Cold sores (Herpes Labialis) are a common condition that are caused by an infection with, or later with the reactivation of the herpes simplex virus. Commonly located on the lips, (occasionally not on the lip, but in the area around). Cold sores occur in the same location, with intense ones leaving scars. Symptoms include:
- Initially a burning/tingling sensation that becomes more painful as the cold sore develops
- Painful red blisters
- Occasionally a low grade fever, or feeling fatigued
The virus is spread via contact with infected secretions of saliva. The virus is more contagious when there is an active cold sore. Once a person has the virus it remains in a latent or dormant state within a nerve. It is inactive until a trigger allows it to resurface. Common triggers include:
- Sun or wind burn
- Accidental “biting” or scratching of the lip
- Other infections that weaken the immune system and allow virus to “break through”
- Emotional or physical stressors
- Procedures performed on the face (chemical peels, laser treatment, microdermabrasion, micro needling, fillers, blue light etc.)
Cold Sore Treatments
The best way to treat a cold sore is to start taking an antiviral pill when you FIRST FEEL the symptoms coming on. Oral treatment is by far the most effective way to treat cold sores (leagues more effective than topical creams, Lysine or Abreva). Although much less potent, there are topical products available that can help diminish symptoms. A summary of common treatments:
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex): Take 2 (1 gram) tablets at first sign of cold sore. Repeat (take 2 pills) in 12 hours and that’s it! If the medicine is taken early enough(at the first sign of any stinging, burning feeling) patients typically won’t even get a cold sore. Occasionally an additional dose of 2 (1 gram) tablets may be taken after another 12 hour (So 6 grams total over 24 hours) if the cold sore has already broken out.
- Acyclovir (Zovirax) pills are another very effective oral medication similar to Valacyclovir
- Prescription creams are stronger than OTC creams and include: acyclovir cream (Zovirax), Penciclovir (Denavir), or Xerese (a combination of hydrocortisone and acyclovir cream). Apply to the cold sore 5 x a day for 5 days.
- Oral lysine, a popular supplement, and Abreva (Docosanol) an non prescription solution are both significantly weaker than prescription medicine, but each may decrease symptoms by a day or so.
Pretty much everyone has blackheads, or tiny dark spots on their skin, especially on the face. But what are they and how do they form? And most importantly, how can you avoid them or get rid of blackheads?
Much like acne, blackheads form when the pores get blocked. Skin pores bring oil to the surface of your skin, hydrating it and bringing nutrients. This oil also lubricates and protects the skin and hair.
When there is an excess of oil, skin cells, or contaminates, the pore can become blocked. When pores can’t clean themselves out, black dots start to appear.
When this debris or blockage is exposed to air, it turns black. This process is called oxidation. If skin covers that area, and infected pus enters the equation, you have a zit, and the area is no longer black.
A common misconception is that the black or dark spots are pores that are clogged with dirt. This is not the case. This myth probably exists because of the many advertisements for products that claim to “wash away dirt.”
Getting Rid of Blackheads
It might be tempting to spend an hour in front of the mirror squeezing blackheads, but this can actually make your skin worse. Remember, your hands carry a lot of bacteria and oil, and its best to not transfer that to the face.
Instead, get into a good habit of washing and moisturizing your face, so that the pores can do their job.
- Retin A
- Acne comedonal extractions
- Laser (clear and brilliant)
- Chemical peels
- Black head removal tape and masks can help remove blackheads, but temporarily
The technical word for blackhead is comedo. It comes from the Latin word for gluttony, which was used to describe parasitic worms. Can you think why that name would apply? Gross, we know.