Herpes: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, And More


What Is Herpes?

It is the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) that causes Herpes infection. This condition is also a type of sexually transmitted infection (STI). However, the condition may also spread through skin-to-skin and oral contact. Herpes zoster causes shingles and chickenpox. Common experiences are blisters and sores around the genitals and mouth. Other symptoms include fever, irritation of the skin, etc.

There are two major types of Herpes Simplex Viruses. These are:

  • HSV-1: It causes oral herpes. The same affects the mouth and the surrounding areas.
  • HSV-2: This causes genital herpes. This condition is sexually transmitted among individuals.

Herpes is a lifelong infection. There is no cure for it. Treatments are however available to reduce the impact of symptoms. Medicines and therapies may keep a check on the multiplication of the virus.

  • You may encounter initial signs after a week or three of catching the STI
  • After which, the outbreak frequency will depend on the body’s immune response
  • With each outbreak, the signs may become less severe
  • The HSV is most active during the initial and end-stage of an outbreak

In the following post, we will discuss types of herpes, its causes, symptoms, stages of infection, tips for prevention, treatments, and HSV vs. HIV.

Types Of Herpes

Here are the two types of Herpes STIs:

1. Genital Herpes or HSV-2

The most common sign of Herpes Simplex Virus infection is sores. These develop inside or around the buttocks, vagina, penile organ, anus, or other areas on the skin. The first signs can last for 2 to 6 weeks.

  • The infection may also lead to pain during urination
  • You may expect vaginal discharge as well
  • With time, the symptoms and outbreaks lessen
  • These also get less severe

2. Oral Herpes or HSV-1

The STI affects in and around the mouth and lips. Oral herpes can lead to fever sores, cold sores, or blisters.

  • The blisters may even form on the tongue, face
  • These may rarely affect other skin areas
  • The lasting duration of the sores is 2 to 3 weeks

Causes Of Herpes

If the Herpes Simplex Virus is on the skin, it can pass through skin-to-skin contact. This is more common through the moist skin of the genitals, mouth, and anus. The HSV may also infect through skin contact. This is between the infected area and skin/eyes. HSV does not spread through contact with a surface or object.

The virus is moreover contagious when the symptoms first occur. These are also quite active when the Herpes symptoms start to heal/reduce. In fact, the virus may rarely infect someone else, when the symptoms are absent.

You may catch herpes STI in the given ways:

  • Unprotected (without a condom) anal or vaginal sex
  • Having genital or oral touch with an infected person
  • Sharing materials with infected bodily liquid on

Herpes Symptoms

The initial signs include itching, tingling, burning at affected genital areas, and mouth. You may also notice blisters and sores. The symptoms take 2 to 20 days to manifest after the Herpes Simplex Virus infection.

Initial Signs

There are a few primary experiences to expect after developing the STI. These include swollen lymph nodes, pain and itching, fever, tiredness, and feeling of being unwell. If there are any lesions, these too will heal. This may not lead to scarring in the long-term.

Repeating Effects

The recurring signs are the same as the initial ones. But these will last for a shorter period. Also, the effect may seem less severe. The infection rate of oral herpes is greater than genital herpes. Recurrence of oral herpes symptoms lasts for 8 to 10 days.

The same duration is for genital herpes. The sores may reduce later on. But the infected person can pass on genital herpes. This happens within the period of 2 to 5 days when symptoms are at their peak.

Also Read: Myths About Sexually Transmitted Infections

Stages Of Herpes Infection

After getting this STI, the Herpes Simplex Virus progresses as per the below-mentioned stages:

1. Primary Stage

The onset of this stage is 2 to 8 days after catching the orally or sexually transmitted infection. The first sign is a group of small blisters. These are painful. The blisters contain cloudy or clear fluid. The section under the blisters is red. These may turn to open sores after breaking.

If these sores are in the genitals, you may experience pain during urination. It is not necessary to experience any worrisome signs in the primary stage. Some people do not even realize they have STI.

2. Latent Stage

This is the beginning of an untoward time. Here, you may not experience any symptoms at all. There are no sores or blisters. However, the Herpes Simplex Virus actually travels in this duration. It travels from the skin to your nerves at the spine.

3. Shedding Stage

Here, the virus starts to multiply on the nerve endings. The infection spreads to body parts that contain body fluids. These include semen, saliva, or vaginal fluids. Again, this stage is asymptomatic. But the virus is highly contagious at this time.

Tips To Prevent Herpes Simplex Virus

Here are some of the ways to lower the risk of passing or developing Herpes:

  • Avoid getting physically intimate in case of experiencing symptoms
  • During intercourse, use barrier protection like a condom
  • Do not get into oral sex or kissing if having a cold sore around the mouth
  • Try to remain happy and less stressful
  • Get over tiredness to stop triggering of symptoms
  • Avoid sunbathing and unnecessary skin friction
  • Do not touch the affected parts during the outbreak
  • In case you touch the infected area, wash your hands properly

Herpes Treatment

Treatment options exist for both genital and oral Herpes Simplex Virus. Below given are a few homes and other remedies for symptomatic relief:

  • Aloe vera gel for sores
  • Apply petroleum jelly on the affected parts
  • Sprinkle water on blisters to ease pain during urination
  • Dabble corn-starch on the infected area
  • Pain relief medicines such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
  • To avoid irritation, wear loose clothes
  • Pat some lotion or cream on the urethra during urination
  • Take a bath with slightly salted water
  • You must not indulge in sexual practice before the symptoms go away
  • This is true even if you want to get into safe sex
  • Place an ice pack on the affected area to reduce the pain

Medicinal Help

There are no medications to cure the Herpes Simplex Virus. But to stop the multiplication of the virus, your doctor may suggest an antiviral medication. You can try acyclovir. To manage itching, pain, and tingling, few creams or over-the-counter treatments may be prescribed to you.

  • For frequent recurrences, you may have to take medicines for 6 to 12 months continuously
  • Reduce the impact of the outbreak by starting the treatment in 24 hours of first symptoms
  • Antiviral medicines may also reduce the severity of effects
  • These medicines may take 1 to 2 days fewer to alleviate the problems
  • In a year, the recurrences may happen less than six times
  • Then the doctor may ask to take antiviral medicine at each instance
  • You may be asked to take the medicines for a longer time
  • This may reduce the risk of passing herpes to others

HIV And Herpes Simplex Virus

If you have genital herpes, then there is a greater risk of catching and passing HIV. This is because skin sores may lead to HIV passing out or into the body. The risk increases as HIV weakens the immune system. Thus, complications may get severe.

  • HSV-2 increases the level of CD4 cells
  • This occurs in the genital lining
  • So, if you are exposed to HIV, the risk of STI may also increase
  • For instance, you have a weak immune system and oral herpes
  • In this case, the risk of developing eye inflammation such as Keratitis becomes high
  • Similarly, the risk for brain inflammation, such as encephalitis, may also rise
  • So, if affected with genital herpes, there is a higher risk for inflammation
  • This is possible in the eyes, lungs, liver, brain, or esophagus

Final Thoughts

The Herpes Simplex Virus is a chronic condition. It may have no ready cure for now. However, experiments to find permanent treatment are underway. Until a solution is discovered, you may take medications and therapies for relief. Your doctor will suggest the best antiviral medicines for this condition.


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