Herpes Simplex is a viral disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. Infections are categorized based on the part of the body infected. Herpes cycles between periods of active disease followed by periods without symptoms. The first episode is often more severe and may be associated with fever, muscle pains, swollen lymph nodes and headaches. Over time, episodes of active disease decrease in frequency and severity.
- Oral herpes involves the face or mouth. It may result in small blisters in groups often called cold sores or fever blisters or may just cause a sore throat.
- Genital herpes, often simply known as herpes, may have minimal symptoms or form blisters that break open and result in small ulcers. These typically heal over two to four weeks. Tingling or shooting pains may occur before the blisters appear.
- herpetic whitlow when it involves the fingers
- herpes of the eye
- herpes infection of the brain and
- neonatal herpes when it affects a newborn, among others.
How Herpes gets Transmitted
Herpes is transmitted by direct contact with body fluids or lesions of an infected individual. To infect a new individual, HSV travels through tiny breaks in the skin or mucous membranes in the mouth or genital areas. Even microscopic abrasions on mucous membranes are sufficient to allow viral entry. Transmission may still occur when symptoms are not present. Genital herpes is classified as a sexually transmitted infection. It may be spread to an infant during childbirth. After infection, the viruses are transported along sensory nerves to the nerve cell bodies, where they reside lifelong.
Causes of recurrence may include
: decreased immune function, stress, and sunlight exposure.
How is Herpes diagnosed?
Oral and genital herpes is usually diagnosed based on the presenting symptoms. The diagnosis may be confirmed by viral culture or detecting herpes DNA in fluid from blisters. Testing the blood for antibodies against the virus can confirm a previous infection but will be negative in new infections. Primary orofacial herpes is readily identified by clinical examination of persons with no previous history of lesions and contact with an individual with known HSV-1 infection. Genital herpes can be more difficult to diagnose than oral herpes, since most HSV-2-infected persons have no classical symptoms. Laboratory testing is often used to confirm a diagnosis of genital herpes. Laboratory tests include culture of the virus, direct fluorescent antibody (DFA) studies to detect virus, skin biopsy, and polymerase chain reaction to test for presence of viral DNA.
Prevention for Herpes
The most effective method of avoiding genital infections is by avoiding vaginal, oral, and anal sex. Condom use decreases the risk somewhat. Daily antiviral medication taken by someone who has the infection can also reduce spread. There is no available vaccine and once infected, there is no cure. Treatments with antiviral medication such as aciclovir or valaciclovir can lessen the severity of symptomatic episodes.
Treatment for Herpes
No method eradicates herpes virus from the body, but antiviral medications can reduce the frequency, duration, and severity of outbreaks. Analgesics such as ibuprofen and paracetamol (acetaminophen) can reduce pain and fever. Topical anesthetic treatments such as prilocaine, lidocaine, benzocaine, or tetracaine can also relieve itching and pain.