What are cold sores?
Cold sores are red, fluid-filled blisters which are generally seen near the mouth or on other areas of the face. In some cases these blisters are seen on the fingers, nose or inside the mouth. They are generally seen together in patches. They may stay for two weeks or longer. Herpes simplex virus is the main cause of cold sores. They may spread from one person to another. They are contagious even when they are not visible.
Causes of cold sores
It is caused by herpes simplex virus. This virus has two types. The herpes simplex type 1 virus (HSV-1) usually causes cold sores and herpes simplex type 2 virus (HSV-2) causes genital herpes. Even though sores from both the viruses are similar in form and appearance, they are two distinct types of viruses. However, it is possible for HSV-1 to cause genital sores and HSV-2 to cause cold sores on the mouth.
If you come into contact with an infected individual, you may get infected with the virus. Kissing, sharing cosmetics or sharing food can easily spread the virus from one individual to another. Oral sex may help in spreading both cold sores and genital herpes.
Reinfection is a problem that people who suffer from cold sores often experience. This problem may reoccur. The virus remains dormant in your body and so whenever it reactivates itself, new sores may appear at any time. Some people who suffer from this problem may experience more frequent outbreaks if their immune systems are weak. During illness or times of stress reinfection may become easier and more difficult to control.
Symptoms of cold sores
There will be tingling or burning sensation on the lips of face several days before development of cold sores. This is the time when you should start your treatment. After formation of the sores you will find a raised, red blister which is full of fluid. The blister is tender to the touch and painful. The sores may stay for up to 2 weeks. It will be contagious until the sores crust over. The first infection and visible symptoms may not show up after 20 days after you contract the virus.
Some other common symptoms that people suffering from cold sores experience are fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes etc.
You should meet your doctor immediately if you see any eye symptoms while suffering from a cold sore outbreak. Infections resulting from herpes simplex virus can lead to permanent vision loss if you do not treat them at the right time. So, it is very important for you to talk to your doctor to ensure that you do not suffer from a permanent problem.
Stages of cold sores
There are five stages through which a cold sore infection goes through. These days is include
- Stage one: Tingling and itching occurs about 24 hours before blisters erupt.
- Stage two: Fluid-filled blisters appear.
- Stage three: The blisters burst, ooze, and form painful sores.
- Stage four: The sores dry out and scab over causing itching and cracking.
- Stage five: The scab falls off and the cold sore heals.
Risk factors of cold sore
There are certain risk factors which may increase the possibility of suffering from cold sores. These risk factors include-
- infection, fever, or a cold
- sun exposure
- HIV/AIDS or a weakened immune system
- severe burns
- dental work