Herpes simplex virus is ridiculously common all along with the globe. HSV-1 or HSV-2 both can occur in the genital or oral region. A person can also be infected with HSV-1 and HSV-2 both types of herpes at the same time. You may be infected with herpes without knowing, even in a monogamous relationship. This is because some people carry the herpes virus without experiencing any symptoms like itching, pain, blisters, or small red bumps, and can still spread the virus to their partner unknowingly. Thus, the people that are polyamorous or promiscuous are not the only ones that are vulnerable to getting infected with herpes.
Herpes is most infectious during, before, after an outbreak, and when you have lesions on the body. There is also silent viral shedding in between the outbreaks. This explains that the herpes virus can be transmitted almost any time. Herpes is mostly transmitted during intercourse, as well as during oral sex. Apart from these, herpes can also be spread via skin-to-skin contact. Condoms may help prevent the spread of herpes, if uses correctly, however, they are not foolproof. Finding out you have herpes can be tough, but it’s not the end of the world. Read on to know more about some common symptoms, causes and natural remedies to potentially heal herpes.
Herpes is a viral infection that is a sexually transmitted virus. It can also be transmitted from mother to child. There is no known “cure” for herpes that can help prevent symptoms from returning or eliminating the virus completely. However, you must know that there are certain necessary lifestyle changes that you can incorporate in your day-to-day life that can help you possess a stronger immune system to deal better with the condition.
Herpes simplex is caused by one of the forms of HSV such as HSV-1 or HSV-2. It can lead to cold sores on the genital area or mouth along the nerve pathways. Herpes zoster or shingle is caused by a different virus called varicella-zoster virus (VZV) which can affect both men and women.
There are in all 9 herpes viridae that can infect humans. These viruses include herpes simplex virus 1 and 2 (HSV-1, HSV-2), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), human cytomegalovirus (HCMV), human herpes virus 6A and 6B (HHV-6A and HHV-6B), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus (KSHV), and human herpes virus 7 (HHV-7). Thus, carrying herpes is continuous downward progress that many people wish to come out of immediately.
HSV-1 type of herpes mainly causes oral herpes or cold sores. It may also cause genital blisters that appear similar to the genital blisters associated with HSV-2 virus.
HSV-2 type of herpes virus mainly causes genital sores, body pain, fever, and swelling of lymph nodes. HSV-2 may also cause facial sores rarely.
Determining whether the lesions or sores are caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2 is very difficult merely by looking at the sores. To know the exact causative virus your doctor may suggest you take a sample of the skin lesions or fluid from blister lesions and get it tested in the lab. A doctor may also suggest a PCR-DNA blood test for the diagnosis.
Cold sores and canker sores are different. Let us understand the difference:
Cold sores on the mouth and face can be caused by both HSV-1 and HSV-2. However, cold sores are commonly caused by HSV-1. They mainly develop in groups near the outside of the mouth, including below the nostrils or on lips. It may cause fluid-filled blisters with tingling, redness, and pain. The blisters may eventually break and ooze out, forming a thick crust-like scab which may ultimately heal in 2 to 5 weeks.
Canker sores or mouth ulcers may be caused by chemical or food sensitivities, mild injury, stress, or deficiencies. Canker sores may develop in any place inside the mouth, including the base of the gum line, inside the lips, or under the tongue. They are round or oval-shaped, yellow or white with a red border. They may appear in groups or individually. They may usually heal in 1 to 2 weeks.
Mode of Transmission
HSV-1 is transmitted through direct contact with the virus that is present in or around the cold sores, in the saliva, and in genital secretions.
Ways of transmission of HSV-1 include:
- Practicing oral sex with an infected person
- Kissing an infected person on the mouth
- Sharing utensils with the infected person
- Sharing lip balm with the affected individual
Herpes virus may affect the area where it first came in contact with the body. Thus, if an HSV-1 infected person, performs oral sex on a person, the virus could be transmitted to the partner who may exhibit symptoms of genital sores. However, HSV-2 is usually transmitted through sexual contact in the form of genital-to-genital contact and contact with genital secretions like semen.
