Also known as fever blisters, cold sores are actually a widespread viral infection. These are minute blisters filled with fluids and appear in the region of your lips. Often, these blisters or cold sores appear in a group to form patches. A crust forms after the blisters rupture on the sore that appears subsequently. It usually takes anything between two and four weeks to get rid of cold sores, which do not leave any scar.
Cold sores are contagious and they spread from an individual to another when they come in close contact, for instance via kissing. This condition is attributed to a herpes simplex virus or HSV-1, which has a close association with the virus that is responsible for genital herpes or HSV-2. In fact, these two viruses have the potential to affect the mouth as well as genitals and the contagion may spread via oral sex. Even if the sores are not visible to the naked eye, cold sores are contagious.
It is concerning to learn that as of date no cure has been found for HSV infection and what is worse is that the blisters may return even after they disappear for a while. In such cases, using Elma 16 may prove to be helpful in healing cold sores more rapidly and it may also ensure a reduction in their rate of recurrence.
Generally, a cold sore passes through many phases, including tingling and itching; blisters; as well as oozing and crusting.
Tingling and itching: Several people experience an itching, tingling or burning sensation in the region of their lips for about a day ahead of developing minute, stiff, painful spots and the subsequent eruption of the liquid-filled blisters.
Blisters: These minute liquid-filled blisters usually appear along the external edge of the lips where the lips meet the facial skin. In addition, cold sores may also develop on the cheeks or in the region of the nose.
Oozing and crusting: Often the tiny blisters may combine and subsequently rupture leaving behind thin open sores which ooze the fluid and subsequently a crust is formed over the sore. However, when the blisters and sores are gone, they do not leave behind any scar.
The signs and symptoms of cold sores may differ, subject to whether the individual is experiencing it for the first time or it is a recurrence of the condition. Typically, cold sores can bother you for many days and it may take anything between two weeks to four weeks for the blisters to heal completely. Usually, recurrences of cold sores happen at the same sites every time and they are likely to be less harsh compared to the first outbreak.
As discussed above, herpes simplex virus or HSV is responsible for occurrence of cold sores. Usually, HSV-1 are responsible for the outbreak of cold sores, while the other closely related virus called HSV-2 is responsible for genital herpes. However, both these viruses possess the potential to develop sores in the facial skin or the genital area. Interestingly enough, majority of the patients infected by herpes viruses that result in cold sores actually do not show any signs or symptoms of the condition.
The stage at which cold sores are mainly contagious is when the blisters begin to ooze out the fluid contained. However, the infection or the virus can also be transmitted to other people even when the blisters are not present. For instance, the virus can also be spread through shared eating utensils, towels, and razors. Even kissing and oral sex can transmit HSV-1 to the lips and genitals, while oral sex can spread HSV-2 from the genitals to the lips.
People who have suffered from an outbreak of herpes infection should know that the virus remains in their body forever. This virus lies in a dormant stage within the nerve cells inside the skin and may appear in the form of a cold sore once again at the same site where it appeared earlier. There are several reasons for recurrence of cold sores and some of them are discussed briefly below.
Cold sore recurrence may be caused by fevers or viral infections, stress, exhaustion, any alteration in the immune system, coming in contact with wind and sunlight as well as due to hormonal changes like those that are associated with menstruation.
Normally, cold sores remain confined to the region of the mouth, especially on as well as around the lips. Rarely cold sores are seen occurring in other parts of the face above the mouth, such as the cheek, nose, nostrils or the chin. However, cold sores may occur on your fingers. This particular condition is known as Herpes Whitlow.
It has been seen that generally cold sores do not occur inside the mouth. Nevertheless, in rare cases they do and in such situations they are more likely to develop on the roof of the mouth (the hard palette) or the gums. In case the lesions do occur within the mouth, particularly on soft tissues, in all possibility it will be a canker sore and very unlikely to be a cold sore.
It is worth mentioning here that whenever cold sores recur, they have a tendency to appear in the same areas as they did before. In fact, cold sores, despite being a contagious viral infection, are very widespread. According to rough estimates, as much as 80 percent Americans actually have already come in direct contact with the Herpes simplex virus - the main microbe responsible for cold sores.
It is interesting to note that an individual who has already been infected with the herpes virus as well as cold sore virus may not essentially show signs and symptoms of an outbreak. This is primarily owing to the fact that the immune system of some people is potent enough not to show these signs and symptoms. They are effective enough to hold back the viruses.