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Cold sores and the herpes virus

Cold sores and herpes are inextricably linked. The virus that causes cold sores is a type of oral herpes – herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Genital herpes, which is most often connected to sexually transmitted diseases, is caused by the HSV-2 strain of this virus.

 Currently there is no cure for either of these uncomfortable and potentially embarrassing conditions, however, there are treatments that can help ease symptoms and prevent outbreaks from occurring as frequently.

What are the similarities between them?

Under a microscope, both HSV-1 and 2 look very similar and, in cases of oral and genital herpes, many people are infected but don’t realise they carry the virus.

For example, 80-90% of the population will carry the cold sore virus, but only 20-30% of those individuals will experience symptoms in the form of recurring outbreaks.

What are the differences between them?

The primary differences between types 1 and 2 are where they choose to establish latency (where the virus will lie dormant before the next outbreak), and where their symptoms present themselves. 

HSV-1 usually travels up one of the trigeminal nerves (aka fifth cranial nerves) at either side of the face, and lies dormant in its sensory ganglia located near the brain stem. It will make itself known in the form of cold sores around the lips.

HSV-2 migrates from the point of infection to a collection of nerves located at the base of the spine, and symptoms will appear in the genital region.

How can you treat HSV-1 and 2?

Those suffering from HSV-1 can reduce the symptoms of a cold sore by using Herstat. This ointment can be applied at any stage of an attack, and helps reduce sensations of pain, redness, swelling, dry skin, and even shorten the duration of an outbreak. Please click here to learn more.

If you are suffering from HSV-2, it is always best to visit your GP or local sexual health clinic to see which treatments will be most suitable for you. However, clinical research by N. Vynograd, I. Vynograd, and Z. Sosnowski, titled A comparative multi-centre study of the efficacy of propolis, acyclovir and placebo in the treatment of genital herpes, used Herstat to test the effectiveness of propolis and found that it healed blisters and legions fastest. On the seventh day of the trial, ten participants in the propolis group, four in the acyclovir, and three in the placebo group had healed from their symptoms.

For further information, the NHS also has a page relating to genital herpes treatment, which you can read by clicking here.