Thus, HSV-2 can be transmitted through the following ways:
- Vaginal sex
- Anal sex
- Oral sex
If a person is exposed to the herpes virus, the virus may travel through the body to the nerve cells near the spinal cord known as a dorsal root ganglion. In some cases, the virus may stay dormant and doesn’t show any symptoms or problems. While in some other causes, the virus may express itself and exhibit symptoms such as cold sores, pain, and itching. The symptoms may not always appear immediately after the exposure.
The cold sores may usually develop in the following situations:
- During stressful situations
- Post tooth extraction
- Post-exposure to sunlight or cold weather
- If you have a fever
- Due to hormonal fluctuations related to pregnancy or menstruation
- If you have other infections
You may sometimes identify the triggers that cause herpes outbreaks. However, other times, the triggering factors seem to be very random.
The following are the ways to prevent the transmission of herpes:
- As we know, that genital herpes may be passed on to another person from sexual skin-to-skin contact. This may include contact through vaginal sex, oral sex or anal sex. Thus, the best way to prevent the spread of herpes is by avoiding any contact with someone’s mouth or genital area.
- Complete abstinence from sex can be difficult, thus one should know ways to have safe sex. You may try using protection in the form of condoms or dental dams to reduce the chances of transmission. However, it should be understood, that condoms do not provide guaranteed safety, they just lower the chances of getting herpes.
- Avoid having sexual contact especially during an outbreak, even using a condom as there can be sores on the parts where the condom doesn’t shield. Understand your body to know when an outbreak is coming, so that you can stop having sexual contact at the right time. Be observant for signs and symptoms like itching, burning, tingling that may help you figure out that you may have an outbreak soon. You must avoid having sexual contact until the cold sores are totally recovered and the scabs are healed and fallen off.
- Avoid touching the lesions or cold sores, as you may spread the infection to other parts of the body. However, if you happen to touch the lesions for some reason, do not forget to wash your hands with soap and warm water immediately.
- Do not kiss anyone, especially children or pregnant women when you have sores in your mouth.
- Do not wet the contact lenses with your saliva, as it may transmit oral herpes to your eyes.
- Consider communicating about your condition with your partner, so you can work together to prevent the spread. Be positive, frank, open, communicative, and please let go of the need to be “right” is powerful. Maybe your partner may take some time to analyze the situation and understand what this means for the future of you both. Give your partner and yourself a positive opportunity to assemble things and have patience. You should get your partner screened as well. Moreover, family support would add up to your recovery immensely.
When To Consult A Doctor?
Consider consulting a doctor if you notice any signs and symptoms like itching, burning, pain, tingling, or small sores around the mouth or genital area.
What To Expect From Your Doctor?
Your doctor may clinically examine the sores or lesions and may preliminary diagnose herpes. The doctor may take your medical details and recommend blood tests to confirm the presence of the virus. Certain specific tests of the fluids from the eruptions and blood may be performed to understand whether the cause of infection is due to HSV-1 or HSV-2.
What Are The Treatments for Herpes?
Conventional Treatment for Herpes
Conventional treatment for herpes comprises anti-viral drugs. However, the action of anti-viral drugs fail, and the virus lies in a latent state behind the blood-brain barrier where the immunity and anti-viral drugs cannot get through. The virus also mutates itself into different strains that are resistant to anti-viral medicines. Moreover, these antivirals have a number of side effects if taken for a long time, so antiviral drugs are suggested only when the patient has an outbreak. So, when the patient takes antivirals during the outbreak, the virus gets suppressed for a temporary period of time, again the virus blows up after an interval of time. Putting you in a situation where you again need to take antivirals, and this cycle continues with no actual relief and not a permanent cure.
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