You’re not sure why, but ever since you were 5 you’ve gotten cold sores during the summer. In your teens you started to wear chap-stick containing SPF which seemed to prevent them. Thankfully, you hadn’t had one in years until one sunny afternoon you went for a run without wearing any SPF. To your dismay, the next morning you woke to find a painful and blistering cold sore on your mouth. This is a common scenario among those who struggle with the recurring symptoms of herpes simplex virus (cold sores).

Highly contagious and often misunderstood, there are many misconceptions when hearing the word herpes. With over 80% of the population exposed the virus, it can occur at any stage of life. Due to its commonality, it is important to understand why herpes outbreaks occur.

What is a cold sore?

Known as fever blisters, oral herpes, or herpes labialis; cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Occurring around the mouth, lip and face area, cold sores are painful and can be embarrassing for those afflicted. Because of the virus’ reputation, symptoms and their origin are commonly misunderstood.

The strand of the herpes virus that causes cold sores is the Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV1). The strand that is the cause of genital herpes is known as herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2).

Usually mild, recurrent infections can be caused by a variety of factors including fever, sun exposure, menstrual period, trauma, or nothing at all.

The blister-like sores which most often appear on the face are tiny, clear, and fluid-filled. There may be one, or a group of blisters and the surrounding area may be red in color. The blisters may break open allowing the fluid inside to ooze out and crust. It usually takes several weeks for the infected area to heal.

However, even after herpes has completely healed, it will probably reappear when you least expect it. The infection remains in the body and may recur rarely or often.

What are the treatment options?

There is no cure or vaccine for the herpes simplex virus. Topical treatments and/or oral anti-viral medications can be used to treat and/or help suppress herpes outbreaks.

To schedule an appointment with a board certified dermatologist at Soderstrom Skin Institute, call 1-888-970-7546.