is the herpes simplex virus?
Some people call it a cold sore, others a fever
blister, but this annoying and often painful
chronic condition is caused by the same virus:
herpes simplex. According to the National
Institute of Dental Research, eight out of every
10 American adults are infected with this virus.
Once infected, a person will have the herpes
simplex virus for the rest of his/her life. When
inactive, the virus lies dormant in a group of
nerve cells. Some people never have any symptoms
from the virus, others have periodic outbreaks of
causes the herpes simplex virus?
Characterized by blister-like lesions that occur
over an eight- to 10-day period most often around
the lips, oral mucosa, or tongue, the virus is
highly contagious and can spread easily by direct
skin-to-skin contact. The two most common forms
of the virus are herpes simplex virus type 1
(HSV1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV2).
HSV1 is most often associated with infections of
the oral cavity, while HSV2 is most often
associated with genital herpes infections.
However, research suggests that both types of HSV
can infect both the mouth and the genitals.
with herpes simplex sores, canker sores
are common, small ulcers inside the mouth
that are not contagious. Canker sores
typically have a white or gray base with
a red border, and usually heal within two
weeks. Antibacterial mouthrinses and
over-the-counter topical anesthetics may
help relieve any discomfort. Avoiding
hot, spicy, or acidic foods can also help
to relieve symptoms.
How can HSV infections
Since HSV is transmitted through direct, physical
contact, such as kissing and sexual contact, the best
method of prevention is to avoid physical contact with
the HSV sores when someone is experiencing an outbreak of
the disease. However, genital herpes can be contagious
without causing any symptoms of the disease, according to
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What are the symptoms
of an oral herpes simplex virus infection?
Initial infection of the oral herpes simplex virus may
cause no symptoms or may cause severe flu-like symptoms
with mouth ulcers. In recurring infections, sores tend to
erupt in the same area (some patients never have any more
symptoms beyond the initial infection). The following are
the most common symptoms of an oral herpes simplex virus
infection. However, each individual may experience
symptoms differently. The progression of symptoms may
- Symptoms may begin
with redness, swelling, heat, and pain in the
area where the infection will erupt.
- Painful, fluid-filled
blisters may appear on the lips or under the
nose. These blisters are highly contagious.
- The blisters leak
fluids and become sores.
- After approximately
four days, the sores start to crust over and
The symptoms of an oral
herpes simplex virus may resemble other conditions or
medical problems. Always consult your physician for a
How is an oral HSV
Herpes simplex virus is difficult to diagnose. Often
confused with many other infections, such as allergic
reactions, the herpes simplex virus can only be confirmed
with a virus culture, blood test, or biopsy. However, the
location of the blisters usually is, to a physician, a
positive indication of an infection.
Treatment for oral HSV
Treatment depends on the severity of symptoms of the HSV
virus. Specific treatment for HSV infection will be
determined by your physician(s) based on:
- your overall health
and medical history
- extent of the disease
- your tolerance for
specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- expectations for the
course of the disease
- your opinion or
Treatment may involve:
- keeping the infected
area clean and dry
- antibiotic treatment
for any bacterial infections
- topical antiviral