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Act fast with herpes

Pathogens of lip herpes are herpes simplex viruses, more precisely, in 80 to 90 percent of cases it is the virus type herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) and in rare cases herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2). People usually come into contact with the viruses already in childhood. The viruses remain in the ganglion cells of the facial nerve for one’s entire life.
Marta Campbell
Isabel Weinert
29.10.2020  09:00 Uhr

Many people never have any symptoms, while others have to cope with lip herpes again and again. This is because the viruses can be activated by stress, UV radiation, fever or general immunodeficiency. They then move along the nerve fibres to the lips and cause an infection there. The process is always the same – people who are regularly affected know the first signs very well. In the early stage, which takes six to 48 hours, the affected area itches and tingles. The skin reddens, then dense, fluid-filled small blisters shoot up. In the course of a week, the blisters dry up again. The crusts fall off and reddened spots remain for a few days. The whole thing can be more or less painful and can vary in intensity from case to case. Sometimes the local lymph nodes may swell up accompanied by a slight feeling of sickness. Five to ten percent of people who carry the virus experience more than five episodes per year. Others may have cold sores only very rarely or just once.

Almost everyone is a carrier

Unlike angular cheilitis or rhagades, lip herpes is contagious: the herpes viruses spread to other people through droplet or smear infections. People affected should therefore not touch the area around the mouth with their fingers and avoid physical contact (especially kissing) with babies and small children, immunocompromised persons and the aged so as not to infect them. Such an infection can take a severe course for them.

Lip herpes is usually treated topically. A whole range of preparations are available for treatment. The basic rule is: The earlier the treatment begins, the better the effect. It is best to start the therapy at the very first signs. In most cases, virostatic agents such as Aciclovir (for example Aciclostad®, Acic®) or Penciclovir (Pencivir®) are used. One product contains not only Aciclocir but also hydrocortisone, which is said to help wounds heal faster (Zovirax® Duo).

A classic in the treatment of herpes is melissa extract (Lomaherpan®). Its antiviral effect is mainly attributed to the rosmarinic acid it contains. The patient should continue using the cream for up to ten days after the symptoms have improved. It has not yet been proven whether this can prolong the interval, as is hoped, until the next outbreak of herpes. In contrast to acyclovir and pencivir, no resistance development of the viruses to melissa extract has been observed so far. It therefore represents an alternative if the two drug substances are no longer effective.

Dubious offers

Another active ingredient against herpes viruses is docosanol (Muxan®), a saturated aliphatic alcohol which is to prevent the penetration of the viruses into the cell. Zinc formulations (for example Lipactin®, Virudermin®) have a weak virustatic effect and promote healing.

Herpes plasters, also known as herpes patches, work through hydrocolloids. They support wound healing and relieve pain and itching. Because they cover the affected area completely, the risk of virus transmission to other parts of the body or to other people is largely eliminated.

In the lay press and on the internet, dietary products containing vitamins and lysine preparations are often advertised for the prevention of cold sores. The lysine’s mode of action is postulated to be that amino acid reduces the absorption of its counterpart arginine in the human body and as a result the herpes viruses lack arginine, which they need to multiply. Its effectiveness is questionable.

If people have to cope with relatively extensive lip herpes and quite frequently, they should consult their doctor. It might be an underlying disease that weakens the immune system. But that does not necessarily have to be the case. Sometimes it is enough for the patient to take acyclovir orally for a while to get the viruses under permanent control.

German/German English/English
ansteckend contagious
Bläschen bubbles
Frühstadium early stage
Herpes herpes
Immunsystem immune system
jucken itch
Körperkontakt body contact
Krankheitsgefühl feeling ill, unwell
kribbeln tingling
Krusten crusts
Lippe lip
Lymphknoten lymph nodes
Melisse Melissa
Mundwinkel corner of the mouth
Nervenbahnen nerve tracts
Resistenz resistance
Rötung redness
Stress stress
Übertragung transmission
Virus virus

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