- 1 What is Herpes
- 2 Types of Herpes
- 3 Symptoms
- 4 Effects of Herpes
- 5 What Does Herpes Look Like?
- 6 Causes of Herpes
- 7 Genital Herpes
- 8 Recurring Herpes Symptoms
- 9 Are Cold Sores Herpes Related?
- 10 Prevention of Herpes
What is Herpes
It is an infection caused by HSV (herpes simplex virus). HSV largely belongs to the same family of viruses that cause chickenpox, shingles, and glandular fever. More than 50 percent of the US population gets infected by HSV-1 at least once in their lifetime. Almost 15 percent of people in the U.S, in the age category of 14-49 years get HSV-2 at least once.
Types of Herpes
Herpes Simplex Type 1 and 2
Herpes simplex type 1, also known as human herpesvirus 1 (HHV-1), causes cold sores, fever, and blisters in the mouth and the area around it. Herpes simplex type 2, also known as human herpesvirus 1 (HHV-1), causes genital herpes which is a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
Both herpes simplex, types 1 and 2 are capable of causing systemic disease like encephalitis (infection of the brain) in people suffering from immunodeficiency.
Shingle is an infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus which is also the cause of chicken pox. Even after the symptoms of chickenpox have subsided, the virus continues to thrive in the nervous system. In many cases, it manifests itself again as Shingles. Shingles are also known as herpes zoster, as the symptoms of shingles also include red rashes and blisters on the skin.
Herpes symptoms sometimes do not surface for as long as months or years even after the person has caught the infection. In fact, some people who are carriers of this virus never show any symptoms of this disease at all. People who experience the symptoms immediately after getting the infection, do so within 4 days after the exposure. The average range for the symptoms to surface is 2-12 days.
Many people with HSV also have recurring herpes. After the first bout of infection, the recurrences tend to happen more frequently. Eventually, the remission periods get longer, and each occurrence is less in intensity.
Effects of Herpes
This virus primarily affects the external genitalia, anal region, mucosal surfaces, and skin of the body. The various categories of herpes, based on the body parts affected by them are:
- Oral herpes -herpes on lips
- Herpes on tongue
- Herpes genital – herpes on the penis for men and vaginal herpes for women
- Eye herpes
- Mouth herpes
Signs of herpes sometimes also appear on the thighs, scrotum, buttocks, testicles, and vulva.
What Does Herpes Look Like?
Given below are some pictures of herpes which elaborate the visible signs of the infection. The first picture clearly shows a case of oral herpes while the second picture shows the blisters that appear on the tongue.
Herpes on Lips and Herpes on Tongue
Causes of Herpes
A person carrying the herpes virus or showing visible symptoms of the disease can easily transmit HSV to a healthy person. A person who is not showing any visible symptoms of the virus has a lesser chance though of transmitting it. There are several ways in which the virus is passed on:
- Having oral intercourse with an infected person, having cold sores around the mouth may pass on the infection.
- Genital herpes is not contracted by using a toilet seat that has been used by an infected person.
- HSV is not transmitted by touching an object, work surface, washbasin, or towel that has been touched or used by an infected person.
- The moist skin around the mouth, anus, and genitals are the primary carriers of this virus. The virus may also spread through other areas of skin which are severely infected, including the eyes.
- Having vaginal or anal intercourse without the use of protection
- Sharing sex toys with an infected person
- Having genital contact with an infected person
- The virus can be transmitted at any stage of the infection, from the first appearance of the blisters to the time they heal.
- A mother having genital herpes, with visible symptoms like sores in the cervix area, can pass on the infection to the baby during childbirth.
Genital herpes or primary infection happens as soon as the person is first infected by the herpes simplex virus. Genital herpes symptoms can be quite severe and include one or few of the following:
- blisters and ulceration on external genitalia, in the vagina, or on the cervix
- vaginal discharge
- pain and itching
- tenderness and/ or enlargement of lymph nodes (the glands under the arms, on the neck and in the groin area)
- pain while urinating
- flu-like symptoms including high temperature (fever), chills, body ache
- malaise (feeling unwell)
- cold sores around the mouth
- red blisters on the skin
Genital Herpes Treatment
Though there is no allopathic herpes cure, severe herpes symptoms can be alleviated using medications and home remedies. An antiviral may prevent the virus from multiplying and many doctors prescribe it for herpes. It also helps in clearing up the blister outbreak and reduces the severity of other prominent symptoms.
Antiviral, however, are prescribed only for the initial stage of the first occurrence of herpes. For recurring herpes that occurs less than six times a year, a five-day antiviral course is prescribed for every such episode.
People, who have recurring herpes for more than six times a year, are put on a daily medication of an antiviral. Since such people are active carriers of HSV, antiviral acts as a suppressant and it reduces the risk considerably of HSV being passed on further.
Intravenous therapy is required in case of patients who get brain infection (encephalitis) resulting from the virus. Several home remedies also provide relief in herpes and alleviate the pain. They include:
- Having light salt baths
- Painkillers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain in the blisters
- Soaking the affected areas in a warm sitz bath
- Petroleum jelly that provides a soothing effect on the affected area
- Wearing loose clothing prevents the blister in the affected area from getting worse
- Washing hands thoroughly especially after touching the infected parts of the body. This prevents the infection from spreading to other parts of the skin
- Curtailing intercourse until symptoms subside. This also helps in not spreading the virus further
- Applying a medicated cream or lotion like lidocaine on the urethra
- Using ice packs wrapped in a towel on the affected area provides some relief
Herpes medication generally prescribed by doctors includes:
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
- Famciclovir (Famvir)
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex).
