is a virus called HSV and is differentiated into two types. HSV is usually characterized by sores.
Herpes is an infection caused by a herpes simplex virus (HSV).
There are two types of HSV:
- HSV type 1: HSV type 1 typically causes cold sores; however can also cause genital herpes. Most people get HSV-1 (herpes simplex type 1) as an infant or child. This virus can be spread by skin-to-skin contact with an adult who carries the virus.
- HSV type 2: A person usually gets HSV-2 (herpes simplex type 2) through sexual contact. HSV type 2 affects the genitals, buttocks or anal area and is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). HSV type 2 usually causes genital herpes, but it can infect the mouth as well.
Some people may not have any symptoms. Symptoms will include sores near the area where the virus entered the body. The sores will turn into blisters, become itchy and painful, and then heal.
Antiviral medications such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir can be used to help the body fight the virus.
The only way to ensure protection from STDs is to avoid any sexual contact. If you are sexually active, practicing safe sex can reduce your risk for STDs.
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the United States. About one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years in the United States have genital herpes.
In most cases, those who have herpes may not have any symptoms or may exhibit mild symptoms. Most people who have herpes do not know it since the mild symptoms go unrecognized or may be mistaken for another skin condition.
Symptoms include sores near the area where the virus entered the body.
Sores are fluid-filled blisters. Blisters will break open and ooze fluid before forming a crust and before they heal. The first time sores appear between 2 and 20 days after a person has come in contact with an infected person. The sores can last from 7 to 10 days.
- Oral herpes (HSV-1): Most blisters will appear on the lips or around the mouth. In some cases, blisters can form on the face or on the tongue. Sores can appear anywhere on the skin. You may have symptoms for 2-3 weeks.
- Genital herpes (HSV-2): Sores will usually appear on or around the genitals or rectum. Women can have sores inside the vagina. Sores can appear anywhere on the skin. Symptoms will typically last from 2-6 weeks (first outbreak).
Other symptoms may include flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, or swollen lymph nodes.
Some people (usually women) may experience trouble urinating or may even experience a burning sensation while urinating.
In some cases, the herpes simplex virus can spread to one or both eyes.
It is common for one to have repeat outbreaks of genital herpes and is more common during the first year after infection. However, repeat outbreaks are typically shorter and not as severe than the first outbreak. This is because the body makes antibodies (defenses) to the virus. Herpes infection stays in the body for the rest of your life, but the number of outbreaks usually decreases over a period of years.
Herpes simplex viruses is spread from person to person through close contact. You can get a herpes simplex virus from touching a herpes sore. However, you may get herpes simplex from an infected person even if they do not have visible sores.
There are two types of HSV:
- HSV type 1: Most people get HSV-1 (herpes simplex type 1) as an infant or child. This virus can be spread by skin-to-skin contact with an adult who carries the virus.
- HSV type 2: Genital herpes can be spread by coming into contact with a person infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2. A person usually gets HSV-2 (herpes simplex type 2) through sexual contact. HSV type 2 affects the genitals, buttocks or anal area and is a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
- Mothers can spread the herpes virus to their baby during childbirth.
- Oral sex can spread HSV-1 to the genitals causing genital herpes.
Risk factors for HSV type 2 include:
- You are female
- Have had multiple sex partners
- Had sex for the first time at a young age
- Have (or had) another sexually transmitted infection
- Have a weakened immune system due to a disease or medication
If you notice any of sores and/or blisters or if your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD contact your doctor.
Look for Symptoms such as an unusual sore, a smelly discharge, burning when urinating, or, for women specifically, bleeding between periods.
Typically, your doctor can diagnose genital herpes by examining the sores. Your doctor may take a sample from the sore(s) and send it to the lab to test it.
If sores are not present, your doctor can order blood tests to help determine if Herpes virus is present.
Living With Herpes
Herpes infection stays in the body for the rest of your life. But it usually just stays there and is said to be dormant, or asleep.
Some situations such as stress and illness can trigger (wake up) the virus are:
Most people may have multiple outbreaks per year. Over time, outbreaks typically occur less often, because the medications given help your body fight the virus. These medications can reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks as well as prevent infected people from spreading the virus.
The only way to ensure protection from STDs is to avoid any sexual contact. If you are sexually active, practicing safe sex can reduce your risk for STDs. Safe sex means using a latex condom every time. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely. Having sores or other symptoms of herpes can increase your risk of spreading the disease. Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partner.
- Herpes symptoms can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered by a latex condom. However, outbreaks can also occur in areas that are not covered by a condom, so condoms may not fully protect you from getting herpes.
In addition, knowing your own and your partner's STD status and having regular STD screenings are recommended.
Once you have been diagnosed, practice safe sex to prevent the spread of your STD. If you have an STD, it is important you tell all past, current and future sexual partners.
If you touch your sores or the fluids from the sores, there is a possibility you can transfer herpes to another part of your body, such as your eyes.
- Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of the body.
- If you touch the sores or fluids, immediately wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading your infection.
Those people who have genital herpes may have concerns about how it will impact their overall health, sex life, and relationships. Talk to your doctor about your concerns. Although herpes is not curable, it can be managed with medications. It is important you talk to your sexual partners about STDs.
There is no cure for herpes. However, there are medicines that can prevent or shorten outbreaks.
Antiviral medications such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir can be used to help the body fight the virus. Antiviral medications can reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks. These medications can also prevent infected people from spreading the virus.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your unborn child.
Serious complications may occur in unborn babies, newborns, and people who have certain chronic conditions or a weak immune system.