What Are Cold Sores?
A cold sore is a blister on the lip or around the mouth. This blister is usually swollen, red and inflamed, and can be painful. Other names are oral herpes, mouth herpes, herpes simplex labialis or a fever blister. These lesions can appear alone, or in small clusters, and when they break, a clear fluid often leaks and then the blister will scab over. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus, known as HSV and can appear around the mouth, as well as in the genital region. In the United States, more than 50 percent of adults have oral herpes, which is typically due to herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). A closely related herpes simplex virus, HSV-2, causes most cases of genital herpes. But either HSV-1 or HSV-2 can cause a cold sore on the mouth area or in the genital region. Unfortunately, this condition is highly contagious and can be transmitted very easily when the infected area is touched. Cold sores are easy to diagnose and treatment by our board-certified dermatologists will ensure they are cleared up fast and effectively.
Understanding Cold Sores
Some individuals, who have the herpes simplex virus, may never get a cold sore or fever blister. However, the virus that causes the cold sores cannot be cured so once an individual is infected with the virus, it stays in the body for the rest of their life. While some may never show symptoms, others will have cold sores or blisters appear unexpectedly or without much warning. Those who have been infected should adhere to the following protocol to help prevent ongoing or unexpected breakouts:
- Avoid things that trigger cold sores, two most common are fatigue and UV light.
- Always use lip balm with spf to keep your lips moist and protected
- Wear sunscreen as too much sun exposure can cause blisters to flair-up
- Do not share items that could spread the virus, such as lipstick, razors, straws, toothbrushes, etc.
- Wash your hands often
- Discuss how often you have breakouts so that you can be assessed for oral medication to prevent future outbreaks
Those diagnosed with HSV-1 should communicate to their partners that they carry this virus so that their partner can be made aware. Kissing and saliva exchange is one of the most common ways to transmit this condition. Our expert dermatologists will educate you on both types herpes simplex virus and treat you appropriately.
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How to Treat Cold Sores
Cold sores usually go away on their own within a few days. However, if they are visible on the lip or near the mouth, this can be embarrassing, and also painful. Our dermatology office can assist to speed up the healing process by prescribing antibiotics, skin creams, and ointments. Treatment by a dermatologist can help speed up the healing faster, but often it just takes time. There are numerous over-the-counter ointments that have proven to be effective as well. If you get cold sores often, we will discuss treatment options based on outbreak frequency and severity.
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Getting a cold sore is never fun, and at Snyder Dermatology in Austin, TX, we understand you want it controlled fast and effectively. We will work with you to diagnose the condition and then create a treatment plan so that future outbreaks are kept to a minimum. Call our office to learn more and schedule your appointment with one of our board-certified dermatologists.