All these herpes medications are generally taken orally or by mouth. In case of a severe viral herpes infection, antiviral medications are given intravenously.
For genital herpes, topical medications that need to be applied directly to the sores are also used. However, oral medications are generally more effective than ointments that provide mostly a soothing effect.
Genital Herpes in Women
As part of genital herpes symptoms, women get blistering lesions on the vulva and around the vaginal opening. These blisters can progress into ulcer formation. The infection spreads to the cervix eventually, leading to cervicitis which is inflammation of the cervix. In some women cervicitis is the only fallout of genital herpes infection. Some women also experience infection and inflammation of the urethra which causes pain while urinating.
Broadly, genital herpes symptoms for women are almost the same as are experienced by a man.
In genital or vaginal herpes in women, the virus enters the skin or the mucous membrane through microscopic breaks in the skin tissue during contact with an infected person.
Avoiding sexual contact with a the infected person and having active blisters does not guarantee protection against the infection. A person who is a carrier of this virus but not showing any visible symptoms can also spread the infection. Herpes simplex virus can also be transmitted by sharing clothes with a person who is having genital skin ulcers.
How is Genital Herpes Transmitted from One Person to Another?
- It is transmitted by direct personal contact.
- Generally, it spreads through sexual contact that involves contact with the genital areas of the infected person.
- Mouth to genital contact also transmits the infection.
- An infected male is more likely to transmit the virus to his female partner than an infected female transmitting to a healthy male.
Diagnosis of Genital Herpes
Most often, it is easy to diagnose this infection through the presence of visible symptoms like blisters, ulcers, and sores on the body.
Some of the symptoms bear a close resemblance to insect bites, yeast infections, jock itch, ingrown hair follicles, hemorrhoids, abrasion or even razor burn.
In case of a doubt, some doctors also prescribe laboratory tests including viral culture and nucleic acid amplification (polymerase chain reaction or PCR) tests to detect the presence of the genetic material of the virus. Immunologic tests that help to identify antibodies to genital herpes are also done at times to get a conclusive diagnosis and to prescribe an appropriate cure.
Genital Herpes and AIDS
The HIV virus that causes AIDS is quite different from Herpes Simplex Virus that causes herpes. However, a person infected with HSV and having open blisters and sores is prone to HIV virus on getting exposure to it.
Genital Herpes During Pregnancy
Oral antiviral medications are prescribed to pregnant women infected with the herpes virus. There is always a high risk of herpes getting transmitted to the baby during delivery.
Genital herpes infection can spread through the bloodstream in a newborn and cause serious ill-effects. Cesarean delivery (C-section) is done for women who go into labor, in case they are infected with herpes at the time of delivery. This is done in order to prevent the baby from coming into contact with the cold sores present in the vagina of the mother.
Recurring Herpes Symptoms
Recurring herpes does not present as severe symptoms as when it occurs for the first time. Also, the recurring bout does not last as long as its first occurrence in the initial infection stage. Recurring herpes lasts for a maximum period of ten days. The symptoms for the same are:
- burning or tingling around genitals
- the appearance of blisters around the genital area
- women may have blisters and ulceration on the cervix
- cold sores around the mouth
In case of recurring herpes as well as genital herpes, the blisters and ulcers do not leave any permanent mark on the skin.
Are Cold Sores Herpes Related?
Cold sores, as the name suggests, are the not the sores caused by a cold. They are the result of an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). They occur mostly on the outside of the mouth and lips and sometimes even on the nose, cheeks, or fingers.
Cold sores by themselves are not that serious, but they may pose a life-threatening risk for a person who is already suffering from AIDS or immunodeficiency. Cold sores also appear on the body in case of a person suffering from a severe case of eczema, a skin condition. If the infection reaches the eye, the vision of the person can be hampered. Spreading of this infection further to the brain can cause meningitis or encephalitis.
Prevention of Herpes
Several measures, if applied, can prevent herpes from developing and being transmitted from an infected person to a healthy one.
- Having safe intercourse by using condoms
- Not having intercourse while visible symptoms are present on the genital, anal, or skin area
- Avoiding kissing a person when there are cold sores around the mouth
- Not indulging in sexual activities with multiple partners
- Stress, fatigue, illness, friction against the skin, or sunbathing may trigger recurrences of symptoms. People prone to recurring herpes must take these precautions.
Prevention of this disease is in the hands of the infected person to a great extent. It involves a responsibility on the part of the infected person to inform his or her partner before indulging in any sexual activity with them.
One of the high profile incidents that brought this responsibility to the limelight is the Usher herpes case of 2012. Renowned R&B singer Usher Raymond had to pay $1.1 million as part of a lawsuit to a woman who claimed to have contracted herpes from him. The usher herpes girl, Maya Fox- Davis accused Usher of giving her the infection to her in 2012. He was also found culpable for not disclosing to her that he had the STD.
Here you have almost everything which you should know about herpes. Stay aware and stop spreading such STD diseases.