Herpes Simplex Infections (Non-Genital) (cont.)
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP
Mary D. Nettleman, MD, MS, MACP is the Chair of the Department of Medicine at Michigan State University. She is a graduate of Vanderbilt Medical School, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine and a fellowship in Infectious Diseases at Indiana University.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- Herpes simplex infections (nongenital cold sores) facts
- What are herpes simplex infections?
- What causes cold sores?
- What makes herpes (cold sores) recur?
- How do cold sores spread?
- What are the signs and symptoms of cold sores?
- What is primary oral herpes?
- What does recurrent herpes look like?
- How long do cold sores last?
- What are the possible complications of oral herpes (cold sores)?
- What other conditions can look like oral herpes (cold sores)?
- What is angular stomatitis?
- What are canker sores?
- How is oral herpes diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for cold sores, are there any home remedies, and what medications are used?
What are the possible complications of oral herpes (cold sores)?
Herpes can be spread from one area to another on the same person, which is called "autoinoculation." For example, touching a cold sore on the lip can cause herpes of the finger (herpetic whitlow). Autoinoculation occurs most commonly at the time of primary infection, when viral shedding is high and the immune system is still gearing up to contain it. The antibodies that are made after primary infection are
A more serious complication is ocular herpes (involvement of the eye), which is characterized by lesions and severe pain around the eye. Ocular herpes is also caused by autoinoculation. If not treated, ocular herpes can lead to serious damage or even blindness.
Rarely, herpes simplex may infect the brain, causing encephalitis. This infection requires hospitalization and intravenous antiviral medications.
In immunocompromised people, such as those receiving chemotherapy, severe outbreaks of herpes may occur. Colds sores may spread to large parts of the lower face or invade organs. Antiviral therapy is used to prevent or lessen such attacks.
In a few people, outbreaks of herpes will be associated with erythema nodosum. Erythema nodosum is a nonspecific skin reaction characterized by red and painful skin lumps that usually appear on the front side of the legs. This condition can be caused by many inflammatory and infectious diseases including herpes virus infections. Erythema nodosum can be self-limited and resolve on its own in three to six weeks. Treatment of the herpes episode usually hastens the resolution of erythema nodosum.
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