Cold sores, also known as recurrent herpes labialis, are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). HSV-1 is a lifelong virus because of its ability to establish a site of latent infection and remain dormant in the sensory ganglia until it is reactivated by triggers such as illness, stress, sun exposure, or trauma to the lip. This entry reviews the prevalence of cold sores, along with the pathogenesis, triggers, and stages of a cold sore.


Initial infection with HSV-1 usually occurs during childhood, and patients remain asymptomatic until an outbreak occurs. It is known that by the fifth decade of life approximately 80% of adults have antibodies to HSV-1, indicating previous infection. Another 20% to 40% (50 million) people suffer from recurrent outbreaks of ...

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