Canker Sore vs Herpes: Which is it?
The question “Which is it?”
refers to whether or not you have a genital lesion called canker sore (or cankles) which causes painful blisters. Canker sores are caused by a variety of organisms, including bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites. They range from very mild to life threatening infections.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), HSV-2, and HSV-3 are the three most common types of herpes viruses. All three cause genital lesions. But they do so in different ways. For example, HSV-1 causes cold sores while HSV-2 causes genital ulcers and herpes labialis (a painful blistering rash).
The two other herpes viruses that cause genital lesions are human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein Barr Virus (EBV). Both HPV and EBV cause genital warts. While both viruses can lead to severe health problems, only one of them leads to genital lesions.
In general, the risk of getting a herpes infection depends upon how long you’ve had contact with infected individuals, your sexual behavior and what kind of skin cells you’re exposed to. To avoid this entirely, remember that the best protection is a monogamous relationship with an uninfected person. You can also avoid the virus by not coming into contact with an infected person’s skin at all. If you’re sexually active, it’s best to get your partner to get tested before having intimate contact.
When you have any kind of blisters or sores on your genitals or mouth, it’s important to take special care to prevent reinfection. If you have any kind of sore on or around your genitals, it’s important to avoid contact with anyone else’s skin (including your own). The same precautions apply to cold sores. It’s also important to avoid the transmission of genital warts or any other STD when you have a genital wart infection.
You can protect yourself from genital lesions caused by skin-to-skin contact by using a latex condome. These are most effective when used during every sexual encounter. While not foolproof, they can help protect you against re-infection.
Most importantly, if you think you have genital herpes, remember that this infection is incurable but it is manageable. There is no cure for cold sores. But most people find that by taking certain medications on a regular basis they can suppress their symptoms and prevent breakouts.
The good news is that once you’ve been infected with the herpes virus, your body builds up antibodies to it. This means you’re unlikely to catch the same virus again in the future. For most people this protection lasts a lifetime. But for a small number of unlucky individuals the virus can become active again.
There are several types of herpes simplex: HSV-1 and HSV-2 are responsible for causing cold sores and genital herpes. HSV-3 causes a rare eye infection called herpes ocularis. HSV-4 is closely related to HSV-2 and causes genital herpes in people who have multiple partners.
Herpes is a virus that primarily causes ulcers, or open sores, in the skin and mucous membranes. The most common symptoms are:
? Ulcers, or open sores, on the skin or inside the mouth
? Muscle aches
? Fatigue (extreme tiredness)
? Sore throat
? Swollen glands
? Testicular and pelvic lymph node inflammation
Herpes is spread through direct contact with the skin or secretions of an infected person. Often this occurs during kissing or sexual contact, but it may also occur in everyday situations, such as when a child and a parent share a cup or eating utensil. This makes it difficult to avoid contact with the virus.
In most cases cold sores are spread by people scratching their skin and picking up the virus on their fingers, and then inadvertently touching other parts of their bodies or things they come in contact with.
Infected skin has an incubation period of 2 to 21 days before it begins to show signs and symptoms. Most people do not experience any other symptoms beyond the initial herpes outbreak. For others, however, the virus begins to travel through the nerves towards the spinal cord. Once it reaches this location, it sets up camp and remains dormant.
From here it may become active again at a later date, resulting in further herpes outbreaks.
With the herpes virus in its dormant phase within the nervous system, you may not experience any symptoms at all for long periods of time. It can stay in this state for many years without causing you any issues. For some, however, the virus may become active again at some point in the future. This second outbreak is often shorter and less severe than the first, but it can still be bothersome and uncomfortable.
In some cases, the virus may become active again within a few months. In others, it can take years before triggering a new outbreak.
