How does herpes lips look like? Lip herpes or herpes simplex labialis is one of the oral infections, which can be sexually transmitted. What are the signs of herpes on lips? Get information on how you can get herpes on the lips, the stages, symptoms expected, pictures, treatment options and remedies.
How do you get herpes on your lips?
This is how HSV-1 transmission does occur. According to health physician Terri Foran, you can spread the virus if you have an oral HSV type 1 when your partner doesn’t. Any form of sexual contact (in this case contact between the virus and the mouth), can cause the viruses to be transmitted to your partner. The viruses can also be spread through sexual intercourse with an infected person.
Therefore, can hsv2 be transmitted orally? Yes. It is possible to get lip herpes orally. However, transmission of HSV type 1 will occur before crusting stage when the infected partner has the virus on the lips.
More importantly, one does not really have to show or have outward signs of lip herpes for transmission to occur or spread of the HSV-1 virus.
Interestingly, some people who get lip herpes infection won’t show any signs or symptoms. Know the stages and expected HSV-1 infection symptoms on the lips and elsewhere in the body such as fever.
Stages, signs, and symptoms
Herpes infection is usually identified with the common terms cold sores and fever blisters.
Cold sore on lip or herpes simplex labialis
Cold sores is a common viral infection usually caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 type 1). HSV-1 causes both herpes of the mouth and genital herpes. However, HSV type 2 mostly affects the genitals in many people who get diagnosed of genital herpes.
The early signs of a herpes simplex virus infection on the lips are burning and stinging sensation, itching, soreness and tautness.
The second (tingle) stage is marked by tight and itch. The affected area may become red and look swollen.
The third stage of cold sore on lips is blister stage. A clear picture of cold sore infection on the lips is depicted by small or tiny clusters or multiple fluid-filled blisters (refer to the pictures) presented with blistering on skin.
After about 4 days, the blisters rapture or burst to let out fluid. This leads to the ulcer stage. This is the most painful stage of cold sores on lip. This stage is marked by inflammation with characteristic red rings around the area where blisters had formed.
Moving on, we have the scabbing stage after 1 week or so. The cold sore ulcers will then begin to dry out hence formation of scabs. The affected area tends to shrink and appear with little cracks that would cause pain. Sometimes itching can worsen.
Finally, as the scabs heal they would come off leaving a dry and flaky-looking skin. If the right measures are not taken during these stages, your skin around cold sores may look slightly red or pinkish.
Keep in mind that cold sores can be triggered by emotional stress, menstruation, direct strong sunlight on your lips, injury to the mouth and fever.
Fever blisters or bumps
What causes fever blisters? HSV- type 1 or type 2 cause cold sore fever blisters – it depends on whether the fluid-filled blisters are located on the genitals, lips, under nose or near mouth. Even though, an outbreak of fever blisters can be triggered by stress, exposure of lips to direct sunlight and suppressed immune system.
Fever blisters will appear on same spot on lips or genitals once the virus gets activated. This implies there is possibility of having a recurring lip herpes episodes.
What else? Fever blister stage presents lip herpes as lip bumps. Other symptoms that may come before the fever blisters appear include:
- Sore throat
- Swollen glands
- Difficulty or painful swallowing
Besides the lips, patients can also get the blisters on gums, mouth and throat especially in cases of recurrence in herpes infection.
Herpes and pregnancy complications
Women with HSV-1 or HSV-2 virus can potentially lead to serious complications during pregnancy. For instance:
- Risk to miscarriage
- Retarded fetal growth
- Transmission of the HSV-1 or HSV-2 viruses to the newborn
It is important for pregnant women to frequently get diagnosed for prompt medical intervention.
More importantly, pregnant women are advised not to engage in behavior through which they can get the cold sore infection. Some of the tips are highlighted below.
How is it diagnosed?
Diagnosis usually involves observation of your oral condition or laboratory tests. Your doctor may look around the mouth or inside to look for typical signs. If he or she is not satisfied, you may be asked to get to the lab for tests which may include viral culture, DNA test or Tzanck test.
Patients who suspect have the cold sore on their lips should see a doctor.
How to get rid of cold sores on lip
Many cases of viral infections usually go short of cures. This means that there are no sure cold sore medicine. Even though, there are a few things you can do to deal with the cold sore symptoms.
Available treatment options only shorten the duration of lip herpes. These include:
- Over the counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen
- Cold sore cream which are mostly anti-viral options
- Prescription antiviral tablets from your doctor
- Dabbing anti-inflammatory creams and liquids on the cold sores
Ensure that you take right action on use any of the medicines to deal with cold sore symptoms. Ask your pharmacist for proper advice or see your doctor.
