Cold Sores: The Ultimate Guide

Cold Sores: The Ultimate Guide

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cold-sores-guideYou may have noticed something strange developing on your face in the past few weeks, and if its the first time you’re dealing with it there’s going to be a lot of confusion. You might have noticed your lip feeling a bit tingly and numb in the past few days, but it’s something that you don’t really take into account; you just go about your day as you normally would. It’s not until that sensation turns into a throb that you get worried, and that’s when you finally realize you’ve got a cold sore. It might look like a zit right off the bat, but it’s actually not. There’s nothing to worry about though, as there are tons of people all over the world that are constantly dealing with cold sores (some much more than others, of course). They look like zits at first, but they burst open after a bit of time and reveal themselves to be a cold sore.

They’re referred to as “fever blisters” a lot of the time, and it’s exactly the same as a cold sore (so don’t get them mixed up with one another, it’s the same thing). They’re much more common than the usual person would suspect, so you aren’t alone with this predicament. You might be wondering what’s causing these cold sores, as well as what they are (specifically). No need to worry any longer, because this article should cover absolutely everything you’re dying to know about cold sores. After you’ve read through this article, you’ll have the skill set needed in order to actually handle cold sores efficiently. You can’t let something like this dictate how you’re going to live your life, so free yourself from that problem! Life is too short to be constantly struggling with cold sores/fever blisters.

What are they?

cold-sores-stagesThis is somewhat of a loaded question, but not really when you know what you’re talking about. If I were to ask you what a cold sore was right now, what would you say? It’s one thing to understand that you’ve got a cold sore, but it’s an entirely different situation when you actually want to  understand the situation. Cold sores are painful blisters that are brought on by the herpes simplex virus-1 (which is referred to as HSV-1 a lot of the time). These cold sores don’t just affect your lips, they have the ability to reach many other areas of your body as well. Some more common areas that can be affected would be the inside of your mouth, on your face, or even inside of your nasal region (as in the inside of your nostrils). Having them anywhere on your body isn’t fun, but these are the most common locations you’ll spot them. Remember, they can appear anywhere they’d like; especially in the genital area.

 Even though cold sores can be present in the genital area, those that are actually aren’t due to the HSV-1 virus; they’re created through the infliction of HSV-2. Herpes simplex virus 2 is another strain of herpes that you can contract, and it produces cold sores in the infected person genital region. This is because the only way to receive this virus is through sexual contact (obviously unprotected), but both variations still have the ability to produce cold sores in the most random places. This means HSV-1 won’t always be around your face, and HSV-2 won’t always be on your genitals.

cold-sore-stages

How are They Caused?

You know what cold sores are, but do you know how they’re actually caused? HSV-1 is common, that’s just how it is. If you have the virus you probably contracted it while you were a child or something, either through coming in contact with somebody whom has the virus or simply kissing an adult with the virus (like a loved one/family member). People whom are dealing with HSV-1 don’t always show symptoms of cold sores, although there isn’t a cure for the virus and it’s always going to be present in the host body. The virus has the ability to travel up through the skin and into a nerve cell-system, which has groups of “ganglions”. The ganglions are sets of nerve cells, the virus makes its way to this area and decides to “hibernate”; that is until it feels like waking up and blessing you with a cold sore. Don’t fret through, not everybody who has to deal with HSV-1 is going to get a cold sore. In fact, you might not even know you’ve got the virus in your system until it shows up on a test or two. In many patients the virus actually never activates itself, so it’s present in the body but never produces any symptoms (absolutely none).  That’s why its so tricky to deal with, because understanding the virus itself is a pretty daunting task. The quicker you realize that it’s a tricky virus to live with, the quicker you can successfully do so.

Nobodycold-sore is exactly sure why this virus wakes up, and we’re not even sure what triggers this event. You don’t have to be sick in order to get a cold sore, but there are other variables that have a say in when cold sores will pop up. Things like the amount of stress you’re currently dealing with, as well as sunlight or incredibly cold weather. If you’re a female, hormonal changes during pregnancy or menstruation have a say in when cold sores can pop up as well. The cause is incredibly unpredictable, and most of the time it tends to vary from person to person. There’s no distinct answer here, but there are certain things that have been known to “trigger” some sort of response from the virus. Here’s a checklist of what the virus has to go through before a cold sore is produced:

HSV-1 in its dormant state finally awakes within the body (reactivating itself, like it usually does)

  • The virus then takes a journey to the location of infection initially, as in the place it originally infected (through the use of nerve endings)
  • You start to develop a burn or itch in that particular area, feeling it under the skin
  • A small red bump pops up out of nowhere, around one or two days after the initial tingling
  • This bump forms itself into a blister
  • It dries up and a yellow, scab-like crust takes its place (the grossest part!)
  • This crust then dries up and comes off of the area, leaving behind pink and healthy skin
  • The HSV-1 organism makes its way back down into the ganglion to remain dormant

Now you can finally say you understand how cold sores are developed, although the answer has never been too straight forward. We can only hope that scientists and medical workers a like are working on a way to figure out why these cold sores pop up, as well as how frequently for certain individuals.

Are They Contagious (And How Do They Spread?)

The HSV-1 virus is one of the most contagious on the planet, and that’s just a matter of fact. If you have a cold sore you should avoid making contact with other people, especially when it comes to kissing or anything that involves faces making contact with one another. The virus is easily spread through even the most trivial of means, so keep alert and make sure you’re not going to affect anybody around you. They can also be passed through genital liquids, or any other bodily fluid you could think of.

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