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Overall, the herpes simplex virus (HSV) has two types:

  • HSV-1 (oral) - as the name suggests, the infection affects the oral cavity, less commonly the nasolabial triangle including the nasal cavity (mainly in children). Once the protective properties of the immune system decrease, herpes appears on the lips. In colloquial terms, it's referred to as "getting a cold sore."
  • HSV-2 (genital) - the disease affects the mucous membranes of the genital organs and is transmitted sexually.

Not everyone knows how to properly treat herpes on the lips. Moreover, frequent recurrences of the disease indicate the necessity of consulting a doctor. Let's discuss this in more detail.

The cause of herpes on the lips

As we mentioned earlier, the virus is practically always present in the human body in a passive form. It may not manifest itself at all until favorable factors arise, typically resulting from a weakened immune system due to:

  • colds, flu, acute respiratory infections, or any bacterial infection;
  • severe hypothermia or overheating;
  • body intoxication;
  • manifestation of systemic diseases such as diabetes or HIV;
  • hormonal disorders;
  • lack of vitamins;
  • chronic fatigue;
  • hormonal changes;
  • severe stress;
  • sudden weight loss (strict diet);
  • sunburns or excessive use of tanning beds.

Additionally, herpes on the lips can occur due to mechanical damage or it can be contracted externally through direct contact with an infected person. At this point, it's worth stopping to consider in more detail and discussing the ways of infection.

When we talk about orolabial herpes (on the lips), there are two main ways of infecting the body.

Contact transmission - through shared hygiene items (toothbrush, towel), shared utensils, tableware, bottles. Kisses also belong to the contact method of transmission.

Less common mode of transmission - airborne droplets. When an infected person sneezes or coughs.

What does herpes on the lips look like?

Orolabial herpes, which is the medical term for the rash on the lips, can also spread to the chin, nose, and cheeks, increasing physical and psychological discomfort.

How does herpes on the lips begin?

  • In the first stage, unpleasant sensations appear in the lip area; it's advisable to start treatment at this time.
  • In the second stage, inflammation of the mucous membrane occurs, with the main symptom being the appearance of small blisters.
  • In the third stage, the blisters enlarge and may rupture, forming small sores.
  • The fourth stage is characterized by the formation of crusts at the site of the sores, which fall off during healing.

During a recurrence or complicated course, the virus can spread to the area around the eyes and even to the eye itself (herpetic keratitis, herpetic conjunctivitis, and herpetic stromal keratitis). Deep eye involvement is very rare but can cause a syndrome called acute retinal necrosis. Herpes in a child can affect the oral cavity and pharynx.

In some cases, the disease can cause a rise in body temperature and general weakness in the body.

How long is herpes contagious?

Herpes on the lips is most contagious during the formation of the sore (when the blisters begin to crust). It is during this time that the virus concentration is highest. However, it is also possible to transmit the virus when there are no visual signs of the disease, only tingling and discomfort.

How long does herpes take to heal?

The duration of treatment largely depends on how quickly you start therapy. For example, if you begin using lip herpes ointment at the tingling and itching stage, you can avoid the formation of blisters. If blisters have already appeared, the duration of herpes treatment takes from 7 to 10 days. Some redness in the inflamed area may persist for a certain period afterward.

What is the difference between herpes and canker sores?

Many confuse herpes on the lips with canker sores, equating these two conditions, which is absolutely incorrect, as they have different natures and approaches to treatment. Herpes is a viral infection that can be actively transmitted from person to person. Canker sores have a bacterial nature or are caused by staphylococci and are not contagious.

Treatment of herpes on the lips

How to quickly get rid of herpes on the lips? It is worth noting that completely removing the virus from the human body is impossible. Today, there are antiviral drugs: locally acting creams and tablets for herpes on the lips, which can suppress the replication of the virus and reduce the intensity of external manifestations: antiviral ointments and immunostimulating agents.

What to treat herpes on the lips at home? As mentioned above, the most effective method is the use of antiviral creams at the onset of tingling and itching. Later, the effectiveness of these drugs decreases somewhat, but they reduce the intensity of virus replication and alleviate unpleasant symptoms.

The cream should be applied thinly to the affected area and the surrounding area. It's best to do this with a cotton pad. Avoid contact with the affected skin and be sure to wash your hands after application. Infection can easily spread to healthy areas of the skin.

After the appearance of dry skin at the site of the sores, you can stop using the antiviral cream. However, if the inflammation persists for more than 10 days, it is necessary to consult a doctor.

To reduce pain and inflammation, you can use Ibuprofen or Paracetamol.

The conditional norm is considered to be the manifestation of the herpes virus on the lips up to 4 times a year. If the disease occurs more frequently, it is worth seeing a dermatologist or immunologist.

What should you never do when herpes appears on the lips?

  • Touch the rash or sores with your hands, as you can spread the infection to healthy areas of the skin (it's better to apply the ointment with a cotton swab).
  • Rub cream or other substances into the affected area.
  • Burn blisters or sores with iodine or alcohol; this is an outdated method that has no effectiveness and will only lead to skin burns.
  • Scratch the scab that has formed over the sores, as you will only spread the infection to a larger area of the skin.
  • Apply lipstick (lipstick will become a source of infection).

Limit the consumption of acidic, salty, and spicy foods, which can irritate the sores. Instead, add dairy products, eggs, meat, lentils, potatoes, and fruit teas to your diet.
It's also worth noting that if you have planned any cosmetic procedures in the area where inflammation has occurred, such as lip augmentation with hyaluronic acid, it's advisable to postpone the procedure until the symptoms have completely disappeared or the treatment is finished.

Prevention of herpes appearance

The best prevention is personal hygiene - having your own towels and cosmetic products.

  • Avoid kissing if you or your partner have symptoms of herpes.
  • Do not use shared dishes if someone in the family has herpes.
  • Do not use saliva to moisten contact lenses.
  • Regularly use hygienic lip balm to protect your lips from damage.

Also relevant are all measures that contribute to strengthening the immune system: physical exercises, walks in the fresh air, a full 8-hour sleep, avoiding stress and emotional overload.

You can consult with a dermatologist at the "LeoDerm" medical center on these or other issues. In our work, we use only modern equipment for diagnostics and treatment, as well as evidence-based medicine methods. You can also schedule a consultation with a cosmetologist if you are planning beauty procedures but have questions about the condition of your skin. The doctors at the "LeoDerm" clinic will guarantee to answer all your questions and select the optimal procedure options specifically for you. You can make an appointment by phone or on the website. Contact us!

The information in the article is provided for informational purposes and is not intended as a guide for self-diagnosis and treatment.
If you experience symptoms of an illness, please consult a doctor.