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Constipation

 

The Ultimate Guide to Constipation: Let’s Keep Things Moving!

Constipation is an uncomfortable condition in the digestive system which makes it extremely difficult to have a bowel movement. This can cause pain and discomfort. It can be due to abdominal surgery, medication, or changes in a person’s diet. It can also show up at times for no apparent reason.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Stomachache



Regular bowel movements keep order in the digestive system by keeping everything moving — literally. Symptoms of constipation include cramps, severe stomach pain, nausea, headaches, flatulence, loss of appetite, fever, back pressure and more. Left untreated, constipation can also cause more uncomfortable ailments like hemorrhoids or impaction.

Diagnosis of constipation is relatively straightforward and generally only requires a brief visit with a healthcare professional. They will review your medical history, and ask questions such as whether you have begun taking any new medications, changed your diet in any way, or have been experiencing any other symptoms which may be indicative of a hormonal shift or other underlying ailment. After that, recommendations will be made to relieve your constipation.

Treatment of Constipation

imagesDepending on the cause of your illness, your doctor may recommend increasing your dietary fiber and water intake. He may recommend over-the-counter (OTC) laxatives or, if all else has failed, may prescribe a medication like Amitiza, Linzess or Miralax.

Luckily, most of the time it does not have to come to this. The best defense against constipation, like so many other health-related issues, is to be proactive about your well-being.

Avoiding Constipation in the First Place (and Treating Minor Bouts)

There are plenty of ways to stave off this uncomfortable situation, and ways to treat acute events which may crop up from time to time. Most of the time, the cause of the discomfort and inability to empty the bowels is directly related to what you put in your body. Making wise choices and shifting focus to healthier options can go a long way in preventing the discomfort of being backed up – as well as a host of other symptoms.




Water — H2O is as essential to our lives as the air we breathe. Without it, we cannot survive. We need it for every system in our body to function properly, and it is vital for our digestive system. The standard recommendation is eight 8-ounce glasses per day, but keep in mind this advice is relative. You will need more if you drink caffeine, have a salty diet, exercise, drink alcohol or spend your days in the heat as these all have dehydrating effects on your body.

FiberOIConstipationImage Fiber is another vital component for a healthy digestive tract. Many OTC remedies for constipation, like Citrucel, contain fiber as their primary ingredient to help get things moving in the intestines. These can be helpful when there is not enough fiber in your diet. You can get fiber from natural sources, too, like bran, fruits, vegetables and psyllium. Be aware though, not all fiber is the same. There are two types:

Soluble fiber is that which slows digestion and aids the body in picking up nutrients from food. Foods rich in soluble fiber include oats, oat bran, and rice bran, dried beans and barley, fruits such as citrus, apples and strawberries, and vegetables like peas and potatoes.

Insoluble fiber adds mass to the stool which helps it move quickly through your digestive tract. Foods rich in insoluble fiber include many fruits and vegetables, seeds, cereals, wheat bran and whole grains.

For acute bouts of constipation, the best fiber-rich foods to eat are whole-grain bread, pasta and cereal. Wheat bran is an excellent all-natural remedy.

Fruits and Vegetables — We all know we should be getting our fill of natural foods, with little to no processing. Unfortunately, this is not the case in many of our lives. Convenience food has taken us from the healthful diets of our ancestors and placed us on a collision course of illness and disease. In order to stay as healthy as possible, we need to get back to our roots. Aim to eat at least 4.5 cups of fresh fruits and vegetables each day including apples, oranges, bananas, berries, pears, broccoli, carrots, spinach and other greens.

Figs — Figs are one fruit worth mentioning all on their own; they are just that good at relieving constipation. They have stood the test of time at providing great relief for the ailment. Soak them overnight in water to have them ready for breakfast in the morning. You can add them in with your whole-grain cereal for a double-whammy effect on your bowels, or blend them up with some milk and fresh juice for a delicious, fiber-rich smoothie. Add some prune juice to the mix and your troubles should be over in no time at all.

