Cold Sores: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments
Cold sores are a red blister that’s sensitive and filled with fluid that usually develops around the mouth, lips, or face. Unless they are rare cases, they can also develop on the fingers, nose, or even inside the mouth.
Cold sores aren’t a direct threat to your health; however, they can be a symptom of something more serious as well as being a total nuisance as it may affect your complexion. Cold sores can happen to anyone at any age, but understanding the risk factors, causes, symptoms, and treatments, we can manage it better.
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Cold sores develop from a common virus called herpes simplex. Cold sores can spread through physical contact and are highly contagious, even when they are small and not visible. Cold sores last from 1 to 2 weeks and can be very painful to touch.
They can also occur in the future at any given time. Certain medications and treatments can help to minimize their symptoms and speed up recovery time.
As cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores usually develop from contracting it from someone who is already infected. It can be spread through
- Sharing the same eating utensils
- Sharing soap
- Sharing the same cosmetic products
Reinfection is a common cause and occurrence for people who have previously contracted the virus. As the virus is incurable, cold sores can appear anytime after initial contraction and appear more frequently when the person’s immune system is weakened during illness or in times of stress.
How often the reinfection occurs can be managed through treatment and better self-care. Triggers for reinfection to occur include:
- Infection, fever, or a cold
- Exposure to sunlight
- Excess stress
- Weakened immune system
At first, you will notice very slight symptoms that a cold sore may be developing. It is at these symptoms, where treatment should begin and is most effective. You may notice a slight bump in the affected area. It may also cause a burning or tingling sensation.
Over time, the bump will raise and increase in size you will notice a blister forming within. It will be very tender to touch and sore. During this course, you will notice certain symptoms, including:
- Muscle and joint weakness
- Swollen lymph nodes
If you notice an impairment with your vision, speak with your doctor immediately as infections caused by the herpes simplex virus can lead to permanent vision loss if not treated promptly.
Complications Associated with Cold Sores
Apart from vision impairment, other health complications are associated with the virus, although life-threatening and severe complications are rare cases. Complications from the herpes simplex virus are more likely to occur during the first contraction as the immune system has not been able to build its defence yet.
If any of these complications appear, speak with your doctor immediately. Complications that may occur include:
- High fever
- Difficulty breathing
- Irritated eyes and fluid discharge
As there is no cure for cold sores and the virus, the only thing you can do is avoid contracting it in the first place, as well as knowing the medications you need and the home remedies that can help you fight the virus.
Speaking with your doctor should be the first thing you do when you notice a cold sore is developing. They will likely give you an ointment or cream that contains antiviral properties and promote soothing effects simultaneously.
Topical products that they will likely recommend you include penciclovir and docosanol. They may also prescribe you oral medication to help fight the virus and fasten the healing process. Such medications include acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex), and famciclovir (Famvir), which are all prescription only.
There are also home remedies and lifestyle adjustments that you can practice to help you heal faster as well as minimizing the symptoms of cold sores. These can be done in conjunction with any prescribed medication you may be given by the doctor. These include:
- Applying aloe vera gel
- Applying petroleum jelly
- Witch hazel
- Avoiding sunlight exposure
- Staying hydrated
- Avoiding the wind
- Using pain relief medication
Although the above home remedies and lifestyle tips can be effective in treating and managing cold sores, be sure to check with your doctor what the best course of action is as they will know the best approach to combating the virus based on your personal health condition.
The only way to prevent cold sores from developing is to stay away from anyone who already has the infection. If someone has the virus present in their health, avoid physical contact at all costs. Do not share the same eating and drinking utensils, soaps, and keep surfaces clean. Avoid kissing and minimize physical contact. If you have the infection, avoid contact with other people.
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