Herpes simplex viruses (HSVs), mainly known as herpes, are of two types: HSV-1 & HSV-2. HSV1 or herpes type 1 is oral herpes that causes blisters or sores around the face or mouth. HSV2 or herpes type 2 (genital herpes) is responsible for sores around the genitals or rectum.
It is a long-term condition that affects almost more than 66 percent of people under age 50, as per a survey conducted by World Health Organization. Every year, 13 new cases of herpes infection are found in the UK.
Many people do not experience any signs of the disease for months or years even when they are carrying the herpes simplex virus. Those who have symptoms during the initial period notice them within 2 to 12 days.
Primary Symptoms of Herpes:
- Vaginal Discharge
- Pain or Burning When Urinating
- Inflamed lymph nodes
- Red blisters on the skin
- Cold sores around the mouth
- Discharge from vagina or penis
When herpes spread to the eyes, it causes a disease named herpes keratitis that results in eye pain and discharge, blurry vision, redness or rashes around the eyes, and cloudiness and inflammation in the cornea.
Causes of Herpes:
Many people develop Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) in the childhood whereas Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) is generally sexually transmitted.
Herpes simplex virus is contagious, which means it can spread from one person to other. People who have HSV-1 transmit the disease through oral secretions or abscesses on the skin. A person who hugs or kisses or shares objects such as utensils, lip balm or toothbrush with the infected person may get herpes type 1. And a physical contact with someone who has genital HSV-2 infection may only get herpes type 2. Other risks for having HSV-2 are: having sex at a younger age, having multiple sex partners, having another STI (sexually transmitted infection) or a weakened immune system.
A pregnant woman suffering from genital herpes can also transmit Herpes Simplex virus to the baby during childbirth. Hence, a pregnant woman with genital herpes should tell the doctor about her medical condition initially.
Children who get herpes with an infected adult mostly carry the virus with them throughout their lives.
One may also get genital herpes from HSV-1if the person performs oral sex with someone.
A person first infected from herpes simplex virus is more likely to get recurring herpes. However, over time the recurrent infection tends to become less severe and do not last as long as it does in the initial stage.
Although there is no cure for HSV, you can take steps to prevent it from spreading to others:
- Avoid direct physical contact with a healthy person.
- Do not kiss or involve in any other type of physical or sexual activity while symptoms are present.
- Wash your hands thoroughly before applying medication to lower the risk of infection.
- Use cotton swabs to apply the medicine that reduces direct contact with an open lesion.
- Do not share your towels, clothing, lip balm, makeup or utensils with anyone.
- Pregnant women should take medicine to stop the spreading of the virus to the unborn child.
- Stay away from children with eczema or people with a weak immune system as they are susceptible to more critical disease.
- Avoid wearing tight clothes around the affected area.
- Do not apply petroleum jelly on the blister.
Although the Herpes virus cannot be eliminated from the body, some medications have been used to relieve the symptoms or at least to keep the virus inactive.
Generally, the symptoms and appearance of the herpes simplex virus are typical and no testing is required to confirm the diagnosis or treatment. However, if the doctor is uncertain about the symptoms, he may recommend DNA or PCR – tests.
Doctors may prescribe medications, such as Aciclovir Tablets, Famvir, and Valaciclovir to treat the symptoms of herpes, decrease the pain associated with sores and diminish the danger of passing the virus to others.
If you develop signs that look like a herpes infection, you need to call a medical professional. Also, if your sores are not getting better even after 7 to 10 days, you should tell the doctor about this condition.
An individual, who experiences six recurrences in a year is generally prescribed suppressive treatment. Sometimes, it is also advised to the patient to regularly take antiviral treatment. This helps to stop the further recurrences of the disease and reduce the spreading of herpes to the partner.
Herpes simplex virus continues to live in an infected person’s nerve cells even after medication. Some people experience regular outbreaks whereas others do not. In some cases, the virus becomes dormant. However, certain stimuli such as sunburn, illness, friction against the skin, menstrual periods or stress can trigger an outbreak. Therefore, it is essential to identify and avoid these triggers to reduce the recurrence of herpes.