What is Herpes? Herpes is a virus causing contagious sores, often around the mouth or on the genitals. Genital herpes is a threatening sexually transmitted disease spread through the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
It can be passed through various ways, most commonly through sexual contact. The problem with herpes is that it’s a chronic disease and it doesn’t go away easily. Unfortunately, sexually transmitted diseases are arguably the most stigmatized group of illnesses.
- 1 About the Herpes Virus
- 2 Herpes Statistics
- 3 HSV-1 and HSV-2
- 4 Herpes Breakouts
- 5 Signs and Symptoms of Herpes Infection
- 6 Causes of Genital Herpes
- 7 What Causes Herpes Recurrence?
- 8 Herpes Treatment
About the Herpes Virus
Herpes causes blisters on the genitals and even the surrounding areas. It passes through intimate sexual contact with another person. It can be dangerous if untreated. There have been breakthroughs in the study of herpes that have basically rendered it into a useless disease. It’s hardly life-threatening in most cases and medicines are available to treat the virus.
Nationwide, one out of ﬁve of the population, have HSV-1 or 2. As many as 1 in 4 people under 25 in the United States have HSV 1 or 2. HSV-2 infection is more common in women than in men. This may be due to male-to-female transmission being more efﬁcient than female-to-male transmission.
Statistics indicate that the number of Americans with genital herpes infection has increased by 30%. The largest increase is occurring in young white teens. HSV-2 infection is now ﬁve times more common in 12 to 19-year-old whites. And it’s twice as common in young adults ages 20 to 29.
By the time people reach their 40s, almost 90% of them have HSV 1 or 2. That means pretty much everyone catches herpes sooner or later, even if they don’t know they have it. The person sitting across from you in the coffee shop? Your favorite cashier at the supermarket? What about your parents? Yes, they probably all have herpes. All the more reason for you to not feel guilty or sad or shameful about having herpes!
HSV-1 and HSV-2
Herpes is transmitted through the herpes simplex virus (HVS).
There are two types of herpes virus, Type 1 and Type 2; both are equally dangerous. They can pass from one person to another through any sort of sexual contact. HSV-1 is known as “oral herpes” because it mainly causes infections in the oral area. Cold sores and blisters appear in the mouth and lips of a patient infected with HSV-1. HSV-2 is called “genital herpes” because it mainly affects the genitals of men and women.
During the active stage of HSV-2, sores and blisters may appear on the surface of the person’s genitals. It’s important to note, however, that such associated symptoms are not static. As a patient with an HSV-1 infection may manifest symptoms associated with HSV-2, and vice versa.
Herpes is usually not dangerous for you. You might get the occasional blister or sore around your genitals. But if you come into contact with the common cold or HIV, then herpes make their job easier. This is why I suggest undergoing a complete treatment for herpes. And to have medical checkups to make sure that you don’t have the disease.
You may not see the impact of the virus until after a few months or even years. It stays in your body for a long time. And this generally leads to painful blisters in your genital areas and mouth.
The breakout of blisters is rare and happens only four or ﬁve time in a year. It dies down slowly; each and every breakout becomes less severe and the virus is slowly passed out of the system. Herpes can really disrupt your sex life. It’s fairly dangerous to have sexual intercourse if you have herpes. It’s also really important to get yourself a checkup for herpes. Many people who have the virus in their body, don’t even know about it. Herpes may not be dangerous on its own but it attacks your immune system.
If you have herpes then it becomes easy for you to be infected with the HIV virus. Herpes can lead to many other harmful diseases. You don’t have to worry though; herpes can be treated easily. Science has come up with ways to slow down and destroy the herpes virus. How serious of a medical condition is herpes? Generally, the main effects of herpes infection aren’t serious.
However, due to its highly infective state, it can prove difﬁcult and risky for a patient to have sex. In addition to this, the recurrence of the sores can cause psychological distress to a patient. However, there are two dangerous complications connected to herpes infection. First, there is the possibility of an infected woman to transmit herpes to her child during pregnancy. Second, herpes can make a person more prone to HIV infection that can lead to AIDS.
Signs and Symptoms of Herpes Infection
A person infected with the Herpes simplex virus may be asymptomatic for the most part. However, things can get risky when the signs and symptoms show up.
Learning about the signs and symptoms of herpes infection can lead to prompt diagnosis and proper management. Here are some of the signs and symptoms commonly associated with infection.
