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Fever Blisters & Ulcers:

 

Fever blisters are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), a virus that passes from person-to-person by direct contact with infected skin or secretions, including saliva. The sores usually appear as clusters of tiny blisters on the lip. HSV-1 can cause similar, but smaller, blisters that rapidly become ulcers inside the mouth on the gums and palate (roof of the mouth).

 

The first time HSV-1 invades the skin, it causes a primary infection, which usually occurs in childhood or adolescence. It may cause a fever, sore mouth and sore throat. The primary infection often is similar to other viral or bacterial throat infections, and often is not diagnosed as an HSV-1 infection.

 

After this primary infection subsides, the virus remains dormant (inactive) indefinitely in nerve roots near the affected skin area. In some people, the virus becomes active again from time to time and causes new active sores on the skin, usually on the lip. These sores have become known as cold sores or fever blisters because the virus can be reactivated by a cold or fever. The virus also can be triggered to become active again by other factors, including stress, trauma to the lips, exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays, menstruation and suppression of the immune system.

 

In addition to causing infections around the mouth, HSV-1 can be transferred to the eyes, the skin of the fingers, the genital area and elsewhere. Most genital herpes infections are attributed to herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2), but HSV-1 can cause genital infections in some people. HSV-1 can cause unusually severe illness in people debilitated by other health problems (malnutrition, cancer or weakened immune systems, including AIDS) or those receiving cancer chemotherapy, corticosteroids or drugs to prevent the rejection of organ transplants.

 

HSV-1 infections are very common in the United States, and most of us are infected by the time we reach adulthood. Even if we do not remember having a primary HSV-1 infection during childhood, the fact that we occasionally have a cold sore or fever blister indicates that HSV-1 is present.

Causes of Mouth Ulcers or Sores

 


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