Is It Common to Get Cold Sores After a Fraxel Treatment?

I suffered from a severe cold sore outbreak on my upper lip after my first (and probably only) Fraxel treatment. I've never experienced a cold sore ever before. Is this a common side effect? Why now after a Fraxel treatment?

Doctor Answers 2

Cold Sore Breakout After Laser Treatment

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Hi cpt,

All patients receiving laser treatments on the face should take prophylactic anti-viral medications for one week, beginning a day before their treatment. The heat of the laser may stimulate dormant virus into an active state. The virus will easily spread on the lasered skin; therefore all patients should take the pre-treatment anti-virals. Hope that you are over the out break. Be well.

Dr. P

Encino Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

Cold sores are a well known problem

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Yes, unfortunately cold sores are a well known problem after any laser treatment.

Nearly 80% of adults have antibodies to the herpesvirus that causes cold sores. Almost everyone has been exposed to the herpes virus that causes common cold sores. The virus remains dormant in the nerve endings and may or may not be actively shedding. During times of stress, e.g. other illnesses, the virus for some reason becomes more active and you get a cold sore.

Laser resurfacing is basically an injury to your skin and your body works overtime to repair that injury, just like your body would work overtime to fight off a cold or flu. So, in this state of "stress" the herpes virus becomes active and creates a cold sore.

You should call your physician and let them know immediately. A herpetic lesion in the area of resurfacing can lead to additional unwanted scarring. The course of the lesion, i.e it's healing time, can be accelerated by prescription medications like acyclovir or valcyclovir. Your physician can prescribe these for you. In addition, if you undergo laser resurfacing again, you can take these medications prophylactically hopefully to avoid an outbreak.

Hope this helps.

Edward S. Lee, MD
Englewood Plastic Surgeon

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.