I was surprized to hear this info, Dr said it can cause an out break on lips. I never heard of this and never had a cold sore in my 51yrs.
Can Active & Deep Fx Laser for Lines on Upper LipCause Herpes?
Doctor Answers (5)
Lasers can cause cold sore breakout
The virus that causes cold sores can be dormant within your nerves and be reactivated with any type of stress including surgery, dermabrasion, chemical peels, and lasers. Most patients with a history of cold sores are given a medication as prophylaxis to avoid a breakout in the post-procedure period.
Rare but not worth the risk
Although it is rare for someone who had never had a cold sore to actually have an outbreak after laser treatment, it is possible. Some estimates are between 5-10% of people who have never had a herpetic outbreak to their knowledge will have one with an intense laser treatment or sunburn. These things don't "cause" herpes, they just activate dormant virus.
The problem is not the risk of a cold sore, it is that if you treat the face with a laser and you develop the outbreak, it can and will spread to all the laser treated areas. Although it does not usually cause long-term problems, it is extremely unpleasant and will prolong the recovery process. In addition, it is traumatic to both patient and doctor. In extreme cases, this can spread to the eye and threaten sight in one or both eyes.
For this reason, I encourage every patient undergoing facial laser resurfacing to take antiviral medications for 5-7 days starting immediately before treatment.
Don't be offended at this, it is just a precaution to prevent a very unpleasant, albeit unlikely, occurrence.
All the best!
Lasers Can Cause Cold Sore Outbreaks
Most people have been exposed to and carry the virus responsible for cold sores: Herpes Simplex 1. Even if you have never had an outbreak, a laser resurfacing procedure could provoke one and lead to severe complications during healing. Valtrex or acyclovir are antiviral medications that are given to almost all patients prior to and shortly after the procedure to prevent an outbreak from happening.
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Thanks for the question.
It is estimated that over 90 % of the population carries the Herpes Simplex 1 virus, although it lies dormant in a significant proportion of people. The virus may become activated through stressors such as a depressed immune system, and notably to the face, trauma in the form of peels, lasers, dermabrasion, etc. may activate the virus. Thus, prior to commencing with one of the aforementioned procedures, it is recommended that the patient be placed on an anti-viral during the peri-procedural period to minimize the risk of viral activation.
Best of luck,
Glenn Vallecillos, MD, FACS
Can lasers cause cold sores?
The virus that causes cold sores lives in your nerves and typically lie dormant. Stress of any type can cause them to surface. Lasers are a form of stress that certainly can induce this. Even if you never had a cold sore, it is possible to have the virus. It is unusual to see it cause a problem with a fractionated laser because your skin heals over so quickly
These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.