Cold sores are a common viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). It is characterized by the presence of clusters of small fluid-filled blisters on the lips and around the mouth area. The blisters eventually burst open and a crusty scab forms over them. The sores, also called fever blisters, typically heal within two to four weeks and are unlikely to scar.
The virus that causes cold sores is closely related to HSV-2, which causes genital herpes. Both cold sores and genital herpes may be present on either the mouth or genitals and are spread through close physical contact like kissing or oral sex.
The presence of oozing blisters is a good indication that cold sores are contagious. However, the condition can be spread even when no blisters or sores are present. In addition to close physical contact, it is possible to spread the virus through the sharing of utensils, towels, or razors. Of the worldwide population, approximately 90 percent of adults test positive for the HSV-1 virus. Most of them show no symptoms and never actually develop cold sores.
A day or two before the sores are visible, affected individuals report a sensation of burning, itching, or tingling. A group of small blisters arise, eventually merging and bursting. The fluid that oozes out forms a crust over the sores and they typically remain for several weeks. The first time an outbreak occurs, it may be accompanied by fever, sore throat, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, and painful gum erosion.
Once the HSV-1 virus has been contracted, it never goes away and lies dormant in the skin’s nerve cells. Certain triggers may cause repeated cold-sore flare-ups in the same location. Common triggers include stress, fatigue, premenstrual hormonal changes, immune-system challenges, viral infections, and fever. Exposure to sunlight and wind have also been associated with outbreaks.
Complications are likely to develop in those with compromised immune symptoms. This includes patients with HIV/AIDS, those who are undergoing chemotherapy for cancer or have been prescribed anti-rejection drugs for organ transplants. In rare cases, the infection may spread to the fingertips, eyes, spinal cord, or brain. People with eczema may experience a spread of cold sores to other areas of their body, resulting in a possible medical emergency.
Although there is no cure for HSV infection, the condition can be managed with the use of antiviral medication which helps the sores to heal quickly and may reduce the frequency of reoccurrence. At Fusion Rx, our pharmacists can recommend the best treatment options.
We can make creams, ointments, gels, oral suspensions, or capsules of the following:
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