The standard herpes treatment options include:
— Antiviral drugs (for treating active outbreaks): There are three antiviral medications approved by the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration for treating herpes?
acyclovir (Zovirax), valacyclovir (Valtrex), and famciclovir (Famvir). These are taken when the first signs of an outbreak occur. These drugs shorten the duration of the outbreak and may reduce symptoms, but they do not eliminate the virus. The medications must be taken whenever an outbreak occurs, even if it is just once every few months.
— Antiviral drugs (for preventing outbreaks): For patients who have more frequent herpes outbreaks, or for those who experience severe symptoms, antiviral drugs can be taken daily to help prevent outbreaks from occurring. Taken on a regular basis, these drugs can reduce the frequency of outbreaks by nearly 90%.
As of now there is no cure for herpes. However, the condition may become dormant at some point and stay that way for long periods of time. It is important to remember that even when herpes is dormant, the virus is still active and can become contagious again at any time.
Other treatment options:
There are alternative treatments that some people find helpful for relieving symptoms or speeding recovery during an outbreak. These include:
? Medications applied directly to the skin (topical medications) such as steroids or vitamin creams
? Medications taken by mouth, such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), or valcyclovir (Valtrex)
? Antihistamines such as chlorpheniramine (Chlor-Trimeton Allergy 24 Hour)
? Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and aspirin
Lotions or creams containing ingredients that dry or toughen the skin, such as lactic acid, urea, or lidocaine (The Preparation H cr?
me mentioned earlier is available over the counter in some countries but is a prescription medicine in others).
If you experience an outbreak of herpes, you can take one of several approaches. One approach is to do nothing except treat the symptoms. This may shorten the length and lessen the severity of the outbreak. As of now, there are no medications to make the infection go away faster.
Antiviral drugs can shorten the amount of time it remains in your body, but they do not eliminate the virus altogether.
Herpes viruses become inactive in the body after an outbreak. They remain in a state of latency in your nervous system, sometimes for many years. The virus may become active again during periods of illness, stress or lowered immunity. This reactivation causes the familiar sores that we call a herpes outbreak.
When the virus becomes active, it travels to the surface of the skin and causes sores (also called ulcers). Once the ulcers form, you can spread the infection to another person. The first time this happens, you may have several sores and they may be larger and more painful than usual.
The first time you are infected with the herpes simplex virus it usually causes lesions in or near the genital area. The frequency and severity of recurrent outbreaks typically decreases over time. In fact, after the first year or two, most people only have outbreaks four to six times per year.
You can transmit genital herpes even if you have no sores or other symptoms. You may transmit the virus whether or not you are experiencing an outbreak of sores. Genital herpes viruses can be transmitted even when there are no sores or other symptoms, but some people have reported that the virus is most contagious during this time.
Sources & references used in this article:
Recurrent “fever blister” and “canker sore” tests for herpes simplex and other viruses with mammalian cell cultures by II Ship, WK Ashe, HW Scherp – Archives of oral biology, 1961 – Elsevier
Prevalence of recurrent herpes labialis and aphthous ulcers among young adults on six continents. by JA Embil, RG Stephens, FR Manuel – … Medical Association Journal, 1975 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
Recurrent aphthous ulcerations and recurrent herpes labialis in a professional school student population: I. Experience by II Ship, AL Morris, RT Durocher… – Oral Surgery, Oral …, 1960 – oooojournal.net
Aphthae and herpetic gingivostomatitis by LR Cahn, HA Bartels – American Journal of Orthodontics and Oral Surgery, 1942 – Elsevier
Devices for treating canker sores, tissues and methods thereof by LC Tu, H Tu – US Patent 6,104,952, 2000 – Google Patents
Differential diagnosis: is it herpes or aphthous by TS Tilliss, JD McDowell – J Contemp Dent Pract, 2002 – researchgate.net
Is Aphthous Stomatitis Due to the Virus of Herpes Simplex? by HJ Templeton – Archives of Dermatology and Syphilology, 1926 – jamanetwork.com
Primary herpes simplex infection following mouth-to-mouth resuscitation by AA Hendricks, EP Shapiro – JAMA, 1980 – jamanetwork.com