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Many people think that cold sores and herpes are two different things. However, they’re not. A cold sore is, in fact, caused by the herpes simplex virus. This virus is much more common than you might think. In the United States, it’s estimated that up to a third of the adult population have herpes.
It’s ironic how little people know about these conditions given how common they are. Herpes simplex is an incurable viral infection. The infection is spread through contact from one person to another. However, not everyone who has the virus knows that they have it. Researchers think that up to 80% of Americans who have the herpes virus don’t know they do. This is because they have little or no symptoms.
There are two types of herpes; herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2. Each type is slightly different and results in different signs and symptoms. Neither are curable and both depend on a healthy immune system. When the immune system is strong, flare-ups of the infection are kept at bay. When the immune system is run down or weakened, the patients will experience a breakout.
Herpes simplex virus 1 is usually called HSV-1. This strain of the virus typically causes cold sores. Cold sores are small, fluid-filled blisters on and around the mouth area. They’re also sometimes called fever blisters, oral herpes and cankers sores. Cold sores go through five stages, from the beginning to the end of a flare-up.
In most cases it takes about 10 days for cold sores to heal. They can be really embarrassing and frustrating. Once a person has caught the virus, they will probably get cold sores on a fairly regular basis for most of their life. This means that during a flare-up, they can’t kiss their partners or family members, share drinks, or run the risk of giving the virus to someone else in any way.
Herpes simplex virus 2 is often called HSV-2. This type of herpes results in blisters around the genitals. In women, the blisters are usually found around the vulva and in men, they are usually located on the penis. Pregnant women with HSV-2 risk passing the virus on to their newborns, which is extremely serious as babies have been known to die as a result.
Genital herpes is most commonly spread through sexual intercourse and oral sex. However, this isn’t the only pass to pass the virus on. Any skin to skin close contact has the potential to result in transmission of the virus, so people carrying it really do have to be careful.
It can take weeks, months, or even years before the symptoms of HSV-2 present themselves. So, many people don’t realise that they have the virus at all. During this time, they can still pass it on to others without realising. This is one of the reasons why regular STI screenings are extremely important for sexual health.
There is no cure for cold sores or genital herpes. It is a chronic condition that lasts a lifetime. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s the end of the world. Although the initial flare-ups may be severe and very regular, with time they become much less so.
There are a number of over the counter the counter treatments for cold sores, including sprays, topical creams, and lip balms. There are three commonly used medications used to treat genital herpes; Zovirax, Famvir and Valtrex. These drugs don’t cure the condition but they can make it much easier to live with. In addition to pharmaceutical treatments like these, many people are using home remedies to treat their conditions. These include but aren’t limited to:
Many of these home treatments are believed to speed up healing time and even prevent cold sores and genital herpes in the first place. However, there isn’t much scientific evidence to support their use.
If you suspect that you might have either form of the herpes virus, the best thing to do is get yourself to your family doctor or other medical professionals. He or she can examine you and, if they find that you have contracted the condition, advise you on treatments and safety.
Herpes is not a nice virus to have, and once you have it there’s no getting rid of it. But it certainly isn’t the end of the world and with the right management, can have little or no impact on your life at all.