Citrus Juices-6255Citrus juices like orange and grapefruit are another excellent addition to your morning routine to keep your bowels in good working order. Your bowels are in stasis at rest, so drinking citrus-based drinks in the morning can stimulate peristaltic action and help promote a bowel movement.

Fresh lemon juice is your best bet for many reasons. It promotes cleansing throughout the entire body and is filled with bioflavonoids, potassium, and Vitamin C, among other vitamins and minerals. The citric acid in it helps the liver make enzymes to detoxify the blood, combines with calcium which aids in breaking up pancreatic and kidney stones, helps keep arteries clear of plaque, and aids in stopping calcium deposit buildups throughout the entire body. When these other symptoms are not at their peak, the digestive system falters as well, which can cause constipation.

To utilize this miracle of nature, squeeze the juice of one lemon into a glass of warm water and drink every morning as soon as you wake up. Do not eat or drink anything else for half an hour. You may make it more palatable by adding organic honey or a shake of cinnamon.

Cayenne — Cayenne is another wonder which is excellent for many conditions.

“One of the most effective stimulants, mostly, cayenne targets the digestive and the circulatory system. Cayenne regulates blood pressure, strengthens the pulse, feeds the heart, lowers cholesterol, and thins the blood. It cleanses the circulatory system, heals ulcers, stops hemorrhaging, speeds healing of wounds, rebuilds damaged tissue, eases congestion, aids digestion, regulates elimination, relieves arthritis and rheumatism, prevents the spread of infection and numbs pain.” – Dick Quinn, Left for Dead

Cayenne is available in capsule form from health food stores, and cayenne pepper can be added to your food as well. Stay away from the seeds, however. Pregnant or lactating women should not use cayenne supplements.

Yogurt — Yogurt is beneficial in keeping the intestines healthy through probiotics, i.e. healthy bacteria such as acidophilus. These bacteria help keep the unhealthy bacterias like yeast in check. Be sure to ingest yogurt that is unhindered by added sugars and chemicals, and, as with everything, check the label.

Castor Oil — Castor oil is another age-old remedy your grandmother and her mother before her most likely used to self-treat constipation in themselves and their families. Your doctor may even recommend it to this day. It works by stimulating the intestines to get the stool moving and is often used prior to surgery as a way to clean out the intestinal tract. It is taken by mouth and is not very tasty, but can be taken with juice. Follow the directions on the package or check with your primary care doctor if you are unsure of the dosage.

Exercise — Yes, I know you are probably tired of hearing that you need to get up and get moving. But again it must be stated: physical fitness is another vital component of being healthy. Regular movement keeps everything in the body going – from your blood vessels to your colon. This does not mean that you need to be running a 5K marathon every other week. Simply going for a brisk half-hour walk a day can do wonders for your body.

Listen to Your Body

Your body is a well-oiled machine, and as such, reacts just as a machine does. Put quality materials in, and it will run smooth for a long time. Put junk in and you will pay the price. Your body will also let you know when something is wrong or when it needs something. Pay attention to these queues, no matter how subtle they are.

Don’t ignore the urge to go. When you have the sense that you need to have a bowel movement, go. You may have a small window and ignoring that feeling can cause a backup.

Go to the bathroom every morning. Your grandmother had wisdom with her morning constitutional and you would be wise to heed it. Your colon is most active in the morning because it has just come off its rest cycle in the same way you have. Strive to have a bowel movement around the same time every day after waking up.

Go after every meal. That fullness you get after eating is caused by food, as well as peristalsis. Try to go after every meal when your colon is ready.

Talk with your healthcare professional. Many times we put off going to the doctor because we are either in denial of our symptoms, are too busy or just hate going to the doctor’s office. Our body gives us hints when something is not quite right. Do not ignore these. You may put something off until it is too late. If you are experiencing unusual symptoms, make an appointment. And keep it!

