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Detailed Information on Herpes Simplex

Herpes simplex comes from a strain of viruses and primarily affects the mouth or genital area. Two types of herpes simplex virus strains exist: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 is often associated with lip, mouth and face infections. HSV-1 is very common, and usually acquired at childhood. About 90 percent of adults have HSV-1. HSV-1 causes lesions either outside of the mouth, inside the mouth or on the face as cold sores or fever blisters. HSV-1 is usually transmitted through saliva, but some people are also born with HSV-1.

HSV-1 is responsible for the development of cold sores and is often transmitted through kissing, or by eating or drinking after someone who has the virus, or through contaminated items. HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes during oral-genital sex. However, research shows that the initial oral herpes infection is present during childhood. HSV-1 is not considered a sexually transmitted disease.

HSV-2 is sexually transmitted. In addition to oral or face sores, a person infected with HSV-2 will also have genital sores or ulcers. The HSV-2 virus can also lead to other complications including meningoencephalitis, a disease where the lining of the brain and brain itself is infected. It can also lead to infection in the eye. Some people who are infected with HSV-2 do not display symptoms at all. Thirty percent of American adults’ bodies have antibodies against HSV-2. However, 25 percent of the 24-45 year olds in the United States have been exposed to HSV-2. Both strands of the virus can be transmitted sexually, but HSV-2 is transmitted by oral or genital secretions.

HSV-1 however, is not responsible for most genital herpes cases, actually only five to 10 percent of cases stem from HSV-1. HSV-2 is the main culprit of genital herpes cases. Both strands of herpes can be transmitted even if there are no clear signs of an outbreak. This is called an asymptomatic spread, when the disease is transmitted but there are no active sores in sight. Asymptomatic spread is considered to contribute to more cases of genital herpes spread than any other circumstance.

For women, symptoms of genital herpes include lesions or ulcers on the labia, vagina, cervix and anus. On men, lesions can appear on the shaft and head of the penis, the scrotum, inner thighs and anus. There are other symptoms, however. For those people who are experiencing a first outbreak of HSV-1 or HSV-2, he or she may have symptoms all over the body or in one area. Symptoms of an outbreak of herpes simplex include fever, malaise, muscle aches and decreased appetite. Before blisters or sores appear on the skin, the infected person may have itching, burning, tingling of the skin and increased sensitivity.

Over the next few days, the skin will start to redden and many small blisters will appear above the skin filled with sheer yellowish fluid. The blisters then break, and shallow ulcers remain. These shallow ulcers are very painful. The ulcers take between a one to two weeks to heal. Other symptoms may also include enlargement and tenderness of lymph nodes in the groin area. Women can also develop vaginal discharge during a herpes outbreak or painful urination. Lesions near the urethra can also cause painful urination for men.

The herpes simplex virus can be dormant for a long time, or what is called a period of latency. People can have the herpes virus but never see any symptoms until an outbreak. Since the virus is dormant, the immune system has difficulty detecting it and ridding it from the body. An outbreak can happen at any time, but irritation, stress, menstruation and fatigue can initiate a new outbreak of the virus. Recurrent infections tend to be shorter and less severe in men than women.

There is no cure for herpes. You can, however, treat the symptoms and control the outbreaks. Medication can relieve pain and help the sores heal. There are several prescription medications that can be taken orally including Zovirax, Famvir, Denavir and Valtrex. Again, they do not cure the herpes infection or rid the virus from your body. They suppress the symptoms. The medicines are more effective in initial outbreaks in comparison to recurrent outbreaks. In some of these cases, where medication is not helping recurrent outbreaks, a daily medication may be prescribed to thwart outbreaks. For maximum benefit, start the medication immediately after discovering the outbreak or the lesions. The medications do have side effects, which can include nausea, vomiting, rash, headache, fatigue and tremors. For very serious cases of herpes, an intravenous drug is administered called Foscavir. Foscavir is usually reserved for patients who have severe cases of herpes infections.

Warm baths and gentle cleansing can relieve some of the uncomfortable itching and irritation caused by genital herpes. Topical antibiotics are also often prescribed to lessen the pain of lesions associated with herpes simplex.

There are ways to prevent the spread of herpes to other individuals. Condoms are a person’s best protection against transmitting herpes. Used correctly, condoms are effective in preventing the spread of the disease to others. Also, it is important that latex condoms are used. The latex material does not allow viruses to penetrate, unlike other animal membrane condoms. The female condom is also effective in preventing the spread of genital herpes.

But, since the herpes virus does not always show its symptoms, prevention is not fool proof. You may not know you have herpes because the signs are not there. Due to this fact, condoms are very important to use in preventing the spread of the disease. Women who are pregnant and are infected with the herpes simplex virus should also be very careful to receive tests as the delivery date approaches. Often, C sections have to be performed to avoid the infection of the baby.

Vaccines against herpes have been produced and they are being studied. However, they are still undergoing trials and tests, and are considered experimental drugs. In the future, a vaccine may help someone who has never had an outbreak, but it will not be a cure or prevent outbreaks for those already infected with the herpes simplex virus.

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