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Cold Sore on Lips

Rajib Singha
Cold sores refer to an infectious disease caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). Also known as fever blisters, this infection commonly affects the lips, and other conspicuous parts of the body.
Cold sores commonly affect nose, cheeks, mouth, eyelids and fingers, other than lips. These sores are common and recurring in nature in the same location of the affected person.
Cold sores are itchy and painful for most people; they infect the skin's epidermis layer and form fluid-filled red blisters. About 50% - 80% of the world population is affected by HSV-1. However not all experience the outbreak of the virus and suffer from cold sores.

The Causal Agent

» The HSV-1 is responsible for causing cold sores. The same could also be caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-2), which is mostly associated with genital herpes.
» After the virus infects a person, it may go into a state of dormancy for many years without showing any signs or symptoms. But the virus may get reactivated and trigger an outbreak of the blisters due to factors such as:
  • Dry and injured lips
  • Stress
  • Menstruation
  • Insomnia or sleep disorders
  • Too much exposure to the UV rays of the sun
  • Tooth extraction
  • Digestive disorders
  • Common cold
  • Influenza (flu)

The Treatment

Cold sores is an incurable condition. After the virus infects a person, chances of its eradication is close to nil. However, preventive measures and treatment options are available for reducing the number of outbreaks, and the severity.
» Cold sores usually clear up within about a couple of weeks. However, if the symptoms are painful or bother you, then you can go for treatment. Before the cold sores appear, you may feel an unusual sensation around the lips.
This may include tingling, burning, pain or even numbness. If you feel such symptoms, go for some over-the-counter medicines (OTC), that will relieve the pain, itching or burning sensations.
» Treatment of cold sores on lips and other parts can be done by using different kinds of medicines. There are medicines that have a numbing effect on the blisters, and so help in alleviating burning, itching and pain. Some medicines are antiviral by nature and though they do not have any direct effect on the virus, they help in healing the sores by preventing secondary bacterial infection.
» Medicines that help in reducing the duration of the sores and lessening the pain include:
  • Penciclovir
  • Benzocaine
  • Acyclovir
  • Famciclovir
  • Valacyclovir
» Always wash your hands, face and lips using lukewarm water and face-washing soap. After having washed, apply the medicine on the lips and the surrounding area, using a cotton swab. After applying the medicine, avoid licking your lips as much as possible. Administer the medicines about 5 times a day, and do not forget to clean your hands after touching the sores.
» Dry and chapped lips are also a cause of cold sores on lips. Keeping the lips and skin well moisturized decreases the chances of outbreak of the blisters. Lip balms help in moisturizing the scabs that form on the sores and keep them from cracking or bleeding.
» Too much exposure to sunlight also aggravates the symptoms of cold sores. So it is wise to apply sunblock creams and ointments, when you are out of home.
»Foods that are rich in lysine are beneficial in curbing the outbreak of the sores. Some good examples include:
  • Beef
  • Fish
  • Chicken
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Mangoes
  • Apricots
  • Summer squash

As there is no cure for cold sores, knowing about its prevention is vital. Initiate the treatment at the earliest and you can prevent things from getting worse. Take care!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this Story is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.