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Herpes simplex

Herpes simplex is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus, more commonly known as HSV. There are basically two kinds of herpes simplex viruses; HSV type 2 generally causes genital herpes. An individual can acquire HSV type 2 through sexual contact with someone who is infected with a genital HSV type 2 infection. HSV type 2 infection causes painful sores on the genitals of both women and men. HSV type 1 is commonly responsible for cold sores that appear on the mouth area. These sores are more popularly known as "fever blisters." An individual can acquire HSV type 1 by coming in contact with an infected person’s saliva. Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, and an individual can easily acquire HSV infection by having sexual intercourse with a person infected with HSV. The most common reported cause of oral herpes is participation in oral sex. HSV transmission can also take place through pregnancy and childbirth. If a pregnant woman is infected with HSV, her baby will surely acquire the HSV virus from his or her mother.


Herpes is at its most contagious stage when blisters or sores are present. However, it must be taken note of that herpes can still be contagious even with the absence of sores and blisters. People who suffer from herpes are usually able to anticipate an incoming outbreak due to a tingling sensation, also known as prodrome.

Individuals who are taking drugs and medications that have a suppressing effect on the body’s immune system are the ones who are susceptible in acquiring herpes. If the immune system becomes weak, HSV can easily enter or invade the immune system. Caucasians generally are more prone to HSV, and multiple sexual partners increase chances of infection. If you get an infection though, you might mistake it for another condition because sometimes symptoms are mild. If you have symptoms similar to HSV, see your doctor immediately to rule out the possibility of herpes, or if herpes is indeed the case, then treatment should be prescribed immediately.


The symptoms of herpes start appearing two to twenty days after the contamination or exposure to the virus and it usually lasts for several weeks. The predominant symptom of herpes is the outbreak of itchy and painful blisters on or around the genitals or the lips or mouth. Flu-like symptoms may also appear such as headache, fever, body malaise and over-all body fatigue. Difficult or painful urination as well as tender or swollen lymph glands may also be experienced around the groin. This first outbreak of the herpes infection is usually worse than recurring infections. As well as the above symptoms, depression is also common. This leads to further weakening of the immune system, so the effect of herpes will be compounded.
herpes simplex
Image: Herpes Simplex


Once a person acquires herpes, he or she cannot be cured from the sickness. The field of medicine cannot produce a cure for herpes because any attempt to attack the herpes virus will lead to the damage of the nerve cells of an infected individual. Only treatment for acute herpes outbreaks are available and these include drugs such as Valaclovir, Acyclovir or Famcyclocir. Acyclovir is a suppressive form of therapy for use during the last trimester of pregnancy so that the disease will not be passed down to the unborn child. If left untreated, the child will most certainly be infected as well, and the effects of the disease will be greater than on the parent, forming a life-threatening situation for the child.

Topical antibiotics may also be prescribed to alleviate the discomfort brought by sores and blisters and to prevent secondary bacterial infections. It should be noted that these medicines are only good for outbreaks and dealing with the pain brought on by the disease, and it is not effective in completely erasing all traces of the virus in the body. That is why reinfection is a complete possibility in this situation.


Individuals who are suffering from herpes outbreaks should practice hygienic measures so that their situation will not worsen or lead to other complications. Keeping the sore or blistered area dry and clean as well as avoiding the use of perfumed body soaps will help keep the blisters and sores at bay. The use of topical antibiotics is also important in keeping hygienic practices effective, because these drugs prevent the spread of the virus through the skin. In effect, the viral outbreak is contained and limited in the primarily affected area.

The appearance of the symptoms of herpes is known for its inconsistency. Since the disease lies dormant in the nerve cells of an individual, the symptoms tend to have a cycle of appearing and disappearing. The most common causes for the reappearance of the symptoms of herpes are stress, menstruation or sexual intercourse, colds, fever, over-fatigue and sunburn.


Prevention of the spread of herpes is important, so a male infected with genital herpes should use a condom while having sexual intercourse to stop the transmission of the virus, since it cannot pass through latex. Studies have shown that a condom can reduce the spread of herpes by 96%, which is a major factor in stopping the spread of this virus. However, even without sexual intercourse, oral sex should be avoided. Even without the symptom of lesions, oral sex should be avoided because HSV may be transmitted in this manner. A person with herpes also has a greater risk of HIV transmission because the HIV virus is transmitted easier through the skin breaks of herpes. This is why sexual abstinence is recommended, to prevent complications brought on by herpes.

There are also long-term effects associated with herpes, but these are still under observation and not yet fully understood as of today. Scars are long term effects commonplace to this virus, because breaks in the skin may not heal properly. There is also a possible risk of Alzheimer’s in people also affected by herpes, though this is also still under study. There are also psychological and social effects on the person infected by this disease, and may also suffer from quality of life issues.

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