Lip herpes is an infectious disease of the lips caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). This disease is characterized by blisters on the lips. Lip herpes is generally spread through kissing or sharing cutlery.
Lip herpes is also known as herpes labialis or oral herpes. Herpes lip occurs in any area of the mouth, including the lips, gums and tongue. Someone who has had lip herpes can experience it again at a later date, because the herpes virus will stay in the body for life.
Apart from the herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1), lip herpes can also be caused by the herpes simplex virus type-2 (HSV-2), which is the herpes virus that most often causes genital herpes . This can occur due to sex through the mouth ( oral ) to sufferers of genital herpes so that the virus develops in the mouth.
Causes of Lip Herpes
Lip herpes is generally caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) type-1. This virus can be transmitted through direct contact with open wounds, saliva, and the inside of the mouth. Some of the ways the herpes simplex virus type-1 (HSV-1) is spread are:
- Kissing other people, including children and babies
- Touching the blisters in the patient's mouth area, then accidentally touching your own lips
- Sharing cutlery, lipstick or razors with sufferers
As already mentioned, lip herpes can also be caused by herpes simplex virus type-2 (HSV-2) due to oral sex with sufferers of genital herpes. However, lip herpes due to HSV-2 is very rare.
Lip herpes risk factors
Lip herpes can happen to anyone. However, this disease usually occurs in children. Lip herpes is also more at risk of occurring in adults who have weak immune systems.
Someone who has suffered from lip herpes can recur. Several factors can trigger the symptoms of lip herpes to recur, including:
- Physical injury
- Long term sun exposure
Lip Herpes Symptoms
Symptoms of lip herpes generally appear 2–12 days after a person is exposed to the herpes virus. In some cases, lip herpes does not cause any symptoms. If symptomatic, sufferers may experience blisters on the lips or the area around the mouth.
Before blisters appear, there are several symptoms that can appear on the lips, namely:
- Burnt taste
In addition to symptoms on the lips, sufferers can also experience several complaints similar to the flu, such as:
- Muscle ache
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
Blisters will appear after the patient experiences the above symptoms. The characteristics of blisters on lip herpes are:
- Appears in groups
- Filled with liquid and reddish in color around it
- It looks dry and crusty after a few days
- Blisters like canker sores that can appear inside the mouth, such as on the tongue, roof of the mouth, or inside of the cheeks
When to see a doctor
Check with your doctor if you experience the symptoms of lip herpes mentioned above, especially if you have the following conditions:
- The blisters don't get better after 10 days
- The blisters widen and cause severe pain
- Painful sores and swelling in the gums and mouth
- Weak immune system, for example due to diabetes or undergoing chemotherapy
- Herpes lips spread to the eyes
Diagnosis of Lip Herpes
The doctor will begin the diagnosis by conducting questions and answers about the patient's symptoms and medical history. After that, the doctor will do a physical examination, especially the sores on the lips.
Generally, a doctor can diagnose lip herpes simply by examining the sores on the lips. However, if needed, the doctor can carry out the following supporting examinations:
- Viral culture, to detect the HSV-1 virus that causes herpes
- PCR test, to detect the presence of the HSV-1 virus by examining a sample from a sore on the lip
- Tzanck test, to detect the virus that causes herpes by examining a sample from a herpes sore and examining it under a microscope
Lip Herpes Treatment
Treatment of lip herpes aims to relieve symptoms, reduce the severity when symptoms recur, and reduce the risk of spreading it to others. The method of treatment will be adjusted to the symptoms that appear and the severity of the infection.
Some of the treatment methods that can be done are:
Some medicines that can be given by doctors are:
- Antiviral tablet medications , such as acyclovir , famciclovir, or valacyclovir
- Antiviral ointments or creams, which contain acyclovir or penciclovir
- Pain relievers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen
Self-care at home
To speed up the process of healing symptoms, the doctor will recommend that the patient do the following self-care:
- Cold compresses for sores on the lips with a cloth soaked in cold water to reduce pain
- Clean the wound area gently using antiseptic soap and warm water
- Avoid consuming spicy food or hot drinks
- Gargle with cold water or salt water
- Drink enough water to avoid dehydration
Lip herpes usually heals within 1-2 weeks if the treatment is right.
Lip Herpes Complications
Complications of lip herpes are more at risk for sufferers who have weak immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or cancer. Some of the complications that can occur are:
- Recurrence of lip herpes
- Spread of the virus to other areas of the skin or to the eyes
- Secondary infection, which is a bacterial infection due to the entry of bacteria into the wound
Babies affected by lip herpes should also be examined by a doctor immediately. This is because lip herpes in infants can cause severe complications, such as dehydration, seizures, eye damage, infection spreading to the brain, to death.
Prevention of Lip Herpes
You can reduce the risk of lip herpes by making the following efforts:
- Do not touch the lips and mouth of people with lip herpes
- Do not share cutlery and toiletries with people with lip herpes
- Apply lip balm to prevent dry lips
- Apply sunscreen ( sun screen ) on the skin around the lips
If you suffer from lip herpes, there are several things that need to be done so that the herpes virus is not transmitted to other people, namely:
- No kissing, kissing children and babies, or having oral sex with other people
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and running water, especially after touching the sores on your lips or after applying medicine to them
- Apply medicines to the wound using cotton so as not to touch the wound directly