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Difference Between Pimples & Fever Blisters

By Michelle Ernst ; Updated August 14, 2017

Pimples and fever blisters are unsightly, uncomfortable and universally unwanted. However, though they might look alike and share some common characteristics, they are significantly different from one another. Because mistaking one for the other could result in improper treatment, you should familiarize yourself with those differences.

Fever Blisters

According to the National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health, fever blisters are small, red, fluid-filled sores. They usually occur outside of the mouth, anywhere from the nose to the chin. Fever blisters are fairly prevalent among the general population because they are a symptom of the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), an infection that is highly contagious and so widespread that the NLM estimates "most people in the U.S. are infected with HSV-1 by the age of 20."

Stages of Fever Blisters

Dentalgentlecare.com identifies five stages of outbreak for fever blisters. It starts with a tingling sensation beneath the skin. Next fluid-filled blisters will appear. After they rupture, the blisters will leave behind shallow, weeping sores that are very contagious and possibly painful. Once the fluid has drained, a crust will develop over the sore. That crust will eventually be replaced by a series of scabs, each one smaller than the one preceding it, until they are finally gone, leaving behind healed skin. The entire process takes approximately two weeks.

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Pimples

Medicalnewstoday.com defines pimples as "small lesions or inflammations of the skin." Pimples are the result of a normal biological processes going awry. When pores become clogged, the oil that normally drains onto the skin's surface becomes blocked. If bacteria beings to grow, a non-inflamed skin blemish, a microcomedone, will develop. If the microcomedone remains blocked, the pore wall will rupture and a pimple will form. Like fever blisters, pimples are frequently found on the face, although breakouts can also occur other places, such as the chest and back.

Important Differences

The primary difference between fever blisters and pimples is that one is a symptom of infection, while the other is not. Furthermore, although fever blisters are painful, contagious and incurable, they follow a predictable course of outbreak and resolution. Pimples, on the other hand, are generally painless, noncommunicable and tend to dissipate as you leave behind the teenage years. They do not, however, follow a predictable time frame in resolving. In other words, a pimple will remain on the skin until the contents of the pore have made their way to the surface, however long that takes. Also, while fever blisters usually do not leave behind scars, severe outbreaks and/or improper treatment of pimples can result in enlarged pores and scarring of the skin.

Treatments

Although HSV-1 cannot be cured, there are some over-the-counter and prescription antiviral medications that can ease the discomfort of an outbreak of blisters. For pimples, the best treatment is prevention, with a proper diet and a good skin care regimen designed for your skin type. There are also several over-the-counter products available to treat occasional breakouts. For questions or concerns, always consult your health provider.

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