Herpes labialis of the lower lip. Note the blisters in sore joints group marked by an arrow. The virus may periodically reactivate to create another outbreak of sores in the mouth or lip.
The infection is typically spread between people by direct non-sexual contact. Diagnosis is usually based on symptoms but can be confirmed with specific testing. Prevention includes avoiding kissing or using the personal items of a person who is infected. Antiviral medications may also decrease the frequency of outbreaks.
5 per 1000 people are affected in any given year. Onset often occurs in those less than 20. In those with recurrent outbreaks, these typically happen less than three times a year. The frequency of outbreaks generally decreases over time. The term «labia» means «lip».
Recurrent oral infection is more common with HSV-1 infections than with HSV-2. Asymptomatic shedding of contagious virus particles can occur during this stage. Symptoms often precede a recurrence. This stage can last from a few days to a few hours preceding the physical manifestation of an infection and is the best time to start treatment. Virus begins reproducing and infecting cells at the end of the nerve. The healthy cells react to the invasion with swelling and redness displayed as symptoms of infection. This is the most painful and contagious of the stages.
All the tiny vesicles break open and merge to create one big, open, weeping ulcer. Fluids are slowly discharged from blood vessels and inflamed tissue. This watery discharge is teeming with active viral particles and is highly contagious. Depending on the severity, one may develop a fever and swollen lymph glands under the jaw. This appears as the healing process begins. The sore is still painful at this stage, but, more painful, however, is the constant cracking of the scab as one moves or stretches their lips, as in smiling or eating.