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Cold Sores

This months newsletter is about herpes labialis (better know as a “cold sore”) Cold-sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Usually they are caused by HSV-1. (While genital herpes is usually caused by HSV-2). HSV infection and cold-sores are an incredibly common problem. By age fifty, 90% of people will test positive for antibodies to HSV-1 meaning that they have either been infected or at least exposed to this virus. However, only about one third of those people will develop the clinical lesions that we call “cold-sores”. Some studies show that as many as 40% of the general population have experienced at least one cold-sore.

Why is it called a “cold sore”?
Because it comes out when you have a “cold”. The same reason some people call it a “fever blister”. The HSV virus, which is always present in your body, tends to overcome the immune system and erupt as blisters that turn into “sores” when your immune defenses are run down. This is especially common during a “cold” or a “fever” or after a sunburn. And sometimes it comes out for no reason at all.

How do you catch oral-HSV?
Most people will have contracted the virus as a child. The method of infection is contact with infected material such as saliva (e.g. a kiss from a relative who gets cold-sores or sharing a drink with a friend who gets cold sores). Patients who get cold-sores continue to shed the virus in their saliva even when the cold-sore is no longer visible.

Treating cold-sores: A “window of opportunity”
As a general rule, herpes infections must be treated early or the therapy will not be effective. This is because viral replication is most active during this early period. Most patients with herpes labialis describe a “prodrome”. That means that they are able to feel the cold sore (with symptoms such as burning or tingling) before they can actually see the sore.

Pills vs. Cream
Pills are certainly more effective than creams when treating cold-sores, and new one-day dosing makes it easier…Read more

The Staff and Doctors at Minars Dermatology

phone: 954-987-7512

In This Issue
Why is it called a “cold sore”?

How do you catch oral-HSV?

Treating cold-sores: A “window of opportunity”

Pills vs. Cream

The sunscreen ingredient that most dermatologists consider to be the best UVA blocker (and which we recommended in our May 2005 column) has been approved by the FDA and will soon be available in the United States. It will probably be introduced into the US in the sunscreen brands Ombrelle and Anthelios (as it is in the rest of the world).


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Florida Academy of Dermatology

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