Steer Clear of These to Avoid Constipation

Stress wreaks havoc on our lives in so many ways, and it is so hard to avoid. It seems we are always being pulled in all different directions. There are deadlines at work, tests to study for, kids to worry about, bills we can’t pay, things breaking down in the car and house — the list goes on and on. This pressure builds up, and we are notorious for not taking time out to care for ourselves and unwind. It is essential to do so, however. Stress causes many ailments and constipation is just one of them. Take time to unplug (no pun intended) and relax. Effective daily relaxation techniques like low-impact Pilates, yoga, guided imagery and meditation can work wonders.

While many foods can help relieve constipation, there are many others which can cause it:

Dairy products — Dairy products like milk and cheese are devoid of fiber which can make them hard to pass through the body thereby causing constipation. Lactose tolerance is also an issue. Try lactose-free products or at the very least, low-fat versions of your favorites.

Fluids — Yes, water is very beneficial and necessary for healthy intestinal flow. But caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea, unhealthy sugar and chemical-laden sodas and processed juices, and alcohol are all bad. Steer clear of these if you suffer from chronic bouts.

Meat — Not all meat is bad, and you do not have to remove all of it unless directed by your doctor. However, meat takes up room in your gut. Replace it with fiber-rich fruits and vegetables to keep things moving.

Processed foods — Processed foods are often high in sugar and salt content and low in fiber and nutrition all-around. Try eliminating packaged meals, frozen dinners and the like and see how well your body reacts.

Refined carbohydrates — Much like processed foods, your body does not like refined carbohydrates. Pre-packaged chips and cakes, as well as white sugars and flours, often spike blood sugar as well as stopping up your system with gunk. They also lack nutrition. Get your sugar fix from fruit.

Opioid-Induced Constipation

Medications, whether over-the-counter or physician-prescribed, can often cause discomfort in the body from constipation. Sleeping pills, iron and even laxatives can contribute. One particular culprit is worth mentioning all on its own, however: opioids.

When a person experiences pain, it goes without saying that they want relief as soon as possible. Acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are common OTC drugs that many turn to. These can often have unwanted side effects, especially in people over the age of 70 or those suffering other conditions. Moreover, sometimes these types of analgesics are not effective in diminishing the pain. The next step up is opioids.

Opium, from the poppyseed plant, has been used for centuries for its pain-relieving qualities. Opioids are any drug with morphine-like properties, from hydrocodone to methadone and anything in between. There is considerable concern about opioid use in the medical community, as they can cause addiction, lower a person’s pain threshold and more.

They are also well-known for causing constipation. So well known, in fact, that experts recommend prescribing stool softeners along with them. If you are prescribed an opioid to manage pain, be sure to ask your doctor or pharmacist if you should be taking anything to avoid this unpleasant side effect. After all, you are trying to relieve your pain, NOT create more.

Don’t Ignore the Obvious

Constipation may be an all-too-often-present factor of life, but it doesn’t have to rule the roost. Drink plenty of water, eat healthy fresh fruits and vegetables, and stay physically active. Keep in mind that it can be caused by something as little as not drinking enough water to something as major as a bowel obstruction or cancer. As such, it is not something to be ignored for a long time. If you have suffered from this ailment for any length of time, be sure to have a doctor rule out any major underlying cause.

Herpes

 

Debunking the Social Stigma

A simple way to define herpes is as a virus which affects mostly the skin but can also cause issues with the nervous system of the person who has contracted it. There are two basic types of the herpes virus. Herpes type 1 (also referred to as oral herpes) and herpes type 2 (also referred to as genital herpes).

Herpes type 1 most commonly occurs around the mouth of the person affected in the form of cold sores or blisters, but can also be found in some cases of genital herpes. Most cases of genital herpes, however, are caused by the type 2 virus. Type 2 herpes are mostly found around the genitals and anus of the individual who has contracted the virus.

