Cold Sores – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

A cold sore is a small blister that is reddish or purple. They are usually on the outer edge of the lip, on just one side. Cold sores can appear one at a time or in little bunches, and they are sometimes filled with fluid. They usually crust over and form a scab before they go away. They last a week or 2 and usually don’t require any special treatment.

What are the symptoms?

The first symptoms of cold sores may include pain around your mouth and on your lips, a fever, a sore throat, or swollen glands in your neck or other parts of the body. Small children sometimes drool before cold sores appear. After the blisters appear, the cold sores usually break open, leak a clear fluid, and then crust over and disappear after several days to 2 weeks. For some people, cold sores can be very painful

Pain or tingling, called the prodrome, often precedes the blisters by one to two days

Usual duration of seven to 10 days

Cold Sore Causes

The virus that causes cold sores is known as the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV, type I and type II. Cold sores are usually caused by type I. Herpes simplex infections are contagious. The virus is spread from person to person by kissing or other close contact with sores or even from contact with apparently normal skin that is shedding the virus.

When someone gets infected with HSV-1, the virus makes its way through the skin and into a group of nerve cells called a ganglion (pronounced: gang-glee-in). The virus moves in here, takes a long snooze, and every now and then decides to wake up and cause a cold sore. But not everyone who gets the herpes simplex virus develops cold sores.

How can I prevent them?

Preventing recurrences involves avoiding those things known to trigger cold sores. So, make sure you always wear a lip balm containing UV protection and avoid sources of stress.

How are cold sores diagnosed?

A combination of the patient’s medical history and the appearance of the sores will usually be sufficient for a diagnosis. A scrape or a blood sample can be used to confirm it.

Cold Sores Treatment

Free Dermatology CME for Family Physicians

Most cold sores will clear up on their own after 7-10 days. Most treatment options are focused on reducing the discomfort and pain associated with cold sores and reducing the length of the outbreak. Some treatment options may even help prevent cold sore blisters from forming.

Reduce the number of lesions developed if taken soon enough

Reduce the size of lesions developed if taken soon enough

Reduce the amount of viral shedding