Cold Sores = Herpes I = Fever Blisters = Sun Blisters
A lot of patients confuse the terminology for cold sores and canker sores. They may use many other words such as: fever blisters, sun blisters, herpes labialis, herpes type I, and apthous ulcers without understanding the difference. This section discusses cold sores; canker sores are discussed in the preceding section.
Cold sores are Herpes type I (one). The other terms: fever blisters, sun blisters and Herpes labialis (lips) all mean the same thing, Herpes. Patients will occasionally present to my office with an established Herpes I lesion on their lip and refer to it as a 'cold sore' or 'fever blister' and yet deny that it is Herpes. They are wrong.
Herpes is a defined as a sexually transmitted disease (STD) though it is also possible for anyone, including children, to innocently contract it through contact with someone who is actively infected. Herpes is contagious when the lesion is visible; it most commonly appears on the lips though it can also be hidden inside the mouth on the pink gum near the teeth. It usually appears as small, discrete white dots that coalesce over several days into one larger, painful lesion. Sharing food with parents, friends or classmates or kissing a relative hello are common means of disease transmission. Therefore do not share food or kiss anyone when a lesion is actively present! The usual duration of an untreated Herpes lesion is seven to ten days. Herpes type II (two) is an STD that occurs on the genitals.
Herpes of the eye (Ocular Herpes) is caused by the herpes simplex virus, which more frequently appears on the lip. This infection can produce a painful sore on the eyelid or surface of the eye that causes inflammation of the cornea, the transparent tissue that covers the front of the eye.
An estimated 400,000 Americans have had some form of ocular herpes and they have up to a 50 percent chance of having a recurrence weeks or years later. Each year, nearly 50,000 new and recurring cases are diagnosed in the United States, with the more serious form of it accounting for about 25 percent of these cases.
The more severe form of ocular herpes causes the body's immune system to attack and destroy an inner layer of the cornea. A corneal transplant might then be necessary to prevent possible vision loss or blindness.
Treatment: There is no cure for Herpes though current medication prescribed by a dentist or doctor can substantially reduce the severity of an outbreak. Sunblock on the lips can also help prevent an outbreak. The prescription medication is worth obtaining.
To see comparative photographs click on "Dental Photos" at the top of this page and then click on "Herpes" in the left margin. Hundreds of photographs are in this section.
This material is presented so that people will understand that a herpes infection is significant and that they do not want to be responsible for passing it on to someone else. Patients need to be diagnosed and treated by their dentist, ophthalmologist and/or doctor, which is outside the scope of the information presented in this website.