What causes cold sores?


Cold sores, sometimes called fever blisters, are groups of small blisters on the lip and around the mouth. Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The herpes simplex virus is a contagious virus that can be passed from person to person through direct contact. Children will often contract HSV from early contact with an infected adult. They then carry the virus with them for the rest of their life.

Infection with HSV-1 can happen from general interactions such as eating from the same utensils, sharing lip balm, or kissing. The virus spreads more quickly when an infected person is experiencing an outbreak. Additionally, it is possible to get genital herpes from HSV-1 if the individual has had cold sores and performed sexual activities during that time.

For many people with the herpes virus, which can go through periods of being dormant, attacks (or outbreaks) can be brought on by the following conditions:

(1) General illness (from mild illnesses to serious conditions)
(2) Fatigue
(3) Physical or emotional stress
(4) Immunosuppression due to AIDS or such medications as chemotherapy or steroids
(5) Trauma to the affected area, including sexual activity
(6) Menstruation

There is no cure for herpes simplex. Once a person has the virus, it remains in the body. The virus lies inactive in the nerve cells until something triggers it to become active again. Although there is no cure for herpes, treatments can relieve the symptoms. Medication can decrease the pain related to an outbreak and can shorten healing time....

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