Herpes HSV – Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis
Herpes Simplex is a viral infection caused by one of the variants of the HSV virus. There are 8 types of Herpes virus out of which HSV 1 and HSV 2 are the most common. An outbreak of the herpes virus leads to cold sores, which can occur on the genitals and mouth along nerve pathways. Genital Herpes refers to a genital infection by the herpes simplex virus. Herpes Zoster or Shingles is caused by a different virus called the Varicella Zoster virus (VZV). Patients with herpes simplex are 2 to 3 times more likely to catch HIV and this new information has made timely management of oral and genital herpes all the more necessary!
The herpes virus has an uncanny ability to reside in the nerve ganglia behind the blood brain barrier in a place where the immune system cannot get to it.This is the reason it has completely eluded a western style cure as no medicine can get to it while it lies dormant.
Stages of Herpes Infection
The Herpes virus tends to remain dormant by hiding in the nerve ganglia and results in outbreaks when immunity is compromised. The stages of Herpes infections are as follows:
Primary stage: Within 2-8 days of infection, the virus starts off as small, red, painful and fluid filled blisters. These blisters form sores when they break open and eventually dry up.
Latent stage: In this stage there are no symptoms at all as the virus travels to the nerve ganglia.
Shedding stage: Once the virus reaches the nerve ganglia, it starts multiplying and invades body fluids such as semen, vaginal fluids and saliva. These fluids are responsible for shedding or transmitting the virus and hence this stage is known as the “Shedding stage”.
Symptoms of Herpes
Oral herpes (Mostly caused by HSV 1) is characterized by red, fluid filled blisters on the lips, mouth and tongue. There is severe pain, tingling, difficulty in eating and swallowing accompanied by fever.
Genital herpes (Mostly caused by HSV 2) is characterized by reddish, fluid filled blisters around the genitals which bursts open to form sores or ulcers. These blisters when present in the genital region result in painful micturation and causes pain while passing stools (if present in the anal region). Other symptoms include headache, bodyache and fever and are prevalent in both men and women.
Please note that both HSV 1 and HSV 2 can cause both genital and oral herpes.
Chicken pox (Caused by Varicella zoster) is characterized by rash, general malaise and low grade fever. In 2-3 days, the rash forms in to vesicular eruption and cause severe itching. After 5-6 days, these eruptions turn into scabs. Rashes appear all over the body except for the palms and soles. Once afflicted with chicken pox, the body develops a natural immunity and the virus remains dormant in the human body.
Cytomegalovirusis a herpetic virus associated with the salivary glands. It affects immune – compromised individuals, such as new born infants, organ transplant recipients and HIV patients. It causes vision problems, diarrhea, infection of the stomach and could even be fatal.
Roseola (caused by Human herpes virus 6 and Human herpes virus 7) is characterized by skin rash and high fever in the pediatric age group. This infection could lead to convulsions in children.
Infectious Mononucleosis (caused by Epstein-Barr virus) is characterized by fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, body-ache, headache and swollen tonsils. A person may remain symptomless even when infected.
Diagnosis of Herpes
Your physician may preliminary diagnose Herpes by looking at your sores. He or she may then take a sample of the cells in the sore and send it to a lab for a cell culture. Doctors then may recommend blood tests to confirm the presence of the Virus. Specific tests for blood and fluid from eruptions may be conducted to determine whether the infection is due to HSV1 or HSV2. The most common type of blood test done for the herpes virus are the antibody tests that look for antibodies that your body has created to fight the virus. We always have antibodies for anything we have been infected with. There are now more accurate PCR DNA tests that look for the actual virus in the blood and our Doctors recommend taking PCR DNA tests to find out if the actual virus is left in your blood stream or not.