Drs S & N Waddell Dental Practice

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Cold sores

A common condition usually affecting the lips and nearby areas. There is sometimes an initial warning sensation before the blister emerges over 24 hours and forms a scab which will last up to ten days. They can occur singly or in groups.


They are often associated with mild trauma, dryness, cold or being run-down.


They are caused by Herpes Simplex Virus 1 which is usually acquired in childhood when it may manifest as Herpetic Gingivostomatitis.


Herpetic Gingivostomatitis is a reasonably severe childhood illness usually starting around Nursery age. It runs a short course, involves a fever and a very sore and ulcerated mouth. Complications can occur especially if the virus is transferred to the eyes. It is this childhood illness that lies dormant to later show itself as Cold Sores.


About 80% of the population carry antibodies to the virus.


Cold sores respond to very early treatment with Acyclovir, (Zovirax) an antiviral that prevents excessive cell damage if used at the earliest sign well before the blister occurs.


Cross contamination from blisters to other parts of the body should be avoided. This is particularly important with the eyes where the virus can cause corneal damage


Cold sores are recurrent.


The blisters are infective and even contact with a finger will induce Herpetic Whitlow, a painful viral infection of the nail cuticle. If possible avoid close contact with others and touching the blisters.