Oral Herpes: Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment
What is Oral Herpes?
Also known as HSV-1, oral herpes is a kind of infection triggered by the same virus (herpes simplex virus). This infection is responsible for the appearance of painful sores around the mouth, particularly on the lower region of the lips. The infection appears as fever blisters, which can be acquired through kissing, sharing of lip balm, toothbrushes, razors, and even eating utensils (fork and spoon). Aside from these, the infection can also be contracted through oral sex. Transmission occurs when someone engages in oral sex and has an active cold sore or blisters on their mouth.
HSV-1 is not considered to be a chronic condition. It can be treated on regular dosing using the available treatments, such as antiviral drugs and topical medications. Currently, there is no available cure for infections. However, the said medications can be accessed and purchased under the doctor’s prescription.
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are highly contagious, although HSV-1 isn’t a long-term condition. Its symptoms are characterized to be severe, most especially on its initial outbreak. Recurrence is also possible should the infection is left untreated. Additionally, a weakened immune system adds to the recurrence of the infection.
Signs and Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of oral herpes may sometimes vary and show up abruptly. Note that these symptoms do not show immediately. For some people, the signs and symptoms appear 10 days after the first infection and will take 2-3 weeks to disappear. These are as follows:
- Burning sensation on the affected area – mostly on the mouth
- Cold sores (usually big and painful) – located on the lips
- Itching feeling on specific parts of the face (could be in the neck and cheeks)
- Painful blisters (usually round bumps)
- Ulcers (may show up around the mouth, especially on the lower part of the lips)
- Fever and chills
- Mild headache
- Enlargement of lymph nodes (the first sign of infection)
- Swollen gums (usually appear red)
- Feeling of tiredness and weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Bleeding gums
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Eye irritation
- Tingling sensation on the mouth and lips region
- Oral sores (causes difficulty in eating and drinking)
The mentioned symptoms are manageable, and their severity can be lessened by taking antiviral drugs. However, should these symptoms persist, seek medical care immediately. Once the symptoms become serious and uncontrollable, the immune system must have been weakened already. Proper medical treatment must be given right away.
Oral herpes is caused by many different factors. Learn and discover how the virus is transmitted and how it can cause serious medical problems to many.
- Oral-to-oral contact (in the form of kissing) is probably the most common way of HSV-1 infection. This gives easy access to the virus and quickly enters the skin.
- Aside from kissing, oral sex can also be a triggering factor for oral herpes. When someone engages in oral sex, where the male or female has active sores in their genitals, there is a high chance of HSV-1 infection.
- The elderly are the most common group of people that can be infected with oral herpes. This is mainly because of a weakened immune system. This contributes a lot to the high-risk transmission of the virus. Additionally, oral herpes attacks everyone regardless of age.
- Avoid sharing personal items. Doing such will only add to the high-risk transmission of the virus.
Oral Herpes Diagnosis
Diagnosis is given only once your doctor has examined you. The doctor will look for blisters or cold sores around your mouth. You will also be asked about your medical history. Aside from conducting a physical examination, your doctor will likely use a skin biopsy to better understand the condition and to provide a concrete diagnosis. The biopsy involves removing a small piece of tissue from the sore or to the infected skin. The sample will be sent to a pathologist for further examination. Aside from this procedure, you will also be undergoing a blood test. This test will show if your blood has produced enough antibodies after the infection.
Treatment and Prevention
In treating oral herpes, taking the right medications prescribed by your doctor is a prerequisite. As there is no known cure for the infection yet, antiviral medicines are present to help in relieving the painful symptoms of HSV-1. Moreover, numbing medicines are also accessible for those who experience increasing and severe mouth pain caused by cold sores and blisters.
Avoid oral herpes from causing a more serious complication. If you’ve noticed that the sores have been active even after a few weeks, seek medical care at once. This phenomenon signals possible severe damage to the immune system. Hospitalization will also likely happen should serious health dilemmas take place.