Cold Sores and Lasers?

October 10, 2012 | Posted in General Information

Cold sores are caused by the Herpes Simplex virus (HSV Type I and occasionally HSV Type II). These lesions are highly contagious during certain stages of growth and thus can be easily transmitted to others through physical contact. They typically last 10-14 days and may or may not be painful. Most often, the lesions present themselves on the lips, but they may spread to perioral regions. Due to the unsightly appearance of these lesions, they are often a cause of social discomfort and embarrassment.

Once an individual becomes affected by HSV, the virus attaches itself to the nerve tissue and travels along the nerve to the nerve ganglia. The virus persists in a dormant state in the nerve ganglia until biological conditions are such that the virus becomes active and produces a lesion. The stimuli for activation of the virus include diminshed immunity (due to stress, cold/flu/fever), hormonal changes (e.g. menstruation), UV light (e.g. sun exposure) and trauma.

A cold sore begins in the prodromal stage when the individual feels a "tingling" sensation in the area where the lesion will appear. The lesion will then become a red area with fluid-filled blisters. This stage is when the lesion is most contagious. Rupture of the fluid-filled blisters or vesicles allows the release of active virus cells allowing the lesion to spread or to be passed on to someone with whom physical contact is made. The vesicles eventually dry up and crust over forming a scab which persists until the lesion is healed. The scab will bleed easily with stimulation and irritation will delay healing time.

Many people are not aware of laser therapy as a form of treatment for HSV lesions. Low Level Laser Therapy (LLLT) is when energy is applied to the affected area. LLLT has been effective in preventing the formation of the lesion or reducing healing time. The lesion is best treated in the prodromal stage (tingling stage) before the appearance of blisters. Dr. Haslam has had great success in preventing the formation of lesions in this stage and most patients have reported a dramatic reduction in the frequency of lesion recurrence. There have even been patients who have gone years without an outbreak!

In cases where the lesion has already developed to the vesicle or blister stage, healing time has been reduced down to often less than one week with minimal to no scabbing afterward. Patients who have lesions treated following the formation of the scab notice a reduction in healing time as well; however, the lesion has already been present for usually a week at this point.

If you feel that "tingling" sensation, contact Dr. Luke Haslam immediately at Basinview Dental Centre so you can have your LLLT and prevent the outbreak of a cold sore! The treatment takes 10-15minutes and requires no freezing or other medications.