Herpes Simplex

The herpes simplex is a type of virus (also named HSV) that causes a very common infection also called herpes. The herpes simplex virus can infect several parts of the body, with different symptoms. When the infection affects the face, usually the mouth area, the condition is named oral herpes. In the mildest form it only causes a sore throat but usually one or several blisters, also known as cold sores, emerge on the skin. Genital herpes is sometimes called simply herpes and its symptoms also vary from almost none to blisters that evolve into minor ulcers when opened. The area might be painful before the blisters emerge and they need between two and four weeks to heal completely.

Herpes has a cycle of activity and alternates passive periods with outbreaks of the active disease. The initial herpes simplex infection can be more serious than usual and sometimes causes fever, headache and muscular pain or inflamed lymph nodes. The herpes simplex tends to become milder in time, with longer intervals between the active phases and less severe symptoms. Besides the two main forms, the herpes simplex virus can also cause other more serious problems: it can affect the brain, it is named neonatal herpes when a newborn is infected, while a fingers infection is known as herpetic whitlow.

The herpes simplex virus is classified in two separate types. The most common form is HSV-1, which causes oral herpes. The typical symptoms are blisters or cold sores located on the face, typically around the mouth. The second type, HSV-2, causes genital herpes.

What are the symptoms of HSV?

The herpes simplex infection causes one or more blisters to appear, usually around the mouth, rectum or genital area. The herpes simplex blisters are filled with a fluid and turn into tender sores after breaking, when the liquid drains.

What causes herpes simplex infections?

HSV-1can easily be transmitted between people through their saliva. Oral sex is one way to become infected but it's enough to eat using the same fork or to share a razor or another personal item. HSV-2 is a sexually transmitted disease.

It was believed for a long time that HSV-1 could not be transmitted sexually. However, it is now clear that the virus is active in both the oral and genital area, so it can be passed on during sex. According to modern estimates, almost half of the genital herpes infections are actually caused by the HSV-1 variant.

Both types of the virus are unable to penetrate skin. In order to cause an infection, they need a wound in the skin or contact with a mucous membrane, typically the genitals or the mouth. The fluids inside blisters are highly infectious but the virus is also found in the saliva and genital fluids of both sexes.

While oral infections are only caused by HSV-1, both types can lead to genital ones. Even people with no obvious blisters or other symptoms can transmit the virus to others. The virus is also genitally transmitted from mother to child. The risk is especially high if the mother has active genital blisters while giving vaginal birth.

The herpes simplex virus is usually inactive but there are a number of factors that can increase the risk of an active outbreak. This can be stress of a physical or emotional nature, general fatigue, female menstruation or shocks to the affected area, sometimes caused by sexual contact. A number of mild and serious diseases also increase the risk of outbreaks, as well as a suppressed immune system due to chemotherapy, steroids or AIDS.

Treatment options

The herpes simplex infection can't be cured permanently and the virus remains in the body. However, there are some treatments that can reduce the frequency of outbreaks and lessen their symptoms.

The cold sores normally heal in 2 or 3 weeks without any treatment, although serious ones need up to 6 weeks to disappear completely. A number of remedies can speed up the process. Elma 16 Cold Sore Oil can help to speed up the healing process.

In the case of genital herpes, outbreaks can be reduced with antiviral drugs. These also speed up the healing of sores and can decrease the risk of contagion. Genital herpes can be a very stressful and embarrassing condition. Dedicated support groups and relaxation therapy are available to help patients cope with such emotional issues.

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