Herpes Statistics

woman_touching_lipIt is estimated by the CDC that around 15 percent of individuals in the United States between the ages of 14 and 49 have herpes simplex virus 2. There are also about 750,000 new cases of the viruses reported in Americans annually. The total number of herpes cases is of course higher than that because of the cases of herpes simplex virus 1. There are far less reported cases of herpes each year compared to type 2 because herpes type 1 is usually contracted during childhood.

When it comes to gender, males have a much higher rate of contracting herpes type 2 than females and are also much more likely than females to pass herpes on to their partner. The Center for Disease Control also reports that non-Hispanic blacks are much more likely to contract the virus than non-Hispanic whites. Non-Hispanic blacks contract the herpes type 2 at a rate of 41.8 percent while non-Hispanic whites contract the disease reportedly at a rate of about 11.3 percent. The gap between the two races is consistent regardless of how many sexual partners the individual has had in their lifetime. While each person is more likely to contract the disease the more sexual partners they have, non-Hispanic blacks are still always more likely to contract the disease as compared to non-Hispanic whites. Herpes has been on a gradual decline nationwide over the last two decades.




How Herpes Is Contracted

HSV-1 is contracted mainly through sores or secretions on the skin around the mouth. The virus can be contracted by many means including kissing, using someone’s toothbrush who has the disease, sharing a drinking cup, or any other means where the person’s mouth has touched an object that another person touches. HSV-2 is different than HSV-1 in that it is transmitted almost exclusively through sexual contact. A common misunderstanding regarding herpes is that the virus can only be transmitted from a person who is having an outbreak and has open sores or lesions from the virus. In fact, most instances of the virus being transmitted occur when the person who already has the disease does not have any visible signs of the disease on their mouth or genitals. It is often common for the virus to be transmitted by someone who may not even know that they have the disease at all. This is one of the most dangerous parts of the virus. It can be transmitted from person to person stealthily.

Symptoms of Herpes

symptoms-of-herpesHerpes is a virus which can lie dormant in a person for extended periods of time and then appear with many different kinds of symptoms and with varying degrees of intensity. Herpes outbreaks can be random at times but there are situations which can help encourage a herpes outbreak in an individual with the virus. The most common cause of herpes outbreaks is when a person with the virus has some other illness as well. The body’s immune system must focus energy in other places in order to fight the other illness. This give the herpes virus a chance to cause an outbreak. Any kind of action which suppresses a person’s immune system can help a herpes outbreak occur. This includes chemotherapy and AIDS treatments. Herpes type 1 and herpes type 2 outbreaks can also be caused by stress, physical trauma to the area of infection, and menstruation. Those who have HSV-1 or HSV-2 would be wise to avoid these circumstances to the best of their abilities to help avoid outbreaks. It is also important to note that many people who have herpes can go their entire lives only having mild outbreaks. Some patients may never experience an outbreak at all.




Signs of Herpes

Cold-Sore-HSV-1As you know, many people who have herpes never even know they have contracted the virus. This is because of the mildness and irregularity of their symptoms and outbreaks. The most common milder signs associated with the initial outbreak in an individual with herpes is mild pain and itching around the area of the infection. This type of outbreak usually occurs within the first week or so of sexual contact with a person with the herpes virus. This is true whether it is herpes type 1 or herpes type 2. Herpes type 1 is almost always more mild that herpes type 2.

There are other symptoms associated with the herpes virus as well. The most common, widely known symptom of the disease are the small red bumps which occur in the infected area. These can itch and also be very painful depending on the severity of the outbreak. Other symptoms of the disease include scabs, ulcers, and general pain and soreness in the genital area. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or suspect that you might have had sex with someone who has herpes, you should consult with your local physician or STD specialist as soon as possible.

Symptoms can occur, go away, and reoccur at any time. Herpes outbreaks can also occur at varying degrees of intensity as well. The frequency of the outbreaks can vary from person to person. Some can experience herpes outbreaks multiple times in one year. Some patients may only experience one or two outbreaks in their lifetime. It is very common for outbreaks to become less frequent over the lifetime of the patient who has the disease. This is because the body’s immune system is developing antibodies against it to help fight it along with medications which may have been prescribed for the patient with HSV-1 or HSV-2.

