Herpes simplex is commonly referred to as cold sores or fever blisters when it affects the mouth area. It is a viral infection of the skin that may occur once or return again and again. This is because when the virus is cleared from the skin by the immune system it hides in the nerves and is never completely removed from the body. Herpes infections are very common.
It is estimated that nine out of ten people have been exposed to herpes. Many people are infected and don’t even know it. Unfortunately those who carry the virus can spread the disease without even knowing it.
Herpes simplex begins as a group of small red bumps that blister. Sometimes this is preceded by itching and burning of the area. The blisters begin to dry up after a few days and form a yellow crust. The crust then falls off and the redness slowly goes away.
The whole process takes about 10-14 days. Scars rarely form. Some people experience just some itching or burning in the area while most people have no symptoms at all.
What causes the herpes simplex virus?
Herpes simplex, not to be confused with herpes zoster, is caused by the herpes hominis virus. There are two kinds of herpes virus: HSV type 1 and HSV type 2. The type 1 virus causes 60% of the cold sores commonly found on the lips and face. The other 40% of cases are caused by type 2. On the genitalia these percentages are reversed, that is 40% of genital herpes cases are caused by type 1 and 60% of cases are caused by type 2.
Herpes simplex is transmitted by sexual contact, kissing, or other close contact. Family members should not share towels or linen with someone who has an outbreak of herpes on the genitalia or cold sores in the mouth area. Herpes can spread from person to person even when an infected individual has no outbreak or symptoms.
Once you have herpes simplex type 1, you can not be reinfected with the type 1 virus. You can however be infected with the type 2 virus.
Fever, sun exposure and menstruation can act as trigger factors, which cause the virus to travel down the nerves to the skin and cause the outbreak known as herpes or cold sores.
What are the treatment options for cold sores?
Many people have reported significant results with natural treatments such as H-Cold Sores, a powerful and effective way to manage this condition.
A drug called acyclovir (Zovirax) is effective in treating herpes simplex. It must be taken by mouth. There is a cream form, which is basically a waste of money because it only shortens an outbreak from 14 days to 12-13 days and it is expensive.
For the first attack of herpes simplex, acyclovir needs to be taken for 7-10 days. For recurrent attacks, acyclovir works best when taken as soon as you feel burning, or tingling in the area. This medication only shortens the outbreaks – it does not prevent new outbreaks from occurring unless taken continuously. Note that it should not be taken if you are pregnant, unless approved by your obstetrician.
The area should be washed twice a day with a mild soap, such as Dove or Basis, and apply Polysporin ointment to the area once or twice a day to prevent bacterial infection.
Some authorities recommend using L-Lysine 500 mg, an amino acid, found in the vitamin section at the drugstore. As soon as you feel burning or tingling in the area, take 3-4 tablets a day for the first 2 days and then 2 tablets a day until the blisters dry up.
Also apply Herpecin-L to the blister every half hour for the first few days. This treatment can reduce healing time from 14 days to about 7 days. These products are available at most drugstores. Make sure you have food in your stomach when taking this amino acid tablet. Taking one tablet daily of L-Lysine has been known to prevent fever blisters in some people.
Whether you have oral herpes or genital herpes you can spread the disease to others, even when you do not have symptoms. Herpes can spread from the mouth or other infected area to any area of close contact on another individual. If you have a herpes infection you should alert anyone with whom you are going to have close contact.
In some states this is the law. Many people are spreading herpes because they do not know they have the disease and there is no law against this form of spread. Chances are you contracted your infection from someone who does not even know they have the disease.