Herpes Simplex Infections (Non-Genital) (cont.)
Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP
Sandra Gonzalez Gompf, MD, FACP is a U.S. board-certified Infectious Disease subspecialist. Dr. Gompf received a Bachelor of Science from the University of Miami, and a Medical Degree from the University of South Florida. Dr. Gompf completed residency training in Internal Medicine at the University of South Florida followed by subspecialty fellowship training there in Infectious Diseases under the directorship of Dr. John T. Sinnott, IV.
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 are the risk factors for herpes simplex infections?
- What makes herpes (cold sores) recur?
- Are cold sores contagious?
- How do cold sores spread?
- What is the incubation period for cold sores?
- What is primary oral herpes?
- What does recurrent herpes look like?
- What are the signs and symptoms of cold sores?
- What other conditions can look like oral herpes (cold sores)?
- What is angular stomatitis?
- What are canker sores?
- What types of doctors treat cold sores?
- What tests do health care professionals use to diagnose oral herpes?
- How long do cold sores last?
- What is the treatment for cold sores, are there any home remedies, and what medications treat oral herpes?
- What are the possible complications of oral herpes (cold sores)?
- What is the prognosis for oral herpes (cold sores)?
- Is it possible to prevent cold sores?
What are the possible complications of oral herpes (cold sores)?
"Autoinoculation" from 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 usually -- but not always -- successful in preventing autoinoculation during recurrent attacks.
A more serious complication is infection of the eye, or ocular herpes (herpetic keratitis). It may be a mild surface ulceration with little discomfort, or it may cause deeper, painful ulcers that threaten vision. Ocular herpes is also caused by autoinoculation. If not treated, ocular herpes may lead to serious damage or even blindness.
Rarely, herpes simplex may infect the brain, causing encephalitis. This infection requires hospitalization and intravenous antiviral medications. HSV-1 is among the commonest causes of fatal viral encephalitis worldwide.
In immunocompromised people, such as those with HIV infection or those receiving chemotherapy, severe outbreaks of herpes may occur. Colds sores may spread to large parts of the lower face or invade organs. Antiviral drugs are used to prevent or lessen such attacks.
In a few people, outbreaks of herpes will be associated with erythema nodosum. Erythema nodosum is an inflammatory 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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