Herpes Cure

lysine-benefitsWhile there are many treatments to help soothe the symptoms of herpes, there is no cure for the herpes virus. This is true whether it is herpes simplex virus 1 or herpes simplex virus 2. There is also no vaccine invented yet which can prevent a person from contracting the disease later in life. There are various medications which can help treat outbreaks to help minimize and shorten them. There are also various anti-viral medications as well which can help a person who has the herpes virus prevent the spread to their sexual partner at the time. While there is no cure for herpes, there are medications available on the market today which can help reduce its effects and control it.

Further research is always being done towards advancement in herpes treatments. The end goal is of course to find a cure for the disease. The most promising substance for the future of herpes treatments are microbicides. Microbicides could help attack the virus before it can take hold in the body. This helps prevent breakouts and greatly reduces the spread of herpes. Scientists are not optimistic about the future of herpes treatments when it comes to a fully effective vaccine.

Herpes Treatment

As stated before, there is no cure for herpes. There are multiple medications available which help reduce outbreaks and prevent those with the disease from spreading it to other sexual partners. Most of the medications in use to treat the disease are anti-viral medications. This means they help subdue the virus in those who have herpes. Most of these medications are taken daily by herpes patients and are very effective in helping prevent the spread of the disease to their current sexual partners. These medications have helped people come a long way towards reducing the stigma associated with the herpes virus in recent years. Doctors are always running clinical trials in order to help prevent and treat the disease. Like most viruses, they have not yet found a cure for herpes.

Herpes Testing

test-for-genital-herpesOne of the biggest issues surrounding the herpes virus is that most people who have the virus do not know they have the disease. These people will not take the steps necessary in order to prevent them from spreading the disease to their partner or partners. Transitively, this means they are much more likely to spread the disease. This is why it is very important for those who suspect in any way that they have the disease to get tested for the disease as early as possible. Those who have had sex with a partner who has had herpes outbreaks in the past or individuals who have had multiple unfamiliar sex partners in recent times are the most likely to contract the disease and should be tested.

Herpes can be detected through a blood test. Herpes blood tests are usually included in typical more broad STD screenings, though not always. It is important to ask your doctor if it is being tested for anytime you go in for an STD screening. Any sexually active adult should be getting these screenings on a regular basis. Herpes can also be tested for individually if an individual suspects or is made known that they have been exposed to the virus through a sexual partner.

Prevention of Herpes

Obviously the best option is to never contract either herpes virus. There are many ways to avoid getting herpes. The most apparent one is to not have sexual relations with a person that has either form of herpes. Some do not know that they have the disease. This is why it is important to take other measures towards prevention. One way of preventing the disease is by wearing a condom during sex. This will prevent against some forms of the disease. The only problem is that condoms only prevent herpes in the area that is covered by the latex. If any exposed skin touches the exposed skin of their partner it is possible to contract the disease. Those that have genital herpes should especially abstain from having sexual relations with their partner when they have noticeable sores or any other kind of outbreak. You are much more likely to transmit herpes to your sexual partner during an outbreak. It is important to note that the two best ways to avoid contracting herpes are to abstain from sex or only have sex when in a long-term, monogamous relationship with someone who does not have any sexually transmitted diseases.

Herpes Pain

herpes_simplex_58There is an amount of pain which can be associated with herpes. Of course, like every other facet of the virus, the severity of the pain experienced with the herpes virus varies from person to person. Herpes sores can be very painful. This is why is important to take medicines like Valtrex to help reduce the frequency and the intensity of outbreaks. Most outbreaks can be predicted by a tingling sensation in the area where the herpes outbreak may be occurring. This can be a sign to take some kind of medication to help soothe the effects. Herpes sores can be extremely painful in a full-blown herpes outbreak. Herpes outbreaks usually start out as sores or lesions and can develop into painful red blisters in the most intense outbreaks.

