or orolabial herpes
is an infection
which causes groups of small blisters on
the lip and around the mouth by herpes simplex virus (HSV-1)
. It is more
commonly referred to as cold sores
or fever blisters
, but they have
nothing to do with cold or fever.
scholars, including Hippocrates, initiated the use of the word ‘herpes’ to
describe these lesions caused by the virus we now call herpes simplex. The word
‘herpes’ means to creep or crawl.
The Greeks describe it as the manner
in which these lesions spread.
first outbreak is confusing as the patient gets a tingling sensation that is
accompanied with a burning and itchy sensation, and just when the patient feels
that it will subside, a blister or cluster of small blisters appear at the
corner or edge of the lips which are painful and reddish purple in color at
first. Occasionally, they occur on the nostrils, chin or fingers. Although
unusual, they may also occur inside the mouth (gums or hard palate). With each
new breakout cold sores typically form in the same location as they have
before. These blisters may break open and leak a clear fluid; then scab over
after a few days. They usually heal in several days to 2-weeks.
The herpes simplex virus
is not completely eliminated from the body
. Following orofacial infection, it
remains dormant in the facial nerves, periodically reactivating to create sores
in the same area of the mouth or face at the site of the original infection. An
infected person typically experiences 1-3 outbreaks every year. The frequency and severity of the outbreaks
decreases with time.
Cold sores generally heal without any treatment in
7-10 days. Antiviral medications can help to decrease the severity and
frequency of cold sores.