(To the left is a picture of the Herpes Simplex Virus from a scanning electron microscope)
A cold sore is a blister on the skin, usually around the mouth, that is the primary (and usually the only) symptom of an outbreak of the Herpes Simplex Type 1 virus (aka “HSV-1″). Something to point out is that oral herpes (cold sores) can be caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2 (HSV-1 is much more common), and genital herpes is typically caused by HSV-2 (although it, too, can be caused by HSV-1), although gential herpes resulting from HSV-1 infection is only about one sixth as common as infections resulting from HSV-2 exposure (translation: if you’ve got genital herpes, odds are 6 times greater that it’s HSV-2, whereas if you’ve got oral herpes, aka “cold sores”, it’s almost definitely HSV-1 although oral infection by the HSV-2 strain has been documented). The old saying that “If it’s below the waist it’s HSV-2, if it’s above the waist it’s HSV-1″ no longer holds true all of the time, although it’s still accurate in the majority of cases.
Oral herpes (aka “herpes labialis”) is the most common form of herpes, genital herpes is the second most common. Herpes cycles between periods of active disease that last 2-21 days where there are blisters on the skin containing infectious virus particles, followed by a remission period–this is the state the virus is in the great majority of the time. During remission the virus resides only in sensory nerve cells in its latent form where it will remain for the rest of the infected individual’s life. over time the frequency of active disease lessens.
Oral herpes is most often transmitted when there are visible sores on the person’s face, however the period immediately before a cold sore emerges is a stage during which the person is asymptomatically (asymptomatic means “without symptoms”) shedding the virus and is therefore capable of infecting other people even though there are no outward signs of the disease.
Vaccines for Cold Sores?
No cure or vaccine is currently available, although vaccines of varying effectiveness are currently in phase III clinical trials. (See: Wikipedia – Herpes Vaccines)
A Funny Thing About Herpes (if herpes could ever be funny, that is)
The odd thing is that contracting herpes causes an immune response called seroconversion from the body which releases antibodies to that specific strain of HSV which will thereby prevent an infection by that strain at any other site in the body–if you get oral herpes that means you are now immune to and cannot get herpes whitlow, herpes keratitis, or herpes encephalitis. it’s also been shown that exposure to HSV-1 (i.e. in the form of oral herpes) seems to reduce the symptoms of a later HSV-2 infection (i.e. genital herpes), and most indications are that an HSV-2 infection will immunize that person against HSV-1, so if you get genital herpes odds are very good that you’re now immune to and cannot get oral herpes.
Is What I Have A Cold Sore Or A Canker Sore (they’re different)?
Orofacial infection (cold sores or oral herpes) is typically determined by clinical examination where the most common symptoms are multiple round superficial ulcers accompanied by acute gingivitis. Cases of non-typical appearance are more difficult to diagnose and an examiner will typically refer to what are known as “prodromal” symptoms–that is, symptoms that will typically occur prior to the onset of the disease–to differentiate HSV infection from other conditions with similar symptoms. for example, cold sores are often mistaken for canker sores and vice-versa, but they have distinctly different prodromal symptoms.
There are various lab tests that can be done such as skin biopsy, PCR (polymerase chain reaction), and DFA (direct fluorescent antibody) tests that produce highly sensitive and specific diagnoses, however their high costs and time constraints generally prevent their regular usage for diagnosing HSV. Antibody tests (aka serological tests) can be done but are not generally useful in a clinical setting due to the fact that they can’t distinguish between a genital and oral HSV infection and they can’t determine the site of infection on the body.
(To the left is a CANKER sore inside the lower lip – NOT a cold sore)
People often confuse cold sores with canker sores and this is a mistake, the two are not the same nor are they related in any way: canker sores are a form of oral ulcer the cause of which is unknown but they have been related to compromised immune systems, certain toothpastes containing sodium lauryl sulfate, and 30-40% of sufferers report a family history of canker sores. Go here for more information: Wikipedia Article on Canker Sores, aka Aphthous Ulcers. Note: canker sores almost always occur inside the mouth versus cold sores which are almost always outside the mouth around the lips.
How Not To Infect Loved Ones
When one partner has herpes simplex and the other does not, the use of anti-virals like acyclovir and valacyclovir by the infected person can reduce the odds of infecting their partner by up to 50%. it is believed asymptomatic HSV-2 viral shedding occurs on 10.8% of days per year in patients not undergoing antiviral treatment, versus 2.9% of days while on antiviral therapy. Source: Current Medical Research and Opinion, Volume 21, Number 10, October 2005 , pp. 1577-1582
Herpes Doesn’t Just Do Cold Sores – Potentially Dangerous?
