Cold Sore Treatments in New York, NY
While the two common forms of herpes simplex virus affect many people – HSV type 1 and HSV type 2 – the virus still carries a social stigma. This is because it is contagious, associated with sexual activity, and there is no known cure. HSV-1 is generally the cause of cold sores (also called fever blisters or herpetic lesions), which appear as annoying, painful breakouts around the mouth. The virus is passed from one person to another through microscopic tears in the skin or the tissues inside the mouth. While HSV-1 presents in physical symptoms around the mouth, the virus is actually an infection within the body’s nervous system. There are a number of ways to control HSV-1, from antiviral medications to topical ointments.
A person may have an active HSV-1 infection, yet show no symptoms, which is often how the disease is transmitted. When oral-facial lesions are not present, a person may be contagious, or the virus may be dormant in nearby nerves. Fever blisters can be spread through common direct or indirect contact of skin. Kissing, contact with saliva, and sharing items like eating utensils, lip balm, and razors can all transmit the virus from person to person.
Some people may have flare-ups that are years apart, months apart, or fairly frequently. While there may not always be an obvious reason for an outbreak of the lips, sometimes cold sores are brought on by stress or a weakened immune system, such as when a person is fighting a cold. In others, there is no way to predict what may cause fever blisters to appear.
Lesions of the lips can be uncomfortable and disfiguring, lasting on average between 7-10 days, though they can remain visible for up to two weeks. The first symptom that an outbreak may be occurring is a tingling of the area where the sore will appear and sometimes a fever or swollen glands. The skin may be itchy and red, and lesions will appear in one or more areas of the lips, typically the corners or the lips or on the lips themselves. Blisters will form, and may rupture a clear fluid before developing an outer crust. Cold sores can be very itchy, painful and a great source of discomfort.
The Difference between Cold Sores and Canker Sores
There is a lot of confusion surrounding the difference between cold sores and canker sores.
As explained above, cold sores are the result of a contagious virus, HSV-1, spread from person to person. The sores occur on the external mouth, or less commonly, other areas of the face like the cheeks or chin. Many people test positive for this virus, though some will never show symptoms.
Canker sores, or aphthous ulcers are non-contagious lesions that cannot be passed between people, and occur on the soft tissues of the oral cavity, including the cheeks, tongue, and inside the lips. The exact cause of canker sores is unknown, but there is a familial link, and young people and women tend to be more susceptible. Many people notice the ulcers after they have eaten acidic or spicy foods, or experience some other intraoral irritation. Canker sores only affect about 20% of people. Cold sores and canker sores are not at all related.
Cold Sore Treatments
Depending on the severity and frequency of a sufferer’s herpetic lesion outbreaks, a doctor can provide a number of treatment options when over-the-counter topical ointments do not effectively control symptoms. Prescription medications like Valtrex or acyclovir address the viral components of HSV-1. There is, however, a unique treatment option offered by aesthetic dentists, dermatologists, and physicians: laser treatment for cold sores.
When patients feel a cold sore beginning to form on the lips, they can schedule an appointment with Dr. Lazare to prevent the lesion from forming. In existing cold sores, the lasers can prevent the lesion from progressing and significantly cut down the healing time. Laser treatment for cold sores can also reduce regular occurrences, and may even prevent future outbreaks. Herpetic lesions tend to form on the same areas over and over again. After undergoing laser therapy, however, some patients have noticed that the treated site is cleared permanently.
Benefits of Laser Treatment for HSV-1 Lesions
There are a number of reasons why laser sessions are now the gold standard in the treatment of cold sores. Light energy destroys the local virus that causes cold sores to form. Patients who undergo laser therapy can prevent or diminish ulceration from occurring through photo-biostimulation technology. Laser treatments can prevent future cosmetic damage by lessening the probability of cold sores recurring on the same areas of the lips.
Cold sore patients can experience immediate relief after the minutes-long treatment. There is no need for anesthesia as the procedure is painless. Many patients are unaware that their insurance company may cover this type of treatment.
Laser Treatment Procedure for Cold Sore Therapy
Patients must wear eye protection while Dr. Lazare operates a handheld device at a specific wavelength. The laser light penetrates the skin, though the laser tip never touches the patient. Then, the light effectively explodes the virus that causes cold sores to form. The body then cues the healing process to begin. No anesthesia is necessary, though cold air may be blown at the skin during the procedure for patient comfort.
Laser Cold Sore Treatment FAQs
Why do patients find cold sores embarrassing?
While there is nothing to be ashamed of, many cold sore sufferers feel embarrassed by their condition. The sores are very noticeable during speaking and eating, and cold sores can draw unwanted attention to daily interactions. Because the virus that causes these blisters to form also causes genital herpes, many people have experienced embarrassment due to the social stigma about how they may have contracted the virus. Others may be wary of a person with an active lesion because they are contagious on contact or indirectly through fluids from the mouth.
Cold sores are painful, so will laser therapy hurt?
Laser treatment for cold sores is painless. The laser never touches the skin, and acts on it from a distance. At times, patients may feel heat from the laser, but cool air from an electric dental instrument can increase patient comfort. Most sessions last about two minutes, and those with the beginnings of a cold sore relay instant relief, not pain.
When is the best time to see Dr. Lazare about treating my cold sore?
The optimal time to undergo cold sore lasering is when symptoms first appear. Sometimes patients know when to expect a cold sore, like when they feel stressed or unwell. Others will notice physical symptoms like burning or tingling at the site, fever, or swollen glands. When a patient receives light therapy before a herpetic lesion has formed, Dr. Lazare sees the best results.
Why are so many people affected by HSV-1?
Because herpes simplex type 1 is contagious, many people have the virus but will not necessarily suffer a cold sore outbreak. It is thought that most people contract the virus at a young age, especially when parents show their children affection and inadvertently pass along HSV-1 when they are asymptomatic.
Dr. Lazare – New York Dentist
Dr. Marc E. Lazare, D.D.S., M.A.G.D. practices general and cosmetic dentistry in New York City. The importance of patient health coupled with his passion for aesthetics led him to offer more specialized services than most practitioners. His practice helps patients feel great and look their best, with the most recent advancements available in the field of dentistry.
Call Dr. Lazare at his Upper East Side office at 212-861-2599, or message [email protected] to ask questions or setup a patient consultation.