A Closer Look At Cold Sores

Nobody likes cold sores.  They’re ugly and irritating.  But what are cold sores, and what causes them?

Cold sores, or fever blisters, are small blisters that appear on the lip and around the mouth.  These blisters usually cause the surrounding skin to turn red and become sore.  Cold sores tend to break open, leaking clear fluid, then scabbing over.

Cold sores are a result of the herpes simplex virus.  Both types of this virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2) can cause lip/mouth sores as well as genital herpes.  HSV-1 is more commonly associated with cold sores, whereas HSV-2 is more commonly associated with genital herpes.  In rare cases, the virus can infect other areas of the body such as the eyes and the brain.

It is extremely easy to contract the virus as it is transmitted through saliva or other bodily fluids, so kissing, sharing utensils, and sharing drinking cups are all potential ways to contract the virus.  Not everyone who has the virus gets cold sores though, so it’s impossible to know who might be infected.  Avoiding the virus can be accomplished by not sharing eating utensils, cups, and not kissing.  These aren’t always an option though . . . especially that last one.  If you do contract the virus, frequent hand washing can help reduce your likelihood of spreading the virus to others.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for the herpes simplex virus.  Once you’re infected, the virus stays with you forever.  Cold sores generally heal on their own, but treatments are available to help with pain or to heal the sores more quickly.  A broad variety of treatments exist – pills, creams, and ointments. carries Denavir, a prescription antiviral topical cream that treats and suppresses cold sores.

Learn more about the herpes virus, and available treatment options, by further exploring the available articles in our Health Article section on 

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