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Herpes Simplex

If you have ever had a red sore appear on or near your lips, with or with­out blis­ters, that some­times forms a crust, chances are, you may have had a cold sore. Cold sores are caused by the Her­pes Sim­plex Virus (HSV), which is high­ly con­ta­gious and is spread by direct con­tact with the skin and mucous mem­branes. Infec­tion with HSV can com­mon­ly hap­pen dur­ing infan­cy and ear­ly child­hood sim­ply by putting, shared toys, etc. in the mouth.

After the ini­tial infec­tion heals, the virus becomes a per­ma­nent part of the genet­ic mate­r­i­al of the cell. It is because of this that cold sores con­tin­ue to pop up from time to time. There is no per­ma­nent cure. The virus may be reac­ti­vat­ed by many fac­tors includ­ing stress, com­mon colds, fevers, hor­mon­al fluc­tu­a­tions, sun expo­sure, immuno­sup­pres­sion, trau­ma, and tem­per­a­ture extremes.

Many peo­ple often report a sen­sa­tion of pain, burn­ing, or itch­ing in the affect­ed area pri­or to the actu­al break­out. Lesions may be red, ten­der, and from ulcers with small blis­ters, and some­times crust over. HSV infec­tion most com­mon­ly occurs on or near the lips, but can hap­pen any­where on the face in the place of infec­tion, or less com­mon­ly, on the body. Dur­ing times of active out­breaks it is rec­om­mend­ed to avoid con­tact of the lesion with oth­ers (for exam­ple, kiss­ing, touch­ing, etc.) to pre­vent spread­ing the virus to oth­ers as this is when the virus is most contagious.

Peo­ple who expe­ri­ence out­breaks very infre­quent­ly may not choose to be treat­ed, how­ev­er there are a few over-the-counter treat­ments avail­able that may lessen dis­com­fort and assist with heal­ing. If you expe­ri­ence fre­quent break­outs (once or more per month), you may wish to seek pre­scrip­tion treat­ment. There are top­i­cal antivi­ral creams avail­able that may pro­vide relief as well as sev­er­al oral antivi­ral med­ica­tions that can pro­vide dai­ly sup­pres­sive ther­a­py as well as episod­ic treat­ment for the lesions. When used prop­er­ly, oral antivi­ral med­ica­tions can decrease the sever­i­ty of the out­break and short­en the dura­tion of one.