Diseases & Conditions

Cold Sores

Cold SoresCausesPreventionRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Cold Sores?

Cold sores or Herpes Simplex is a disease caused by the two viruses, HSV-1 or type 1 herpes simplex virus and HSV-2 or type 2 herpes simplex virus. The condition is called fever blisters or cold sores and affects the face and the mouth. The most prevalent of such infection is oral herpes or cold sores.

A cold sore is cyclical in nature. Cold sores begin with periods of disease that appears as blisters consisting of particles of virus infection that lasts anywhere between 2 to 21 days. Then comes the remission period when the cold sores tend to vanish. After the primary infection the virus turns to the sensory nerves to remain there dormant for the rest of its lifetime. Causes of the recurrence of the symptoms of Herpes Simplex are not certain, although scientists have identified some possible triggers. As time passes, instances of active disease slow down in severity as well as frequency.

Causes of cold sores

A cold sore is usually transmitted when a person gets into direct contact with either a lesion or body fluid of a person infected with the ailment. Transmission of cold sores can also take place by way of skin-to-skin contact while asymptomatic shedding is going on. In order to infect a new person, the cold sore HSV seeps through minute breaks in the dermis of mucous membranes of the genital or mouth areas. Any miniscule abrasions on the mucous membrane are enough to permit viral entry into the system.

Prevention of cold sores

Cold sores can be prevented by avoiding direct contact with the body fluids and/or active lesions of an infected person.

Risk factors of cold sores

Bell’s palsy, a kind of facial paralysis might be linked to the reactivation of the cold sore virus herpes simplex. Another possible risk factor of cold sores is Alzheimer’s disease. When the specific gene variation APOE-epsilon4 allele carriers is present, the cold sore virus HSV-1seems to be especially detrimental to the central nervous system, increasing the risk of producing the dreaded ailment. The Herpes Simplex virus tend to interact with the receptors and components of lipoproteins; the DNA of the cold sore virus herpes simplex type 1 virus is localized within the confines of beta-amyloid plaques which in fact characterizes Alzheimer’s disease.

Symptoms of cold sores

Cold sores can cause various symptoms. Common infection of Herpes Simplex can affect the mouth and face as orofacial herpes and in the case of genitals as genital herpes. Cold sores can infect the eye in the form of herpes keratitis and damage it and when it trespasses into the central nervous system it can damage the brain in the form of herpes encephalitis. Persons with suppressed or immature immune systems like transplant recipients, newborns, AIDS patients etc. tend to develop grave complications from cold sores. Alzheimer’s disease, bipolar disorder is cognitive deficits related to cold sores. There are many individuals who do not display any physical symptoms at all of cold sores and this condition in termed asymptomatic or sub-clinical herpes.

Treatment of cold sores

A treatment for cold sores is yet to be developed. Once a person is infected with cold sores, the virus stays in the body for the rest of his/her life. However, in the course of time, some individuals tend to become asymptomatic and cease to undergo fresh outbreaks of cold sores, although they can still infect others. Treatment with antiviral medication can bring down the incidence of viral shredding and lessen the harshness of any symptomatic episodes. Vaccines for Herpes Simplex are undergoing clinical trials and are yet to demonstrate their effectiveness.

Types of cold sores

There are various types of cold sores.

  • Oral herpes is the most common of all cold sores
  • Genital herpes known as just herpes is the next most prevalent form of cold sores
  • Herpes gladiatorum
  • Herpes whitlow
  • Herpes encephalitis the cerebral infection
  • Ocular herpes,
  • Neonatal herpes
  • Bell’s palsy
  • Mollaret’s meningitis