Herpes is an infection caused by human herpes simplex virus (HSV) that can enter the human body through various sites. The virus invades different sites such as the genitals or mouth by attacking the mucosal lining.
The severity of the infection and the symptoms of the infection vary depending upon the site of the entry and immune resistance. The virus can be transmitted by close physical contact and thus, needs to be treated to prevent its spread.
Caused by two strains of herpes simplex virus, this condition affects the genitals, cervix, mouth, eyes, lips and different parts of the skin. The severity of infection and the treatment option are dependent on the causative factors. As the virus can be transmitted from one person to other through close physical contact, it is recommended to avoid sex (especially if you suffer from genital herpes) and kissing (mouth sores) that may aid in spread of the disease. Apart from this, the virus can be transmitted through –
- Oral secretions like saliva
- Sores on the skin
- Sharing toothbrushes, plates or glasses used by infected person
- Pregnant women to her child during childbirth
There are two types of herpes simplex virus –
- Herpes simplex type 1 (HSV 1): It commonly causes 1 cold sores but in some cases might also cause genital herpes. This type of virus usually attacks the mouth, eyes and face.
- Herpes simplex type 2 (HSV 2): It is the most common cause of genital herpes that affects genitals, cervix and skin surfaces. Although HSV-2 sores are commonly found below the waist, it may affect different parts of the body.
In most cases, people suffering from herpes infection do not show any significant signs and symptoms until several months. And in some, the symptoms may appear occasionally within a few days of the viral attack. This is because, the virus can remain in dormant state for few months and may be activated following any illness.
Many people who encounter the virus for the first time may not develop any symptoms and may go unnoticed in some. Usually, the following symptoms may develop 2-3 weeks after infection. The common signs and symptoms of herpes infection are –
- Appearance of blisters on or around the affected areas (mouth, genitals or rectum)
- Tender sores due to breaking of the blisters break
- Pain in the affected areas.
- Itching, burning and tingling sensation
- Burning sensation in the vagina
- Eye discomfort leading to hazy vision and watery discharge from the eyes
- Enlargement of lymph nodes
- Flu-like symptoms
Here is detailed information on 5 signs and symptoms of herpes you should know.
Generally, the appearance of symptoms of herpes simplex virus is typical and thus, there is no need to confirm the condition with diagnostic tests. However, in case your healthcare provider is uncertain, he may recommend few lab tests such as -
- Viral culture
- DNA or PCR test
- Antibody test
Read more about tests and diagnosis for herpes infection.
There is no cure for the herpes simplex virus. The treatment options are aimed at relieving the pain and minimising the healing time. Antiviral drugs such as Famvir, Zovirax, and Valtrex form the first-line of medications that are prescribed to deal with the condition. Apart from this, following proper hygiene and sanitation, abstaining from sex, alcohol and smoking and taking warm baths aid in quick healing of the sores.
The worst thing about the herpes simplex virus is that the virus cannot be destroyed, once a person is infected. It remains in the body throughout a person’s life, despite treatment. And this is the key reason for repeated episodes of herpes outbreak. However, these outbreaks are less dangerous than the primary one.
By following simple precautions one can prevent herpes infection. Some of the common tips to avoid this infection are –
- Practise safe sex (use condoms and dental dams)
- Avoiding sex with multiple partners
- Maintain proper hygiene
- Always wash hands properly
- Take medications as prescribed by your doctor