Cold sores should not be confused with canker sores. Canker sores are mouth ulcers that erupt inside the mouth due to cut or physical trauma caused to the mucous membrane. Whereas cold sores are Herpes Libailis or fever blisters caused due to a viral infection. They occur on the lips, chin and sometimes on the fingers and toes. Cold sores are a result of activated herpes simplex virus. There are two types of herpes simplex virus, HSV-1 and HSV-2. Herpes simplex virus type 1 infection affects the mouth, throat, eye, face and at times the central nervous system while HSV-2 virus affects anogenital areas.
Cold sores can be caused due various reasons. The first encounter of the disease could be because of skin contact or use of common object with an infected person. The virus can be easily transferred through skin, hands, fingers and eyes. Secondary infections like conjunctivitis can develop if the virus is exposed to the eyes. Sharing objects like razors, towels, plates, cutlery with cold sores infected person can easily pass on the virus. In addition, shedding cold sores skin and saliva of infected person is contagious. The process of transferring is called autoinoculation. Kissing also is a medium through which the herpes simplex virus can be passed on.
Even if a person has experienced a fever blister occurrence before, kissing an infected person can activate it again. Once the virus enters the body through cut in skin or oral mucosal it enters the epidermis and travels up to the ganglion that is nerve cells and lies dormant. Numerous people experience at least two to three bouts of cold sores in a year. They usually occur in the same place but might erupt in other parts of the body. It can be triggered by diverse factors like:
Excessive exposure to sunlight
Weak immune system
Injury caused around the mucosal area while dental procedures
Other primary infections like common cold and flu
Hormonal changes, especially during pregnancy, attaining puberty and regular menstrual cycles
Allergies and intolerance towards different foods
Trauma caused during cosmetic surgery (example, laser skin surgery or dermabrasion, lip tattooing)
Besides herpes simplex virus type one infection, HSV type 2 is a more severe form. Oral genital contact can spread HSV-1 as well as HSV-2 virus to other parts of the body. It is important to maintain proper oral hygiene, wash hands after touching or applying ointment on the cold sores. A healthy diet and strong immune system can aid in fighting against recurrent cold sores.