Just something to keep in mind, research has a shown that the Herpes virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2) can both potentially cause a range of other more serious health problems: “Other disorders such as herpetic whitlow, herpes gladiatorum, ocular herpes (keratitis), cerebral herpes infection encephalitis, Mollaret’s meningitis, neonatal herpes, and possibly Bell’s palsy are all caused by herpes simplex viruses.” Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_sore
Can You Ever Get Rid of the Herpes Virus?
In a word: no. Sorry. The herpes virus, after initial infection, recedes into the sensory nerve cells of the face where they remain latent until the next outbreak (usually months and sometimes years apart). Over time the frequency of the outbreaks will reduce (initially the outbreaks may occur every few months, as time goes on the frequency will usually decrease to once every few years). Outbreaks typically last 2-21 days at a time, with about a week being average for most people.
What Does A Cold Sore Look Like? (Pictures of Cold Sores Included)
A cold sore outbreak is usually preceded by an itching and/or tingling sensation around the site of the future potential outbreak (usually around the mouth), and treatment with certain home remedies at this point, when done early enough, have been known to be very effective at preventing the cold sore from breaking out at all (see: Cold Sores Home Remedies for more info), and then progresses to a small red bump which will further enlarge into pus-filled sores that will then break and ooze infectious fluid, dry up and crust over, and eventually go away. A fever, sore mouth, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes on the neck, and drooling in small children can accompany an outbreak. Here’s what cold sores look like:
How the cold sore virus replicates and how to stop it
This is going to go into a bit of detail, there’s going to be a bit of science and some medical terms, but if you’ll stick with me til the end you’ll really have an excellent understanding of how this nasty little virus works and how a few simple tweaks in what you eat (most importantly: what to stop eating) and maybe a special supplement you probably haven’t heard of before (don’t worry, I’m not selling it and it’s not expensive) can not only eliminate your cold sore in a day or two but also prevent them from every coming back again. Let’s get started…
What causes a cold sore?
A cold sore is an outward symptom of an outbreak of the Herpes Simplex Virus (usually Type 1, aka “HSV-1″, although HSV-2 can cause oral herpes) usually due to a decreased in immune function, a very common cause of which is exposure to cold weather hence the name “cold sore”. To the left you will see the culprit: that’s HSV-1 magnified 169,000 times by scanning electron microscope–growl at it or flip it the bird if it makes you feel better
The herpes virus remains dormant in the sensory nerve cells of your face until an outbreak, and no, sorry, there’s no cure: once you’ve been infected, you’ve got it for life. It’s almost always going to be the type 1 strain (HSV-1) of herpes that causes oral cold sores, however cases of HSV-2 causing them have been documented, so it’s possible, although rare. However, 1 in 6 cases of genital herpes are causes by HSV-1 (genital herpes is usually associated with HSV-2), so that’s somewhat more likely, although the old axiom that if it’s above the waist it’s HSV-1 and if it’s below the waist it’s HSV-2 does still generally hold true.
How Did I Originally Get Infected? Or: WHY GRANDMA WHY?!?!
Studies have shown that, the vast majority of the time, oral herpes is transmitted most commonly in someone’s youth when they are kissed by a relative who’s infected and suffering from an active cold sore outbreak–yeah, that sucks. This is especially likely if you started getting cold sores when you were a small child, which would mean that you were infected when you were very young and therefore most likely acquired it from close contact with an infected relative suffering from an active outbreak. If you acquired it later in life then something else is probably the cause, most likely that you acquired it from an intimate partner through physical contact i.e. kissing someone with a cold sore.
Cold Sore Treatments, Medications, and Remedies
There’s a great variety of treatments that myself and my friends have tried over the years: most of us originally went the prescription-combined-with-OTC (over-the-counter) route where we were prescribed something like Acyclovir or Valacyclovir and then used an OTC cream like Abreva. Over the years we’ve found (myself included) that the best those can do is to shave 1 maybe 2 days off of an outbreak, and that’s about it. We’ve found, through trial-and-error between us over the years, that there are more effective remedies you can put together in your kitchen. Not only that, but there are preventative measures that you can take which will often prevent a cold sore outbreak altogether from happening again, ever, from supplements like l-lysine and Vitamin B-12 to minor but hugely effective little diet changes like avoiding vinegar at certain times because it lowers your blood pH levels and creates an environment much more favorable to the virus replicating and wreaking havoc on your face.
