outbreaks usually last about 1 week.
There is no cure for cold sores, but some over-the-counter creams and gels can help with burning and pain. Antiviral CreamsAntiviral creams can reduce the time it takes a cold sore to heal if applied at the first sign of a cold sore. Prescription Cold Sore MedicationsOral antiviral prescription medications can also reduce the amount of healing time when taken at the first sign of a cold sore -- red or itchy skin, for example.
Another one, a single-dose acyclovir tablet (Sitavig), is put directly on your gums and releases medicine as it dissolves.
They are not as common, but cold sores can appear anywhere on the face, including on the cheek, chin, or nose. Can You Spread It on Your Body?It's possible, though rare, to spread the cold sore virus from one part of the body to another. It can happen by touching a cold sore, then touching an area of broken skin or a mucous membrane, the moist protective lining of skin found in areas like the eyes or vagina.
You can prevent this self-spread -- or autoinoculation -- by washing your hands and not touching the cold sore. When Herpes Infects the EyeOther areas the cold sore virus can infect are the finger (herpetic whitlow) and the eye (ocular herpes). When kids get herpetic whitlow, it's usually because they've spread the virus from a cold sore by finger- or thumb-sucking.
Preventing OutbreaksIt can be tough to prevent cold sores, but reducing your triggers can help.



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