Cold sores that show tendency to recur can be serious and that means that you have to observe self-care and follow all directions on medication to the latter if you have to get rid of lip herpes.
IMPORTANT: If you have a weakened immune system or you are pregnant you must see your doctor frequently and make follow-up when asked to.
Herpes antiviral medication are quite effective in terms of reducing the probability of future recurrences. There are oral medicines as well as topical applications. Many oral medications are normally prescribed by a physician.
Prescription oral drugs (brand names)
Some of best cold sore medicines for cold sores include the antiviral tablets.
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
- Famciclovir (Famvir)
Some oral or creams for cold sores have side effects which are common. You may report back to your healthcare provider if you experience the following while on medication.
- Change in skin complexion such as paleness or yellowing
- Bruising, redness or red spots or rash
- Stomach pain
- Dizziness or headache
- Vomiting, etc.
Creams are applied topically especially on the genitals but can be used to get rid of the symptoms such as inflammation, itching and pain.
Those available or sold as OTCs include Penciclovir (Denavir).
Some creams such as Docosanol (Abreva) may be used on short term to prevent a secondary infection such as bacterial infections. However, Abreva does not cure cold sores. In fact, it has some been associated with side effects on users.
Treatment and remedies
There is no exact cure for fever blisters due to lip or genital herpes infection but remedies will reduce painful symptoms and this can promote a healing. Fever blisters may be prone to infection. So keep the area clean even if it is painful sometimes to clean. Try gentle icing, hydrogen peroxide and licorice.
Best treatment options also include antiviral medicines and creams to reduce itching or pain. These include
- Tetracaine cream (Viractin) and lidocaine (Zilactin-L)
- Dimethicone with SPF sunscreen for lip protection
If you have cold sores you also need to desperately keep yourself from anything that will cause spread of the herpes simplex virus. These tips include the following things.
- Avoid deep kissing or just don’t kiss or have oral sex unless you have healed
- Avoid sharing objects or lip products that may lead or have been contaminated such as lipstick or lip gloss, razor, face towel or cutlery.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before putting your contact lenses in to prevent HSV infection in the eye.
- You can also reduce infection risks or prevent recurrences by using sunblock products on the lips
- Practice relaxation techniques (*yoga or meditation) to get over stress which is a trigger factor
Above all, you are highly expected to follow all medical instructions given by your GP or doctor.
Effective remedies for oral or lip herpes
If the symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks,
1. Best balm for lip herpes
Of the naturally extracted balms, lemon balm or balm mint is one to use for fever blisters on the lips.
2. Zinc oxide creams
Zinc oxide can significantly decrease symptoms such as duration of cold sores on the lip.
CAUTION: High doses must be avoided due to health-related problems. This drug should not be used if you are already on immunosuppressing medication such as a therapy.
This is a helpful remedy as far as fighting infection and immunity are of greater significance when it comes to viral infections. Propolis has the antioxidant property that enhances immune stability.
4. Peppermint oil
There is a strong evidence that peppermint oil can stop a number of viruses from reproducing, including herpes simplex viruses. One thing not clear is whether applying it topically on skin such as the genital area can produce similar results.
NOTE: Peppermint oil can be effective for some people but may irritate lip mucosa in others.
5. Sage extracts
Creams made with extracts from sage leaves can accelerate healing of cold sores, according to studies in herbal medicine.
PRECAUTION: Some remedies could have side effects such as lysine.
Here are additional care tips to deal with symptoms caused by cold sores or due to fever blisters. The following home remedies can help you by making you feel better.
- Try a warm washcloth to the sores to help ease pain
- To help prevent further spread of the virus, wash the blisters gently with gentle antiseptic soap and water
- Avoid taking hot beverages, spicy and salty foods, and citrus
- Gargle with cool water if you have sores in mouth
- Rinse with warm salty water to soothe inflammation in mouth
- Clean your hands properly before applying creams for cold sores around your mouth
- Do not give adult drug doses to young children
Ask your healthcare provider if these therapeutic remedies can be of help for cold sores or herpes symptoms on lips. Natrum muriaticum, Rhus Toxicodendron, and Mercurius.
Lip herpes is quite a common in young people and adults many of whom are sexually active. From statistics on grown-up demographic, about half of the adult population in the United States get oral herpes.
While some people will get symptoms periodically, ones who have become immune to HSV types will never show up any symptoms even if they have HSV virus.
Factors to consider before treatment of lip herpes include age, personal terms, expected outcome and one’s medical history to current medication or therapy.
References and Citations
- Herpes – Oral