pH Levels, Oxygen, and Stopping the Virus Cold in Its Tracks
The Herpes Simplex Type I virus that causes your cold sores has a very narrow pH range that its environment must be within for it to be able to live and reproduce (by the way, pH is just how acidic or basic something is–acids have a low pH and bases, such as lye, have a high pH) your body’s own pH range can easily sway into this territory from time to time due to a number of factors, the most common causes of which are stress, decreased immune function, certain foods, lack of sleep, and excess sunlight–now, where have you seen these factors mentioned before? Probably in an article you read about the most common triggers for cold sores, right? Even if you haven’t read about it I’m sure you already know it anyway because you almost certainly would have noticed it: your cold sores tend to occur when you’re stressed out, when your immune system is down (this most commonly occurs when you’re ill or when it’s very cold out), when your diet changes (usually in an unhealthy way, such as the addition of junk food you weren’t eating before), when you’re not getting enough sleep, etc., right?
The reason for this is that when you allow these things to happen to you, you’re creating an environment that is the most favorable for the virus to reproduce and live in (it’s when the virus starts suddenly massively reproducing that you get cold sores) by altering your normal pH level for the worse and making it very difficult for your immune system to keep the virus at bay, which it does most of the time, which is why you don’t have cold sores most of the time–your immune system is doing it’s job, it’s only when you make it difficult for it to do its job that problems start to pop up. So, essentially, if you can get your pH level back to normal then the cold sores vanish (this is a bit of an oversimplification, but I just don’t have the room here to explain the whole process). Plus, if you just follow a couple simple guidelines concerning diet and cheap, over-the-counter supplements, you can possibly prevent them from ever coming back, or at least make them very rare (most people who follow the program described below will go several years between cold sores, which is usually a huge improvement for them). Now, how do you do that?
My friend Derek, after a couple years of experimentation (primarily on himself! he suffered horribly from cold sores for years) and some consultation with several doctors and herbal specialists, came up with a program he shared with me a couple years back that took some things we already knew about how to get rid of cold sores (taking l-lysine, avoiding stress and too much sunlight, yada yada) to a whole other level, I mean I was just completely blown away, what he originally showed me was a multi-page, super-detailed program he came up with that utilized a few small (as in they won’t inconvenience you) adjustments in diet that make a big difference primarily involving what not to eat, along with a combination of several herbal supplements (one is l-lysine, but the dosage is different from what you’d normally take since you’re combining it with other supplements) including a new one I’d never heard of called “cat’s claw” that came from some weird tree bark in the Peruvian rain forest, plus a couple others that, when combined, have a very powerful and immediate effect on your body’s pH level and can quickly bring the Herpes virus to a dead halt, but they have to be combined just right in the correct dosages, plus your diet has to be right because if you’re eating any of the several things that can throw off your pH level then it might not work. He’s currently put together a fantastic 84-page report you can get here (it’s pretty easy reading, you can get through it in a couple hours, no worries) that I highly recommend you check out, just listen to what the guy has to say, he knows what he’s doing believe me. I wish I could just give the whole thing to you here, but it’s 84 pages long and there’s just no way I can fit that into a blog post, plus he won’t let me due to copyright issues (I asked already, in fact I had to be careful about how much I gave away to you here about his method!).
I just can’t tell you how much of a difference this has made in my life, I used to suffer from cold sores nearly every other month, it was horrible: cold outside? cold sore. hot outside? cold sore. job-related stress? cold sore. the flu? cold sore bonus, yay! have trouble sleeping? cold sore. I haven’t had one in nearly 3 1/2 years now, and it all started when I first got that e-mail from Derek detailing something he spent years testing and researching and months writing the rough draft. At the time I had a terrible outbreak, two on my mouth and one just on the edge of my nostril, and they were gone in 48 hours, never to return. I follow his simple guidelines about not eating certain foods when I’m especially susceptible to cold sores (I’m stressed, not getting enough sleep, feeling a little under the weather, etc.) and I always take my daily supplements (3 little pills, which are good for you and have multiple other benefits, plus they’re cheap as dirt from my local drug store). If I feel a cold sore coming on, that familiar little tingle, I up the dosage to the level he recommends for when you actually have a cold sore (quite a bit higher than the normal dosage you use to prevent them) and then the tingle goes away and I never see a cold sore pop up, works every time. Again, just for your own benefit I’d recommend you check out his site and see what he has to say, it’ll take 5 minutes, that’s it: go here to learn how to eliminate cold sores in just a day or two and keep them from coming back ever again.
Further Reading and Additional Resources:
WebMD Article on Cold Sores (covers symptoms, exams and tests, treatments, home treatments, and other places to get help).
Mayo Clinic Article on Cold Sores (covers definition, symptoms, causes, when to seek medical advice, complications, treatments and drugs).