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All About Cold Sores

Written and reviewed by
FCPS (SKIN & VD), MD (Skin & VD), DDV (SKIN &VD), MBBS
Dermatologist, Mumbai  •  15 years experience
All About Cold Sores

Cold sores alternatively known as fever blisters is a viral infection, which usually occurs around the mouth.They occur in patches and heal within 2 to 4 weeks usually without leaving behind any scars. Cold sores are contagious and can be spread from person to person via close contact. Read on more to find all about them.

Symptoms
Usually, cold sores passes through multiple stages
1. Tingling and itching: People usually experience a tingling, burning sensation around the lips prior to blisters, which may appear within a day or two after such a sensation.
2. Blisters: These blisters are small, filled with fluids and usually break out along the border of the skin and the lips. They can also occur around the nose or cheeks.
3. Oozing and crusting: The blisters have a tendency to burst which leaves shallow open sores which then usually crust over.

Some other symptoms, which accompany cold sores are fever, headache, sore throat, muscle aches and swollen lymph nodes.

Causes

Strands of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) typically cause cold sores. In some instances HSV-2 can also cause cold sores. Cold sores are most contagious when they are in the form of oozing blisters. It can spread by sharing the same utensils, kissing, sharing towels and razors and also oral sex. Cold sores can be triggered due to several factors such as stress, fatigue, fever, hormonal changes and changes in the immune system.

Risk Factors
About 90% of adults worldwide test positive for this virus. People who have a weakened immune system are more prone to be infected by the virus. For example, people suffering from eczema, AIDS and severe burns have a higher chance of contracting cold sores.

Complications
In certain cases,cold sores affect other parts of the body. Fingertips, hands, and some other parts of the body are affected by both HSV-1 and HSV-2 in some instances. It can also cause eye infections, which can lead to blindness or may even spread to the spinal cord and the brain in people who have a very weak immune system.

Treatment
Cold sores have no treatment and they usually clear up without any medication within 2 to 4 weeks. However certain antiviral medications are present which speed up the healing process.

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