Herpes simplex can develop both oral and genital herpes. If a person has herpes, it is a long-term virus that may spread to others. The development of sores on the skin is one of the leading symptoms of herpes that remains for at least ten days. Few people may not have symptoms, while others may experience them when the herpes outbreak starts. In this article, you will learn about the complete overview of the herpes simplex virus with its prevention and treatment.
What is herpes simplex?
Herpes simplex is a virus that develops skin infections (genital and oral herpes). It is also known as HSV. Most people experience HSV without symptoms. It indicates that you have the virus without having the herpes outbreak or series of active herpes.
The Herpes simplex viruses usually do not lead to complicated problems. However, it may show hazardous effects in infants and people with low immune systems. There are two types of herpes simplex are present, which include
Herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1): It is generally known as oral herpes. HSV-1 shows an effect on your mouth or face and develops cold sores. It transmits from others through saliva contact.
Herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2): It is commonly known as genital herpes. A sexually transmitted infection (STI) develops sores on the skin that occur due to contact with the infected genitals of a person.
Herpes infection may also influence other body parts in a few cases, including eyes or skin.
Causes of herpes simplex
Herpes simplex virus generally transmits to others through close contact with those having infection. The herpes virus will be present in saliva and skin. If you are dealing with herpes simplex, you have more chance to spread the virus to another if you have sores. You may infect anyone if you have no symptoms.
How does the herpes simplex spread to others?
HSV-1 may transfer to people through:
- Sharing food utensils or razors
- Having physical contact with the person’s skin near the mouth
- If you do oral sex from a person who carries a cold sore, it may also spread the herpes infection to your genitals.
HSV-2 may spread to people through:
- Oral sex with a person infected with it.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation
- Intercourse, such as anal, vaginal to vaginal, or vaginal to penile
- Physical contact with open sores, such as while breastfeeding
- Infants or children from a mother having an active infection.
Symptoms of herpes simplex
HSV often does not lead to symptoms. The extent or severity of the symptoms may vary based on the primary or repeated infection.
Primary HSV symptoms
These primary infection symptoms usually show up between a few days to a few weeks when exposed to the virus.
Following are the symptoms of primary HSV that include:
- Swelling in lymph nodes
- Pain and body aches, such as headache
- Unexpected tiredness
- Reduction in appetite
- Hitting pain from the site of infection.
A person may experience a tingling, itching, or burning from the infection site before developing small and painful blisters (one or more). These blisters burst and crush after some time before they start to heal. Generally, blisters that produce during primary infection may heal up to about six weeks. There is a chance that these blisters may transmit the virus until they heal.
Recurring HSV symptoms
Repeated or recurring HSV symptoms are generally lighter than the first herpes outbreak. Symptoms do not present for long with a later stage of a herpes outbreak. Few people may experience one or more than one outbreak in their life, while others may get four or five a year.
Your body starts to develop antibodies in response to the virus. Repeated series of infections mostly show less frequent with time. They also possess low intense symptoms that generally better more instantly:
- During a recurrent episode, blisters that develop may fully recover or heal up within a few days instead of many weeks
- During repeated infection, blisters may become less significant or painful
When you have experienced an initial series of infections, you may feel the early symptoms from the infection site. The signs and symptoms that appear in a few hours or days before the development of a blister include:
How to diagnose herpes simplex?
Doctors may diagnose and monitor herpes simplex by looking at the sores on your genital or other body areas. A healthcare provider may collect a sore sample. Using laboratory examination of the sores sample can find the presence of the herpes virus.
A healthcare provider may ask for a blood test to observe for HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies if you do not have any sores. The blood test often does not indicate an active infection when you do not carry an open sore. However, this test helps to provide valuable information about the chance of being exposed to the herpes virus in recent times. You may not have a positive test result for herpes if you experience the first infection. It is because your body does not get sufficient time to produce antibodies. A healthcare provider may ask to repeat the HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibody tests within eight to 12 weeks.
Risk factors of herpes simplex
Every age group may experience herpes simplex virus.
The following are the risk factors that increase the chance of developing the virus:
- If you are a female
- Having multiple sex partners
- Performing sex since a young age
- Having a history of sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- Having a low or weakened immune system
- Avoiding using condoms for oral sex and intercourse
HSV-1 can develop in childhood. It transmits when a young adult carries a virus and has physical contact with a child like somebody from the family kisses a child.
Genital herpes usually influences teens and adults of all genders involved in sexual activity. This may transmit to others due to having multiple sex partners and avoiding condoms.
What factors may trigger a herpes outbreak?
If you experience the herpes virus, it remains in your nerve cells for a long time without having symptoms, which are generally inactive. Some triggers may boost the virus, which is known as an outbreak. The common outbreak triggers include menstrual period, stress, exposure to sunlight, and fever or illness.
Most HSV does not lead to a big concern. Symptoms may be treated by following proper steps. The virus can develop complications for particular groups of people, such as:
- Newborns or infant
- People who have weakened immune system
- People experiencing health conditions such as cancer or HIV
There is also a possible chance of developing herpes in the eyes, called herpes keratitis. It occurs when a person touches a herpes sore and touches the eye.
The following are the symptoms of herpes keratitis:
- Blurry vision
- Eye pain
- Discharge or high amount of tears from the eye
- Intolerance to light
If you have HSV with these symptoms, schedule an online appointment with a doctor as early as possible. Early treatment may lead to prevent complications, such as vision loss.
Many treatments can relieve the symptoms of herpes simplex, but the cure is still not identifiable. Often people take medication to reduce outbreaks and decrease symptoms. Following are the possible treatment for HSV that include:
When you experience an HSV, you may ask to apply an antiviral cream or ointment to reduce the symptoms and help to eliminate them rapidly. It will work best if you start taking it as early as possible after the beginning of an outbreak.
Most people having HSV-2 take oral medications regularly to decrease the strength of an outbreak. These are the medicines (topical or oral) that you may need to apply to your skin, including
These medications usually are in the form of pills and creams. A healthcare provider may suggest medicines through injection to treat intense symptoms.
Schedule an e-visit with a doctor to get more treatment recommendations.
You can apply the following home remedies to treat and relieve the sores, including
- Use an ice pack for your genital area.
- Keep your genitals dry and use a cloth, including non synthetic underpants.
- Avoid wearing fitting or tight clothes. Moist sores take a long time to recover.
- Warm or cold compress
- A mixture of baking soda and water
- Use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to decrease your pain.
Prevention of herpes simplex
Following are the preventive steps that you can take to decrease your risks of spreading HSV:
- Avoid using the same toothbrush or razor used by someone.
- If you have oral HSV, keep away from oral sex and kissing when you start observing initial symptoms till the sores disappear.
- If you have genital sores, avoid using skin-to-genital contact when you see early symptoms.
- Use condoms during intercourse and oral sex.
- Do sex with only one partner or limit your partners.
- Take tests for STIs and do complete any required treatment.
- Do wash your hands accurately after touching sores or applying medicine to them.
- Use medication through cotton swabs to decrease the contact with sores.
Herpes simplex is a virus that becomes long-lasting throughout life. The herpes infection can cause outbreaks, a series of active symptoms, but you may also not have any symptoms. Some people generally do not take treatment, specifically if they carry mild symptoms or sores. Treatment with antiviral medications and applying the prevention steps may reduce the symptoms and risks of the herpes virus. You can request an online medical appointment with a healthcare provider if you experience the symptoms of herpes virus.