Natural Herpes Treatment

herpesThere are many non-traditional ways to treat herpes and herpes outbreaks. They range from at-home remedies to herbal supplements for treatment. There are many prescription medicines which can be used for the treatment of an outbreak. For smaller and less severe outbreaks, over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, aspirin, or any other type of OTC pain reliever can be used to alleviate symptoms. It is also important to keep the area of an outbreak dry to help reduce pain. Many of those with herpes have said that soaking the area in warm water from time to time can help reduce pain, but it is wise to mostly keep the area as dry as possible.

There are also a variety of all-natural methods of treating the herpes virus as well. There have been multiple studies done by doctors on herbal and natural remedies and their effect on patients with the herpes virus. Two naturally occurring substances which have been tested and proved to help with herpes are propolis and Prunella vulgaris. Propolis is a waxy substance created by honeybees which has been found in some patients to help reduce and even completely heal herpes sores in a large portion of patients who tested the substance according to a WebMD medical survey. Another natural substance which has been found to help with herpes symptoms is Prunella vulgaris. Prunella vulgaris is an herb found in nature that has been determined in some patients to help fight the virus and reduce outbreaks and make them less severe.

Social Life with Herpes

Those with herpes should not feel discouraged when it comes to engaging in social relationships. It is not usually visually apparent that you have the herpes virus. This means that anyone you are not having sexual relations with may not ever know that you have the disease. Many people who have the herpes virus go on living their lives as they did before without any real inconvenience. The negative social stigma surrounding the disease has been greatly reduced as education regarding STDs is increased, and the general public has a better understanding of the disease. Those with herpes should also know that they are not alone and there are many resources available to them for psychological and emotional support. Herpes is permanent, but it should not ruin anyone’s life.

Dating Life with Herpes

Dating and sex are both completely possible with the herpes virus provided you follow the proper protocol. There are even resources available for those with the virus to link up with other people with herpes for support and even dating. The most important thing to remember is to always be open and honest with anyone you may be having sex with if you have the herpes virus. This will help prevent the spread of the disease.

Knowledge Is Key

If you believe you may have contracted the herpes virus or have recently had sexual relations with someone you suspect may have the virus, it is important to get tested as soon as possible. There are many resources available to people who seek testing. If you cannot afford a herpes blood test there are clinics in almost every area which offer free services to patients wishing to get a herpes blood test. Remember, is better to know whether or not you have the disease, than to risk having it and not knowing.

Cold Sores

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Cold Sores: Information, Causes, and Treatment

What’s that nasty red spot that keeps popping up on your lip? No matter what remedies you use, it still finds its way back to you. They’re uncomfortable and even worse, they’re ugly and make you feel self-conscious. Don’t be too alarmed, however. That nasty little sore is a recurring infection that affects nearly 80 percent of the population. It’s very common, but very treatable, too.

coldsore112These pesky sores are formally known as Herpes Labialis, but you’ve probably heard them referred to as cold sores or fever blisters. Cold sores come from the herpes simplex virus which appears in two forms: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 generally affects the area around the mouth, while HSV-2 affects the genitals.




The first time you experience an infection, the virus will remain dormant in the affected area. However, once contracted, it does become a permanent resident. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean you constantly experience symptoms as they will reappear only as a result of certain triggers. Although it may sometimes appear to have left the body, this only means the infection isn’t active at that moment.

There’s no cure for the cold sores infection. Thankfully, though, there are lots of effective treatments and prevention methods which will help lessen the frequency as well as ease the symptoms.

Appearance

Cold-SoresGetting a cold sore can be quite distressing, since they’re rather unsightly. The sore first appears as a nasty, fluid-filled blister or lesion. The sores can also appear as clusters of blisters. At some point in their cycle, the blisters will break and form a crust over the affected area. The crust will gradually shed on its own, and will leave no scars on the affected area provided that you don’t pick at it.

