It’s estimated that by the age of 40, 90% of the adult population has been exposed to the HSV-1 virus that causes cold sores. Odds are, you have it – even if you’ve never seen any symptoms. It’s possible to be a carrier of this virus without ever getting a cold sore or experiencing an outbreak.
Those who do experience the symptoms of HSV-1 will know the pain and embarrassment that they can cause you. The blisters and scabs caused by this virus can be humiliating, especially if you get them regularly. If you’re a sufferer, it’s likely you’ve wondered if it’s possible to get rid of cold sores permanently.
For years, researchers have sought a permanent cure for cold sores. We know that the HSV-1 virus currently cannot be ‘cured.’ It lives in the body forever, even if it’s not always active. Treatments aim to relieve pain and speed up healing. They don’t target the latent versions of the virus that hide away in nerve cells, waiting to be triggered.
But are there ways to put the virus into a dormant stage permanently? What treatments are available for those who can’t remove cold sores permanently? In this article, we’re going to examine the latest scientific progress.
What Are Cold Sores?
As we know, cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus. They’re also known as fever blisters because they can become inflamed and puffy. Once the virus is picked up, it remains in the body forever, occasionally causing outbreaks of painful blisters, usually around the mouth.
First, you might feel a tingling sensation. Then a few days later, you’ll see tiny blisters appear, filled with fluid and tender to the touch. Eventually, the blisters will scab over, starting the healing process. Each stage of the cold sore outbreak comes with unique challenges, from handling the pain to making sure the scab doesn’t split or crack while eating or talking.
The cold sore virus is extremely contagious, and many people don’t even realize they have it until they experience an outbreak. It can be passed on directly by coming into contact with a cold sore. More commonly, it can be passed from objects like drinking vessels, lipsticks, and cutlery.
Some people with the HSV-1 virus will never suffer from a cold sore. Others who carry the virus may experience one or two cold sores in their lifetime. An unfortunate minority suffer from regular cold sores, and they can never predict when the next one will arise. They can appear at the worst times, such as on your wedding day or an interview for a new job. The only proper ‘cure’ for a cold sore is to get the HSV-1 virus out of the body for good.
Is There a Permanent Cure for Cold Sores?
Unfortunately, there is no permanent cure for cold sores right now. But that’s not to say that researchers aren’t working hard to find a cure. Recent developments suggest that there could be a vaccine for HSV on the way.
- Harvey M. Friedman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, has been working on a cure for the virus for more than twenty years. He and his colleagues now believe they have found a way to help the body make the antibodies to fight off HSV, as well as keeping the virus from evading those antibodies, which it does so well.
- The vaccine has been tested on macaque monkeys, whose immune systems are very similar to humans. It was also tested on guinea pigs, who exhibit the same symptoms as humans when infected with HSV. The results were very positive, eliminating the virus from these two animals with minimal side-effects.
- But of course, before a vaccine can be brought onto the market, it needs to be tested on humans. There’s no current date for the human trials, but if they prove successful, the vaccine could provide a viable cure within a decade.
Another interesting treatment which will soon be available is Sitavig – a medication which has already been clinically tested. This drug, which contains acyclovir (a popular herpes-fighting ingredient) can reduce the amount of the virus that’s being carried in the body over time.
- By taking Sitavig in the early stages of your next cold sore, you can reduce the number of outbreaks you’ll have in the future. Though it’s too early to say whether eventually, this will cure the virus entirely, the results are promising.
- Adults who experience more than four cold sores per year noted 64% fewer outbreaks over a nine-month period. Some have reported going more than eighteen months with no cold sores.
Cold Sore Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are ongoing to find the answer. Vironova is one organization currently performing trials to inhibit HSV-1 and HSV-2 in patients. Mymetics are currently working on an HSV vaccine, and the University of Rhode Island has a number of herpes studies running in a bid to find a cure.
