What are the Complications & Treatment of Cold Sores?

Cold sore of fever blister is basically a symptom (cutaneous manifestation) of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infection, mainly type-1 virus. Complications of cold sores are therefore are complications of HSV. Cold sores are contagious and can pass infection (HSV) from one person to another by skin to skin contact, especially when fluid of the blisters is exchanged. When fluid of fever blister (cold sore) comes in contact with another non infected person, it can transmit the HSV and infect the person. The risk of getting infected (by non infected person) is highest from time of appearance of blisters till they crust after oozing and drying. But the risk of infection remains till the blisters heal completely.

Infection by herpes simplex virus in the eye, which can cause scarring of the cornea and blindness as a result, is the leading cause of blindness in many industrialized countries including United States. Herpes simplex virus can spread easily to infants, people with eczema and individuals with compromised immunity such as HIV infected persons or AIDS patients, cancer patients, people with organ transplants (as immunosuppressant agents are given to these people) etc. and contact with these group of people should be avoided if you have cold sore. Infection of herpes simplex virus in these people also more severe than normal people.

What is the treatment of cold sore?

Cold sore or herpes simplex virus generally clears up by itself within about two weeks, without treatment. The treatment of cold sore includes symptomatic treatment with topical application of lidocaine (a local anesthetic agent) for pain relief and Benzocaine for protecting blisters from irritation and trauma.

Antiviral antibiotics (oral drugs) such as Acyclovir (available as Zovirax), Famciclovir (Famvir), Valacyclovir (Valtrex) etc. can be used to reduce severity of infection by HSV. Use of antiviral antibiotics can shorten the duration of illness only modestly. But if started early in the illness, the antiviral antibiotics can reduce pain and shorten duration of illness. You may also need antiviral antibiotics to prevent recurrence of cold sores.



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