What is the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1)?
Herpes, also known as the herpes simplex virus (or HSV) is an infection that can affect various portions of the body. Two primary areas of the body that HSV affects are the mouth and genitals. As such, an infection is usually broken down into two main types.
Two types of herpes simplex virus exist:
- HSV-1: Oral herpes (also known as herpes labialis) usually causes very uncomfortable fever blisters or cold sores around the mouth.
- HSV-2: Genital herpes infections usually cause blisters and sores on the male and female genital areas.
Defining oral herpes (HSV-1) - cold sores and fever blisters
Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is more commonly referred to as ‘cold sores’ or fever blisters. These are groups of small sores or blisters which form around the lip areas on the mouth when a person becomes infected with the virus.
Blisters can also develop on other tender areas of the face including the cheeks, chin, roof of the mouth or on the gums, and even inside the nostrils.
These sores are often quite painful due to swelling and inflammation (redness), and can be very tender to the touch. When a blister forms and the surrounding skin becomes inflamed, burning and itching can also occur. If a blister breaks open, a clear fluid leaks out and then scabs over. Once a scab or crust forms, these blisters can take anywhere between a few days and up to four weeks to fully heal. Usually, these blisters do not leave a scar on the sensitive skin around the mouth.