Cold sores affect different people in different ways. There is no permanent cure and once contracted, episodes of cold sore eruption will occur sporadically as a lifelong affliction. Some may experience pain whilst others can be alerted to a possible outbreak by a tingling sensation. Usually affecting the lip area (although some cases have been known to spread to the nose also), they often result in visible, painful blisters for around ten to fourteen days. Cold sores generally happen in five stages, during which the sufferer will experience various symptoms as the condition escalates before beginning to heal.
Stage one – tingling
The beginnings of a cold sore are the most subtle at this point, often noticed due to a tingling sensation in the affected area, normally lasting between one to two days. Symptoms may remain as the above for some, whilst others may experience burning and/or itching.
Stage two – blistering
After the initial warning signs, the affected area will begin to develop a small group of bumps, which over another one to two days will become a more noticeable blister. This will then fill with fluid as the body attempts to fight off the infection.
Stage three – weeping
For many, this is the worst stage of the infection as the condition is not only highly visible, but also at its most painful. The blister will now be an open wound that leaks fluid, although thankfully, this normally only lasts around a day.
Stage four – scabbing
This can last anywhere between one to three days and may also be painful, and is sometimes accompanied by burning and itching sensations. This is where the fluid in the sore begins to dry out, forming a crust over the wound, which may also shrink and bleed as part of the process.
Stage five – healing
Lasting between one to four days, the scabbing starts to come away from the skin. Leaving an area of raw, pink and sometimes swollen skin, the infection is over and the affected area will now return to its usual state.
Lots of treatments are available to help ease the symptoms of cold sores and by knowing the different stages, some of the worst symptoms can sometimes be prevented or at least lessened if treated in good time.