Oral Herpes, commonly known as cold sores, is a very common health condition that is caused by HSV (Herpes Simples Virus). This condition mostly affects the lips and mouth causing very painful sores on the roof of the mouth, the tongue, lips, the inside of the cheeks, and on the gums. Sometimes it can even spread out to the face and neck areas. Oral herpes is known to cause symptoms such as muscle pain and aches and fever.
Generally, HSV is categorized into two – HSV-1 and the not so famous HSV-2. While both of these viruses cause genital and oral lesions and sores, they have very unique and different DNAs. Statistics indicate that HSV-1 is responsible for over 80% of oral sores and only around 20% of genital lesions. HSV-2 on the other hand is responsible for over 80% of all genital lesions and only 205 of oral sores, the exact opposite of each other. Further studies indicate that in adolescents, over 40% of herpes on the genitalia is as a result of the HSV-1 due to the reported cases of genital/oral contact in this stage.
But when all is said and done, the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is a characteristic DNA virus responsible for causing oral and genital sores. The virus finds its way into the human body through abrasions, tiny cuts, skin breaks, or even via the mucous membranes. Many people get this virus via direct contact with an individual having the virus, with or without apparent lesions. In the case of kids, they will get infected by simply coming in contact with someone who is infected. Adults and adolescents will most often get affected by the virus via skin contact, kissing, or through sexual contact as is the case with HSV-2.
Be advised that oral and genital herpes can recur as the virus can sometimes be in a dormant state within the human nerve cells. Sometimes different conditions in the human body facilitate the active multiplication of the HSV, leading to a new crop of sores and lesions. The reason behind the occurrence of sores and lesions is because as the cells multiply and start to mature, different HSV particles will start to shatter the cell membrane as they find their way out of the human cell.
Period of incubation – the period between contact with an infected person and the show of symptoms is approximately between 2 and 12 days, with many people averaging around 4 days.
Illness duration – it takes around 2-3 weeks for the sign and symptoms to occur, such as tiredness, fever, irritability, and unexplained muscle aches. Note that at the site of infection, moments before the blisters or sores start to appear you might experience some itching, tingling, pain, or burning sensation, all which are symptoms of an outbreak of the same. After these symptoms, clusters of wounds will erupt, wounds which will break down very fast but to the naked eye they look like small shallow grayish sores with a red base. After a few days, the blisters will become scabbed or crusted and will start to dry out and turn yellow in color.
Oral sores symptoms
- At the onset of your oral herpes condition is when you will experience the strongest pain, which will make eating and swallowing anything, including liquids very difficult and unbearable.
- Oral sores tend to affect the gums, lips, throat, at the front of your tongue, roof of your mouth and in the cheeks, and can also extend to the neck, face, and chin.
- With time, the gums may turn to red in color, may start to bleed, and experience some mild swells.
- Lymph nodes on the neck will be very painful and more often than not will appear swollen
When to see a doctor
- Since oral sores are very painful, it goes without saying that drinking and eating will be very difficult. If you go without eating for several days you may become dehydrated, hence you should seek medical attention immediately you find it difficult to drink or eat as normal.
- You should also seek medical attention immediately you experience any of the following symptoms:-, drowsiness, dry mouth, and irritability.
- If you have an infant of 6 weeks old of under, you should seek urgent medical attention if you notice oral sores. The condition can worsen in infants and young kids. Commonly, as the oral sores continue to spread to the face, chin and neck, the HSV-1 virus can affect the brain of an infant and may become detrimental to the growth and health of that infant.
- You should also contact your doctor immediately you feel your immune system is getting weak and weaker by the minute. This is because a weakened immune system subjects you to more serious health complications and opportunistic infections.