A cold sore is a blister that typically forms on the lip or around the mouth. The virus that causes cold sores is called herpes simplex virus (HSV), which is not curable. Cold sores are contagious and can be passed from person to person through contact with the blister or saliva.
?What Causes Cold Sores?
Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are a common viral infection. The leading cause of cold sores is the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV:
- HSV-1 is the most common type of HSV and is usually associated with oral infections.
- HSV-2 is typically associated with genital infections.
Cold sores are contagious and can be spread through direct contact with an infected person or by sharing items such as utensils, towels, or razors. The virus can also be spread through saliva, mucus, or blood.
Symptoms of Cold Sores
The primary characteristic of HSV-1 is red, inflamed wounds on the edge of the lips. Other symptoms of cold sores include:
- Tingling or burning sensation on the lips
- Redness and swelling, pain
- Crusting or oozing blisters
If you experience an outbreak for the first time, you may also experience muscle aches, headache, fever, and a sore throat.
Avoid kissing or sharing cups or utensils with others if you have a cold sore. You should also avoid touching the sore and then touching your eyes, as this can spread the virus.
Cold Sore Treatment Options
Cold sores are incurable; once you have contracted the virus, it remains in your body, and you’ll experience occasional flare-ups. However, some treatments can help shorten the duration of an outbreak and reduce the frequency of recurrences, including:
- Topical creams or ointments such as zinc oxide or docosanol can help to relieve pain and speed healing.
- Your dentist may prescribe antiviral medications, including acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir, either in pill form or as a cream. These can help to reduce the severity and duration of an outbreak.
- Your dentist may also recommend taking a preventive medication or a supplement, such as lysine, to reduce the risk of future outbreaks.
- If caught in time (before the cold sore crusts over), laser therapy performed by your dentist can alleviate discomfort and help the cold sore heal faster. Laser therapy only takes a few minutes without anesthesia and provides immediate relief while stopping the progression of the lesion.
Certain triggers can lead to a cold sore flare-up, such as sunburn, stress, cold and flu, cold winds, and weakened immunity. Taking precautions to reduce stress and your exposure to the elements can minimize the risk of triggering the virus.
Cold Sores vs. Canker Sores
A canker sore is a small ulcer that can occur inside the mouth, tongue, or gums. They are usually white or yellow and have a red border. Canker sores are not contagious, but they can be painful.
Some people may experience a burning or tingling sensation before the sore appears. Canker sores typically last 7-10 days and eventually heal on their own. While cold sores and canker sores may have similar symptoms, they are two different conditions.
Get Advice From a Dentist
A healthy smile can help you feel more confident and make a good impression on others. However, keeping your teeth and gums in good condition requires more than just brushing and flossing. To ensure your smile stays healthy for years, visit a dentist regularly.
At TruBlu Dentistry, our experienced dental team is dedicated to providing quality patient care. We offer a wide range of services, from teeth cleaning and exams to more complex procedures like root canals and dental crowns.
We also offer advice on maintaining good oral hygiene habits at home. So if you have any questions about your dental health, call us at our offices in Burbank (708) 424-5650 and Hegewisch (773) 646-4664 to schedule an appointment.