Symptoms Of Herpes
Herpes is a viral infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). The virus has two types, herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2. About 90% of Americans are infected with HSV-1, which is usually acquired through non-sexual contact. HSV 1 is known to cause cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth. Meanwhile, about one of every five Americans is infected with HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes. Since most people with HSV-2 do not experience symptoms of herpes, it is common for people to be infected with HSV-2 and not know it. There are over 40,000 new diagnosed cases of herpes each day in America that totals to 15,000,000 new herpes cases in a year.
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are transmitted from person to person via direct contact. When someone comes in contact with sores or gets exposed to the body fluids of a person infected with HSV, there is a high chance of acquiring the virus. Saliva, vaginal fluid and semen are common body fluids that facilitate herpes spread. Typically, HSV-1 causes oral herpes while HSV-2 causes genital herpes. However, HSV-1 can also affect the genitals when there is contact between the mouth and groin, such as in oral sex. According to research, HSV-1 may cause less severe symptoms of herpes to the genital as compared to HSV-2. A newborn can also develop neonatal herpes if the baby comes in contact with HSV-1 or HSV-2 from the birth canal of an infected mother.
The symptoms of HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections are very similar. Herpes simplex virus type 1 causes the common cold sores and fever blisters that are typically located on the mouth, lips, nose and surrounding regions of the face. Herpes simplex virus type 2 causes genital sores that can spread from one sexual partner to another. During the first outbreak, persons infected with HSV usually report a burning, itching or tingling sensation on the area where the sores will soon appear. Painful and fluid-filled blisters will be the next symptoms of herpes to appear. The blisters will dry up and crust in about 2 weeks or 3 weeks. An active blister significantly increases the chance of the virus transmission.
When there are no active sores and blisters, the herpes simplex virus remains inactive in the nerve cells at the base of the spinal column. The virus can remain dormant or asleep for several years until it is triggered awake by factors such as stress, fatigue, trauma, menstruation and genital irritation. When the virus is reactivated, it will cause a herpes outbreak and its accompanying symptoms.
Even while the virus is inactive, a person can still pass on the virus to another person. A person who acquires the virus once will have the infection for a lifetime. Antiviral drugs such as valacyclovir, acyclovir, and famcyclovir cannot fully cure an HSV infection. Nonetheless, these antivirals can ease the symptoms of herpes, speed up healing of the sores and prevent new sores from appearing.