Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are tiny fluid-filled blisters that generally form a cluster, usually at the edge of the bottom lip. Before the blisters appear, one may feel itching, tingling, or burning in the area. Eventually, the blisters will pop, form a crust, and disappear in about two to four weeks.
A cold sore is usually caused due to viral infection by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two categories or types of this virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is the basic cause oral cold sores, and HSV-2 mainly is responsible for the sores on the genitals. However, both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause sores on either location if one is exposed to them.
The herpes virus is extremely contagious. It spreads easily through skin contact. The virus can spread in the following ways:
- Oral Sex
- Sharing Towels
- Sharing Razors
- Sharing Eating Utensils
If the virus is present in a body, one can spread the infection even when he is not having symptoms. The virus is even more contagious during an outbreak of the sore or when a cold sore is visible.
Not everyone carrying HSV-1 gets cold sores regularly. One may only get one after the early infection, but the virus still remains in passive condition and hidden in the body forever. Others experience regular outbreaks of cold sores that may be triggered by the following:
- Illness or fever
- Sun exposure
- An immune system deficiency
- Lack of sleep
Treating Cold Sores
Cold sores will generally disappear without treatment in about two to four weeks. But there are a few ways to speed up the healing process.
One can get a prescription from his doctor of antiviral medications. These medications can be taken in pill form, or one can also apply a cream or ointment version. Some are also available over the counter. Medications in the form of pills help to shorten the outbreak time of the sores. ointments and Creams help reduce the austerity of the symptoms.
Antiviral pills include:
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
- Famciclovir (Famvir)
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
The Ointments used to reduce the cold sores include:
- Penciclovir (Denavir)
- Docosanol (Abreva)
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
Other treatments one can use at home include using a cold compress, keeping your lips protected from extensive sun exposure, and applying an over-the-counter cream that has benzocaine or lidocaine for pain relief. In case of any emergency, call your doctor immediately.