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TM Star
Mar 30, 2007
[FONT=&quot]Herpes, an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. It leads to the development of small and usually painful blisters on the skin of the lips, mouth, gums, or lip area. These blisters are commonly called cold sores or fever blisters.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Causes: [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Herpes labialis is an extremely common disease caused by infection of the mouth area with herpes simplex virus, most often type 1. Most Americans are infected with the type 1 virus by the age of 20.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The initial infection may cause no symptoms or mouth ulcer. The virus remains in the nerve tissue of the face. In some people, the virus reactivates and produces recurrent cold sores that are usually in the same area, but are not serious. Herpes virus type 2 usually causes genital herpes and infection of babies at birth (to infected mothers), but may also cause herpes labialis.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Herpes viruses are contagious. Contact may occur directly, or through contact with infected razors, towels, dishes, and other shared articles. Occasionally, oral-to-genital contact may spread oral herpes to the genitals (and vice versa). For this reason, people with active herpes lesions on or around the mouths or on the genitals should avoid oral sex.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The first symptoms usually appear within 1 or 2 weeks -- and as late as 3 weeks -- after contact with an infected person. The lesions of herpes labialis usually last for 7 to 10 days, then begin to resolve. The virus may become latent, residing in the nerve cells, with recurrence at or near the original site.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Recurrence is usually milder. It may be triggered by menstruation, sun exposure, stress, or other unknown causes.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Symptoms[/FONT][FONT=&quot]: [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Warning symptoms of itching, burning, increased sensitivity, may occur about 2 days before lesions appear.[/FONT]

  • Skin lesion or rash around the lips, mouth, and gums
  • Small blisters (vesicles) filled with clear yellowish fluid
  • Mild fever (may occur)
[FONT=&quot]Exams and Tests[/FONT][FONT=&quot]: Diagnosis is made on the basis of the appearance or culture of the lesion. Examination may also show enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck or groin.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Viral culture or Tzanck test of the skin lesion may reveal the herpes simplex virus. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Treatment[/FONT][FONT=&quot]: There is no cure for herpes to date. Supporting your immune system should be your first goal. A weakened immune system is more prone to outbreaks. Efforts to develop a herpes vaccine by biotechnology companies are ongoing. Until an effective herpes vaccine or cure for HSV infection is found, the prevailing approach to treatment continues to be suppressive antiviral therapy. Links on this page go to products, services and publications that can help you cope with herpes in your life. [/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Untreated, the symptoms will generally subside in 1 to 2 weeks. Antiviral medications given by mouth may shorten the course of the symptoms and decrease pain.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Sores caused by Herpes often come back again and again. The antiviral medicines work best if you take it when the virus is just starting to come back -- before you see any sores. If you the virus returns frequently, your doctor may recommend that you take the medicines all the time.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Wash blisters gently with soap and water to minimize the spread of the virus to other areas of skin. An antiseptic soap may be recommended. Applying ice or warmth to the area may reduce pain.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Possible Complications: [/FONT][FONT=&quot][/FONT]

  • Spread of herpes to other skin areas
  • Secondary bacterial skin infections
  • Recurrence of herpes labialis
  • Generalized infection -- may be life-threatening in immunosuppressed people
  • Blindness
[FONT=&quot]Herpes infection of the eye causes scarring of the cornea.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Prevention[/FONT][FONT=&quot]: Avoid direct contact with cold sores or other herpes lesions. Minimize the risk of indirect spread by thoroughly washing items in hot (preferably boiling) water before re-use. Do not share items with an infected person, especially when herpes lesions are active. Avoid precipitating causes (especially sun exposure) if prone to oral herpes.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Avoid performing oral sex when you have active herpes lesions on or near your mouth and avoid passive oral sex with someone who has active oral or genital herpes lesions. Condoms can help reduce, but do not entirely eliminate, the risk of transmission via oral or genital sex with an infected person.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Unfortunately, both oral and genital herpes viruses can sometimes be transmitted even when the person does not have active lesions[/FONT]