Oral Herpes (HSV-1) (Herpes of the Mouth)
Oral Herpes (HSV-1) Overview
Oral herpes is an infection of the mouth and lips caused by a specific type of the herpes simplex virus (also termed HSV-1or type 1 herpes simplex virus). The virus causes painful sores on the lips, gums, tongue, roof of the mouth, inside the cheeks, and sometimes on the face and neck. It also can cause symptoms such as fever and muscle aches. People commonly refer to the infection as herpes labialis or "cold sores." Canker sores are sometimes thought to be caused by HSV, but this is not true. Canker sores occur only inside the mouth, on the tongue, and on the soft palate (roof of mouth), not on skin surfaces. Although they reoccur, they are not contagious, usually are self-limiting, and have almost no complications. Canker sores are caused by substances that irritate the lining of the mouth.
There are two types of HSV, termed HSV-1 and HSV-2. These two viruses have distinctly different DNA, and both cause oral and genital lesions. However, HSV-1 causes about 80% of all oral lesions and only about 20% of genital lesions while HSV-2 causes the reverse (about 80% genital and 20% oral). Studies also suggest that in adolescents, up to 40% of genital herpes is caused by HSV-1 because of reported increased oral/genital contact (transmission by oral sex).
Oral herpes (HSV-1) infection (or exposure without noticeable infection) is common. About 65% of the U.S. population has detectable antibodies to HSV-1 by age 40. This article will focus on HSV-1, or oral herpes, not on HSV-2, also commonly known as genital herpes. HSV-2 is considered to be a sexually transmitted disease (STD). In addition, HSV-2 virus should not be confused with human papillomavirus (HPV), the cause of genital warts and some cervical and other cancer types.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/14/2014
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