Cold sores are small and fluid filled blisters. They are painful. It is caused by a virus. The sores are seen on the mouth, lips and nose. They last for a few days and can be painful during that time. Even though it is caused by a virus, however it is different from other viral infections, as the defences of the human body does not completely eliminate this virus. As a result it often recur.
Causes of cold sore
Cold sore is caused by a virus known as herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV is of two types-type I and type II. Cold sores are generally caused by type I virus.
It's a contagious oral virus. It spreads from one to another, from close contact with the sores such as kissing. It may also spread due to contract with normal skin shedding the virus. The virus may also spread through infected saliva. Most cases of the spreading happens if the person suffering from cold sore has some active blisters like sores.
After the infection, the virus goes into the nerve cells and then goes up to the ganglion through the nerves. The Ganglion is a collection of several nerve cells. The virus stays in a dormant or latent period. When it reaches the active stages, the virus begins multiplication and then gradually travels to the skin through nerves. It causes blisters on the lips.
Recurrence of cold sore happens mainly due to
¢ fever, colds, or the flu
¢ ultraviolet radiation (which can happen due to exposure to the sun);
¢ changes in the immune system;
¢ hormonal changes, such as menstruation; and
¢ Trauma to the skin.
The problem may occur without any apparent cause.
Cold sores recur in the same place each time. It may happen occasionally are often.
Cold sore treatment
Self-care at home
Cold sores are caused by HSV-1 virus and the patient contains the virus. So, if you are suffering from cold sores, you should wash your hands often, especially if you touch the face. Do not share the utensils you use for food with others.
You can also try a home remedy such as cold compresses. It will help you by relieving the pain temporarily. Even though people believe that lysine, an amino acid can help in getting relief from cold sores, however it's not yet proven clinically.
You can try other home remedies, including the use of vitamin E oil, nail polish remover, vitamin supplements etc. to get rid of the cold sores. You may also make changes in your diet to get rid of the cold sore problem.
Several medicines can help by reducing the symptoms of cold sores. Some of them are over-the-counter medicines and some are prescription medicines. There are topical medicines like creams and ointments are available that you can rub directly on the sore. There are some other medicines available in tablet form.
OTC topical medicines
There are several over-the-counter topical medications available which offer relief from the symptoms. They will make you feel better. Topical anaesthetics containing benzocaine (5%-20%), tetracaine (2%) lidocaine (0.5%-4%), or dibucaine (0.25%-1%) are used, which reduce the burning, pain and itching. Lipactin gel and Zilactin are some of such medicines. However, such topical medicines work for a short duration, such as 20 to 30 minutes. You will also find skin protect tens like petrolatum, allantoin, and dimethicone-containing products that will help you to keep the skin moist, which will prevent cracking of the lesions.
You should also use a sunscreen lip balm which will help in prevention of outbreaks in the sun. To get relief from the pain you can use ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol).
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