What is Herpes labialis?
Herpes labialis or oral herpes is an infection that causes small sores, or blister-like lesions, that appear in the mouth area. The sores may appear on the lips, chin, cheeks, inside the nostrils, and sometimes even on the gums or the roof of the mouth. These blisters are painful.
These oral herpes blisters are caused by the herpes simplex virus. Herpes labialis is a common and extremely contagious infection that can be easily spread.
In some cases, after an initial infection, the virus may become dormant and stay inside the nerve cells of the face. The virus can become active later in life and cause more sores. In such a condition, the herpes is recurrent.
Herpes labialis symptoms
The infection of the virus may or may not cause any symptoms. In cases where it causes symptoms, blisters appear around or on the mouth within one to three weeks of contact with the virus.
A recurrence of the condition is generally a milder affair than the initial infection. Symptoms of a reoccurrence may include:
- Tingling or itching on or near the lips
- Blisters or sores on the mouth, tongue, gums, lips, or nose
- Burning pain around the blisters
- Outbreaks of several red and inflamed, small blisters that grow together.
Who is at risk?
Herpes labialis is a highly common condition. Once a person is infected with the virus, there are certain factors that can get the virus to reactivate. These include:
- Infection, fever, or cold
- Hormonal changes
- Sun exposure
- Severe burns
- Dental work
- HIV/AIDS or a weakened immune system
Herpes labialis causes
Herpes labialis cause is the herpes simplex virus. The herpes simplex virus has 2 types:
- Herpes simplex type 1 virus (HSV-1) generally causes cold sores
- Herpes simplex type 2 virus (HSV-2) usually causes genital herpes
While HSV-1 usually causes herpes labialis, it is possible for HSV-2 to cause the sores as well.
One may get infected with the virus by simply coming in contact with an infected individual. Kissing, sharing food, cosmetics, and personal items can spread the virus and infect a person.
Once a person gets infected with the virus, symptoms may or may not occur. After healing, the virus remains dormant in the body and can get reactivated and cause new sores later.
How is Herpes labialis diagnosed?
It is important to see a doctor in case you identify with any symptoms of the condition. Herpes labialis diagnosis is usually diagnosed by examining the blisters or the sores on the face of the patient.
The doctor may also test samples of the blister to check for the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1).
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How is Herpes labialis treated?
There is no herpes labialis cure available yet. One a person contracts the HSV-1 virus, it is going to remain in their body forever. However, some people with the infection rarely have breakouts.
Recurrent episodes of herpes labialis are milder than the initial infection and usually go away within one or two weeks. Recurrent herpes labialis treatment can be done by:
At-home care: Applying ice packs or a warm cloth on the face can help in shortening the oral herpes episode by one or two days. Alternatively, taking a pain reliever like acetaminophen can help in reducing the pain.
- Prescription medication: Oral medications can help in relieving the sores when taken at early signs of the cold sores such as tingling on or around the lips, or before the appearance of the blisters. The doctor may prescribe oral antiviral medications like acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir.
How can Herpes labialis be prevented?
Herpes labialis prevention can be done by curbing practices that may spread the infection or reactivate the infection. These include:
Avoid sharing food utensils and other personal items with people who have herpes labialis
- Use boiling water and wash any items that may have come in contact with infected sores
- Avoid kissing or participating in oral sex with someone who has cold sores.
- Avoid sharing cold sore creams with anyone
- In order to prevent the virus from spreading to different parts of the body, completely avoid touching the sores or blisters. In case you do touch them, wash your hands with soap and water immediately.