Cold sores usually appear outside of your mouth, on the lips, cheeks, or chin. They may also appear inside the mouth and nostrils. Such cases are much more difficult to treat due to the moist location. The most common area to be infected by cold sores is the outside edge of the lips. Although HSV-1 is different than HSV-2 (which only affects the genitals), HSV-1 can be spread to the genitals as well.




Cold sores shouldn’t be confused with canker sores. Canker sores are small ulcers that only appear on the inside of the mouth, usually occurring in adolescents. They look very similar to cold sores, but are usually white in color and do not blister like cold sores. Their cause is less understood than cold sores, though they are not contagious.

Symptoms

Symptoms of HSV-1 include the appearance of a sore, pain and itching at the infection site. Five to 10 days prior to infection, you may experience inflammation in the gums and cheeks. Sometimes there may be itching and burning 24 to 48 hours prior to the infection, which is then followed by redness, inflammation, and swelling.

 

CT171F HERPES

HSV-1 can be spread to the eyes, known as ocular herpes. The eye will appear inflamed and bloodshot, and may ooze a contagious yellowish fluid. If this occurs, it must be treated promptly. If left untreated, infection, permanent damage, and even blindness could occur as a result. Ocular herpes is often the result of thumb or finger sucking in children.

In very serious cases, HSV-1 can spread to the brain. More often than not, this occurs as a result of excessive neglect and lack of attention to the slowly worsening symptoms. When this happens, it can result in meningitis and/or encephalitis.

People with certain diseases may have more symptoms than others. For example, those with the skin condition eczema may experience breakouts all over their body, not just orally.

Cold sore symptoms can be very serious during the first infection. During your first infection, you may experience nausea, vomiting, fever, and headache. Additionally, your throat and mouth may be sore, and you may also have open wounds inside and outside of your mouth. Such symptoms usually begin a week after your first infection with the virus. These symptoms may accompany later infections as well, however, it is uncommon. You may have already experienced these symptoms as a child, since most people are infected by HSV-1 before they reach 10 years old.

HSV-1 affects men slightly more often than it does women. On average, 33 percent of men experience at least one outbreak in their lifetime, while 28 percent of women experience an outbreak. The virus is found all over the world.

Causes

The infection is spread from person to person via saliva, either directly or indirectly. Indirect spread of HSV-1 can be something as simple as touching a surface an infected person has touched after they touched their mouth, then touching yours later. Even something you may consider “cleaner” like drinking from a glass after a friend or family member, or sharing utensils or food can spread the infection.

Remember not to touch your cold sore when you are infected without washing your hands afterward, because you could easily spread the infection. Be careful not to touch other areas of your body after you touch your infection. HSV-1 can spread almost anywhere on the body. Again, once an area is infected, it has potential to flare up again.

After your first infection, the virus will later become active for various reasons. Stress, fatigue, illness, cold, hormonal changes, excessive levels of UV rays, and mouth injuries can all trigger an outbreak. Many of these triggers put stress on the immune system, making you more susceptible to an infection. In some cases, HSV-1 may simply reactivate for no explained reason.

Cycle

There are eight official stages of infection for HSV-1. Learn to recognize the beginning stages of an infection to prevent sores and pain. Once you familiarize yourself with the signs and life cycle of a cold sore, you will be more prepared to deal with them.

1. Dormancy
This stage can last for months. During this stage, you experience zero symptoms due to lack of triggers in your environment. After your first infection, the virus remains dormant in the area it once infected before prior to flaring up again. It will remain dormant until it is triggered or another area is infected.

2. Prodromal
This stage begins one to two days prior to the main infection. This is when you first feel that familiar tingling, itching, or burning at the affected area. You should treat the infection before it forms a sore.

3. Inflammation
The affected area will become inflamed on the first day of the infection. During this period, your immune system is working hard to fight off the virus, resulting in the inflammation.

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4. Pre-sore
On the second or third day of infection, fluid-filled, inflamed papules or vesicles will start to appear on the surface of your skin. These may be painful to touch, and it’s best not to do so as this could aggravate the infection. These sores may appear on your lip, cheeks, nose, and chin.

