Herpetic Stomatitis in Adults: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Herpetic stomatitis is viral infection affecting the oral cavity. Both children as well as adults can suffer from herpetic stomatitis. This condition is characterized by small to sores and ulcers in mouth. Herpetic stomatitis is painful condition. The microorganism involved in this condition is a type of herpes simplex virus. It is a contagious disease.

Herpetic stomatitis is different from canker sores as it is not contagious. Herpetic stomatitis is not completely curable condition but it is self healing after few days of its occurrence. The virus remains dormant in the body only to get activated again later in favorable circumstances to produce similar sores and ulcers in mouth. Treatment for herpetic stomatitis is symptomatic. It is aimed to alleviate pain, discomfort and shorten the duration of illness.

Causes of Herpetic Stomatitis:

The organism responsible for herpes stomatitis is a virus called herpes hominis virus type 1. This virus is contagious and spreads from one person to another. Children are most likely to get affected but the disease may also occur in adults.

The virulence of this disease is more in children as compared to adults. The strong immune system in adults protects them from many viruses. However, if present in adults the intensity of symptoms is mild. There are number of ways the virus can be transmitted from one person to another. Mostly the primary infection develops in childhood. Sharing utensils such as spoons and plates, sharing toothbrush or an infected person kissing on the lips can become source of disease transmission. After the primary infection, herpes simplex virus remains dormant in the body. It can reactivate when the circumstances are favorable for example during fever when the immune system is low. Thus herpes stomatitis infection can recur from time to time.

Symptoms of Herpes Stomatitis:

The symptoms of herpes stomatitis are sudden in onset. The symptom intensity can be mild or severe. In adults the symptoms most often are mild as compared to children. Usually the primary infection which develops for the first time is severe. The recurrent episodes are mild. Herpes stomatitis is characterized by sores and ulcers. The lesions are present anywhere in the buccal cavity. It may be present over the tongue, inside of the lips, on upper palate, over gums. Sometimes the lesions are also present on tonsils.

The sores or blisters are extremely painful. Other symptoms include increased salivation resulting in drooling, bad odor from mouth, high fever, difficulty in eating and swallowing. The blister is initially filled with fluid, but you may not be able to notice it because it rapidly ruptures after formation. What you can see is the ulcerated area that is yellow or grey. Adult may also have additional symptoms of inflamed lymph node in neck area. The lesions usually last for 8 to 10 days before they disappear. Usually pain subsides one or two days before the healing of ulcer.

Treatment of Herpetic Stomatitis in Adults:

Usually examination of the sores is sufficient for diagnosis of herpetic stomatitis for the physician. However, if at all the doctor wants to differentiate with other ulcers in mouth, he may recommend smear test that may reveal certain histopathological changes on the slide. Antigen and antibody test for herpes simplex virus further helps to confirm the diagnosis.

Most cases of herpes stomatitis do not require treatment because the lesions are self healing. The ulcer heals in 8 to 10 days. However, sometimes physician prescribes medicines to relieve pain and irritation. It may also shorten the duration of illness hence the discomfort. Conventional treatment consists of local application of anesthetic gel over the ulcer and anti inflammatory and anti viral medicines to alleviate pain and shorten the period. Local anesthethic gel must be applied before eating to reduce irritation and pain.

Patient may have to make some changes in his diet to reduce irritation and pain.

  • A bland diet for few days is much better as it will not irritate while chewing and swallowing.
  • Avoid eating hot and spicy food
  • Drink enough water, milkshakes, banana, ice cream, frozen popsicle, mashed potatoes etc.
  • Brush your teeth regularly with gentle brush to prevent bad breath.
  • Rest and enough sleep are important for reducing pain and rapid healing of ulcer.
  • To prevent recurrent attack, avoid acidic foods and foods that contain too much of arginine such as chocolates, nuts, chicken, pork, peanuts, etc. Eat foods that are high in lysine as it natural viral fighting properties. Eat vegetables, pulses, parmesan cheese, pumpkin seeds etc.
  • Apply milk of magnesia over the mouth ulcer. It coats and numbs the ulcer and reduces pain while eating.