In the UK, clinical trials tend to be mainly focused on the drug acyclovir, but there are others focused on cold sore patches and widely available treatments. A trial in Iran hopes to investigate the effect of lasers and acyclovir on herpes. Canada is looking towards more natural treatments.
A trial in New Zealand is examining the effects of natural honey on cold sores, and Germany is testing a new topical treatment named Muxan, which fights HSV-1. As you can see – there may not be a cure, but with so much research taking place, the future looks bright for sufferers.
Other Treatments for Cold Sores
With Sitavig not guaranteed to permanently cure the virus, and the HSV vaccine still a few years away, there is currently no way to get rid of your cold sores forever. However, there are lots of great treatments out there which can help your cold sores to heal much faster, as well as reducing pain instantly.
Here are some of the most effective treatments for cold sores available on the market today:
- Over-the-counter creams are one of the first things people reach for when they suspect a cold sore is on the way. Orajel Moisturelock Cold Sore Treatment is a great option for treating the six main symptoms of cold sores. Abreva Docosanol 10% Cream Tube is also one of the best sellers in this field and is great at shortening healing times.
- Cold sore patches are widely-used to treat cold sores discreetly. Compeed Cold Sore Patches are the biggest seller in this sector, and Quantum Health Lip Clear Invisible Cold Sore Bandages are also very popular. A cold sore patch is ideal if you don’t want to be rubbing cream into your face all day.
- Electronic cold sore machines. Virulite is by far the best option here. It’s FDA-approved and available over-the-counter for total convenience. The device delivers a narrow waveband of light to the affected area to stimulate the immune system locally. The skin cells in the area are triggered to multiply much faster, speeding up the healing process. Perfect for those who experience cold sores regularly and need a more robust treatment option.
- L-lysine is an essential amino acid that can’t be produced in the body, so we need to ingest it through food or supplements. Its antiviral properties can have a positive effect on cold sores. There is some good anecdotal evidence from those who have seen results by using lysine, but it’s something you’ll need to try for yourself.
Avoiding Cold Sore Outbreaks
Until a permanent cold sore removal method is found, you should also try to avoid these triggers, which can cause a cold sore outbreak.
While the cold sore virus is dormant in your body, you should do everything you can to avoid stress. Higher stress levels can have an impact your immune system, and the virus can see this as the perfect time to strike. Try to keep your stress levels low – meditate, go for a walk, do some yoga or listen to some music if you feel particularly stressed.
Fever or infection can also cause cold sores to appear. When the body is weak and vulnerable, HSV-1 will jump into action. Struggling with a cold sore as well as another infection can be very unpleasant. Try to keep your immune system as healthy as possible. Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, prepare food safely and wash your hands often.
Sun exposure is a key trigger for cold sores. If you’re going on holiday or if you live in a hot climate, make sure you have plenty of sun protection on your face every day. The last thing you want is an unsightly cold sore combined with your sunburn on your holiday photos.
Unfortunately, the final trigger is hormonal changes, often triggered by pregnancy and menstruation. For women, there’s not a lot you can do to avoid these hormonal fluctuations. Instead, you’ll need to ensure you have plenty of cold sore treatments on hand to address the problem if it arises.
Will My Cold Sores Go Away for Good?
Assessing the current options or cold sore sufferers, there’s no method which will guarantee a permanent removal of cold sores right now. Cold sores are caused by the HSV-1 virus, and there is no FDA-approved way to remove the virus from the body once it’s become embedded.
However, the good news is that there are a plethora of great treatments out there which can target cold sores as soon as they appear. Whether you apply a cold sore patch or an over-the-counter cold sore cream, if you can take rapid action, the duration of your cold sore will be much shorter than usual.
There are also hundreds of trials being carried out across the globe to help tackle this condition. With a huge majority of humans now carrying the virus, there’s more incentive than ever before for medical researchers to find a cure. Could it be just around the corner? Only time will tell.