There is a quite lot of confusion about cold sores on the lips. For the most part, people believe that cold sores can appear on both the inner and outer lip surfaces. This is wrong. A cold sore is an affliction that only affects the external parts of the skin. Lesions or sores that occur on the inner lips are most likely canker sores.
Cold sores and canker sores are radically different from each other. Canker sores are ulcers affecting the soft tissues inside the mouth, namely the gums, inner lips and tongue. They are not viral, or contagious in any way. Rather, canker sores appear due to myriad factors, often related to hormonal imbalances or oral injuries.
It is easy to identify a cold sore. It is a shallow, exposed ulcer, white/yellow in color, surrounded by a swollen red border. People with sores on the inside of the mouth can therefore rest easy, as canker sores are cannot be spread, and usually clear up in a matter of days.
Sores on the outer lips, however, are most likely to be cold sores. These are very contagious, and people suffering from them should take careful precautions so as not to give them to others. Before a cold sore appears, it is possible to experience various itching or tingling feelings on a part of the lip. Within a few days, this tingling area will give rise to a cold sore.
A cold sore is different in appearance to that of a canker. Firstly, cold sores aren’t ulcers, they are fever blisters. Secondly, these sores tend to go through a handful of distinct stages, which in turn affect their appearance. For instance, a cold sore usually emerges as an inflamed cluster of pale yellow blisters, which eventually pop, and weep a clear fluid. It then crusts over and heals. Read about cold sore stages for a full outline of them.
Experts have discovered that cold sores can be triggered by a range of external factors. The weather, for instance, is a significant cold sore catalyst, especially for those that affect the lips. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultra-violet rays is one such cause. It has been found sun-burnt lips are more susceptible to fever blister outbreaks. These afflictions can be easily avoided through the application of high SPF factor sun lotions and lip balms.
Cold, windy conditions can also be a problem. Often, during the dry months of winter, lips tend to crack and tear if not properly looked after. These minor ruptures in the flesh can irritate the skin and result in cold sore appearances. It’s a good idea, then, to regularly apply medicated moisturizing lips balms during chilly seasons. These will protect the lips from the harsh affects of cold and wind. Interestingly enough, the word “cold” in “cold sores” refers to the winter, as cold sores are most prevalent at this particular time of year.
Lips are also rather susceptible to physical trauma. Sports injuries or accidents, for example, can inflame the mouth and in time, trigger fever blisters. These are the main factors that uniquely distinguish cold sores on the lips from other types of oral lesion. For a full list of treatment options I suggest you read how to get rid of cold sores.