What is a Cold Sore?

Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex, a recurring viral infection that attacks the skin and the nervous system.  Cold sores are clusters of small painful, fluid-filled blisters on the lip, outer edges of the mouth, or nose.  The skin around the blisters is usually red and inflamed.  Cold sores are common and although there is no cure for cold sores, you can take precautions to reduce the frequency of cold sore recurrence and limit the duration on a cold sore which, without treatment, will take 7-10 days to heal completely.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus, usually herpes simplex type 1 (HSV1). Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2) usually causes genital herpes, however either type can cause lesions on the facial area or on the genitals.  Cold sores are spread from another person who has an active lesion.  Once you have had a cold sore outbreak, the virus will remain dormant in your skin’s nerve cells and recur as an active infection again at a later time.  The frequency of recurrences is dependent on many factors.  A compromised immune system, sun exposure, chapped lips, dental work, stress, menstruation, and certain foods may trigger a recurrence. 

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