Cold sores are very tiny and painful blisters that usually appear around the lips, mouth, or nose. Cold sores are produced by a virus known as herpes simplex virus (HSV), and it can be contracted by skin -to skin contact with an infected individual. Once the virus enters the body system, it can remain latent for life. There are two types of HSV, Type 1 and Type 11 virus. Cold sores are produced by type 1 virus.
Viruses usually invade human cells and once inside the cell, they produce more viruses, which in turn kill more cells, releasing a great amount of new viruses, which end up as cold sores. On the other hand, herpes virus simplex invade human cells not killing cells, but remaining in a latency state for days months, or even years until the virus is reactivated.
Once the virus is reactivated, it produces a great number of new viruses causing an active infection. An active infection is the result of cold sores. The first infection is usually known as the primary infection, and it is ordinarily taken care of by the body´s immune system. At a given time in the future, the virus may be activated originating the appearance of cold sores.
People infected with (HSV type 1) usually experience an itching, or burning sensation in the area where the cold sore will form (prodrome). The blister normally will form at the outer edges of the lips, chin, cheek, or nose. Primary infection precedes the formation of tiny red bumps, which result in blisters.
Blister usually burst and form a scab, or dry up and form a scab. Within two days of the formation of the first red bumps, all the blisters have turned into scabs, and in less than ten days, the skin has healed totally without any sign of scarring.
The exact cause that brings about a latent virus is not clear, but it is believed that certain condition could trigger the recurrence of the infection, including fever, fatigue, stress, sun´s radiation, common cold, the flu, menstruation ,and diet, among others.
People suffering from cold sores should wash their hands regularly and refrain from touching the area of the cold sore with their bare hand. Utensils and cups should not be shared with other people. The use of over the counter medications, such as Lipactin gel and Zilactin can relieve the symptoms. Always consult your physician for advice on the appropriate medications.