5. Open Lesion
On around day four of your infection, the small ulcers will break and form a single wound. Blood, pus, and other fluid will gradually seep out and form a hard, dry crust over the wound. The fluid that seeps out is teeming with bacteria and is very contagious, so be sure to avoid licking or touching it. Instead, gently dab it with a tissue. This stage is usually the most painful. Despite the pain, be careful not to touch the infection — you don’t want it hanging around any longer than necessary!

6. Crusting
From day five to eight of the infection, a crust forms over the wound. This crust is not a result of the virus, but the protective covering is a result of your immune system attacking the virus and covering it with protective proteins. The wound will become less painful at this stage, but the crust is susceptible to breakage when you move your mouth, leaking out contagious fluid.

7. Healing
During day nine to two weeks over the course of the infection, healthy new skin forms beneath the protective crust. More scabs will form over the infected area, but they will gradually increase in size until the wound has vanished. Again, pain and irritation are not unusual during this stage, but refrain nonetheless from picking at the scab.

8. Post-infection
Two weeks into the infection’s lifespan, there is no longer a scab covering the wound. The previously infected area may be slightly red and inflamed, and there may be contagious remnants of the virus. After this stage, the infection returns to dormancy until the next flare-up.

Diagnosis

Cold sores have a very recognizable appearance, and are usually self-diagnosable. The inflamed, reddish-yellow sores are familiar to many people. Not all sores are alike of course, so you may need to ask your physician to identify the infection as well as examine your medical history to estimate the potential of infection.

It is possible to get a blood test to determine if you have HSV-1. This is done by taking a small sample from the infected area. However, this can only be done when you are experiencing symptoms.

Treatments

cold_sore_treatmentThere are many treatments which can speed the healing process of cold sores and ease the pain and irritation. The sores can be prevented if the treatments are applied prior to the infection, so use them as soon as you feel that familiar tingle.

The most commonly used topical treatment for HSV-1 is Docosanol, a saturated fatty acid. This is applied directly to the site of infection, ideally at the first sign of symptoms. It is safe and has been approved by the FDA.

Other effective over-the-counter treatments include Acyclovir and Valacyclovir. These are pills taken orally that help the immune system fight cold sores and other viral infections. On average, these medications reduce the healing time by 10 percent.

There are also several effective home remedies. While these won’t cure the infection, they will help alleviate symptoms and speed healing time. For example, pure vanilla extract can be applied to a wound to help fight off infection. The alcohol properties make it difficult for the virus to reproduce. You should also consume higher quantities of vitamins E and C, which have been proven to increase your white blood cell count.

Of course, the best way to avoid having a cold sore outbreak is to avoid activities that spread it. HSV-1 is spread mainly by direct contact, but it may also be spread by indirect contact as well.

Direct contact, such as kissing or touching someone else after touching your sore can spread the infection. Sores can even spread to the genitals during sexual activity, so it is especially important to exercise caution even though you may want to be intimate with your loved ones.

Avoid sharing things where your mouth has been. Cups, utensils, plates, or food – no matter who you’re sharing with, it’s still risky. The virus can make its way to other people even if a small amount lingers on a surface. If you touch your mouth, be sure to wash your hands before touching another surface. For example, if you scratch your lip, and then touch a public surface that many people use, such as a weight at the gym, that person may contract the virus if they touch their mouth later.

And of course, practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often, and keep hand sanitizer with you if you don’t have access to a restroom. This applies to many other infections as well. Help keep the world a more germ-free place.

When to Seek Professional Help

Although cold sores are very treatable and generally subside on their own, there is always potential for things to go wrong. If you have a weak immune system, you may be susceptible to a more serious infection. If you contract a fever, experience sores for more than a week, the sores make it hard to talk, swallow, or move your mouth, or if sores occur multiple times after each other, this is a sign of a serious infection. If this happens, contact your doctor immediately.

HealthFaire.com