Cold sores, also known as fever blisters, are a commonly occurring viral infection. They are small, fluid-filled blisters on and around the lips.
These blisters typically develop together in patches. Once the blisters break, a crust develops over it causing a sore. Cold sores typically heal in two to four weeks without causing any scarring.
Cold sores spread between people due to close contact, such as kissing. They are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), which is closely related to the virus that causes genital herpes (HSV-2).
Both these viruses can impact a person’s genitals or mouth and can spread by oral sex. Even if the sores are not visible, cold sores are contagious.
HSV infection does not have a cure in medical dermatology, and the blisters may recur. Antiviral drugs can help cold sores heal faster and may reduce the frequency of their recurrence.
Suncoast Skin Solutions, led by board certified dermatologist Dr. Christopher Ewanowski, provides cutting-edge skin care treatments to patients in Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winter Haven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Sarasota, Palm Harbor, Central Florida, Florida, and surrounding locations.
A cold sore typically goes through the following stages:
- Tingling and itching: Many individuals feel a burning, itching, or tingling sensation around their lips for one or two days before a tiny, hard, painful spot appears and blisters develop.
- Blisters: Tiny fluid-filled blisters usually erupt along the border where the outside edge of the lips connects to the skin on the face. Cold sores may also develop on the cheeks or around the nose.
- Oozing and crusting: The tiny blisters may merge and then burst, resulting in shallow open sores that will ooze fluid and subsequently crust over.
The signs and symptoms differ, depending on whether this is the first outbreak or a recurrence. They can remain for several days, and the blisters can take two to four weeks to heal fully. Recurrences usually occur at the same spot every time and tend to be less severe than the initial outbreak.
Some people also experience the following during their first-time outbreak:
- Painful eroded gums
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Sore throat
- Muscle aches
Children below the age of five years may have cold sores inside their mouths, and the lesions are often confused with canker sores. Canker sores involve only the mucous membrane and are not caused by the herpes simplex virus.
When to see a Doctor
Cold sores usually resolve without treatment. People with the following should see their doctor:
- They have a weakened immune system
- The cold sores that do not heal within two weeks
- Symptoms are severe
- The patient has frequent recurrences of cold sores
- They experience irritation in the eyes
Around 90 percent of adults globally, even those who have never had symptoms of an infection, test positive for evidence of the virus that causes cold sores.
Individuals who have weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of complications from the virus.
- Severe burns
- Cancer chemotherapy
- Anti-rejection medications for organ transplants
Dr. Ewanowski’s dermatology practice and medical spa receives patients from Tampa, Brandon, Lutz, Seminole, Riverview, Brooksville, Winter Haven, Daytona Beach, Largo, St. Petersburg, Ocala, Sarasota, Palm Harbor, Central Florida, Florida, and nearby areas for safe and proven skin care procedures.
SunCoast Skin Solutions Dermatology offices are located in Tampa / Hillsborough, St. Petersburg / Pinellas County, Brandon, Lutz (2 locations), Winter Haven, Largo, Riverview, Brooksville, Ocala, Largo at Bardmoor, Daytona Beach, Sarasota, and Palm Harbor, Florida. Contact us at 1-844-786-3376 or click here.