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Herpes simplex

Herpes simple a Vall d'Hebron

Oral herpes is an infection in the lips, mouth and gums caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) and which shows up as small painful blisters called herpes labialis, commonly known as cold sores. The herpes simplex infection is very contagious, common and endemic throughout the world. It is normally acquired in childhood and lasts a lifetime. 


What is herpes simplex?

Herpes caused by the HVS-1 virus is spread by mouth-to-mouth or skin contact with ulcers or saliva and the area around the mouth and lips. It can also be spread to the genitals, resulting in genital herpes.

Although uncommon, it can be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during birth.



Usually, herpes labialis (or the cold sore virus) is asymptomatic and most people infected do not realise. When it appears, it does so as painful blisters or ulcers on or around the mouth. People with this condition notice a feeling of stinging, tingling or burning in the affected area.

After the first infection, the blisters may periodically reappear, varying from person to person.


Who is affected by herpes simplex?

According to the WHO, 67 % of the population is infected with HSV-1.



Diagnosis is done in a medical centre, in other words, through examination of the patient. If there is any doubt, the specialist may request virological culture tests on the blisters during the initial stages of the disease to confirm it.


Typical treatment

Antiviral medications such as aciclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir are the most effective to treat those infected with HSV-1. However, despite reducing the intensity and frequency of symptoms, they do not cure the infection.

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