One interesting thing about the Herpes simplex virus is that it has an active and inactive state. During its inactive state, a patient will not show any symptoms and the condition is much less infectious.
It is in the active state where symptoms show in the patient. The emergence of such symptoms is termed as an “outbreak”. A person with herpes can have anywhere between 2 to 4 outbreaks per year. And these can be triggered by numerous factors.
Factors that can trigger herpes outbreaks include sexual contact, stress, diet, hormonal imbalances, and illness.
Skin sores and blisters
This is the most common manifestation of a herpes outbreak. This can be explained by the migration of the herpes virus to the skin. As the virus rapidly multiplies, this would cause what is termed as “shedding”. This is characterized by cracking and redness of the skin.
The most common areas sores and blisters develop and concentrate includes the lips, mouth, genitals or the rectal area. These blisters can spread to other parts of the skin. There are rare cases wherein the blisters would develop inside the urinary tract. This can cause a lot of pain for both men and women.
Lymph node swelling
The swelling of lymph nodes is considered a generalized sign of an infection. During an active infection, lymph nodes from different parts of your body will swell. This is because your lymphatic system is busy combating an ongoing infection, resulting in enlarged nodes.
The nodes that would swell depend on where the herpes outbreak is concentrated. Usually, this swelling vanishes as soon as the outbreak subsides.
Just like lymph node swelling, the ﬂu is considered a part of your body’s natural immune response to infection. At the height of an outbreak, the person may have the ﬂu and its associated symptoms such as fever. While this is a natural response to the infection, it’s important to keep the ﬂu under control. Leaving it unchecked can prove damaging to a number of body systems.
Pain is one of the most depressing parts of a herpes infection. There are numerous sources of pain while you are in the midst of an outbreak. First would be the sores that tend to develop in different parts of your body. Regardless of where it’s located, sores and blisters will make its painful presence felt.
Blisters may burst, causing the development of wounds. They also produce a burning and itchy sensation around the affected area. In rare circumstances that herpes infects the urinary tract, it can make urination difﬁcult.
Those are just some of the most common symptoms associated with a herpes infection. All of these symptoms, including the development of sores, are linked to other conditions as well.
Causes of Genital Herpes
You can get genital herpes from another person through sexual contact only. The sexual contact can be of any type. It doesn’t matter if it is vaginal or oral. If the other person has herpes then there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll get it too.
If the other person doesn’t show signs of herpes it’s still possible for them to pass on the virus. The actual outbreak of the virus only happens a few times during the course of the disease. Herpes is transmitted through direct contact with a person’s bodily ﬂuids with an infected individual.
There’s an outside chance that a person might get infected through skin-to-skin contact and kissing. However, sexual contact is the most common reason for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 transmission. If a person has the herpes virus they should abstain from any sort of sexual contact.
You might not even realize when you came into contact with the virus.
Herpes spreads through skin-to-skin contact. All forms of oral sex can cause infection, most often leading to oral herpes symptoms. At the same time, both vaginal and anal penetration can cause the development of genital herpes. The interesting thing about this disease is that a person can unwittingly transmit the virus to others.
This is because an infected person can transmit the virus even when they are not showing any symptoms. And there are other ways to get herpes other than sex. It’s possible to get it from the eyes as well. This can only happen if you come into direct contact with the eyes or other parts of the body. If you have oral sex with a person who has blisters around their mouth, then you might get herpes too.
Outside the Body
Herpes cannot spread through foreign objects. The virus quickly dies when it comes into contact with a foreign environment. This is why the virus cannot survive on the surface of objects. Hence, you cannot get herpes from sharing objects with a person who has herpes.
Don’t share sex toys with a person that has the virus. There’s a good chance you might be infected. Herpes barely shows itself and it can be really hard to know if someone has it. This is why you should always use protection when you’re having sex. It’s easier to get herpes when the other person has blisters or sores. But it’s still possible to receive it when the other person shows no sign of the disease.
What Causes Herpes Recurrence?
There is no exact scientific explanation for why the herpes virus causes outbreaks every few years. This recurrence is linked to many factors. If you’re lucky then it might just happen that you don’t face the problem of recurrence. But that is pretty rare. There are certain things that can trigger recurrence as well. This is why you have to be really careful when you’re infected.
Make sure you don’t spread the disease or deteriorate the situation for yourself. There are several ways you can prevent herpes recurrence such as sleeping more and reducing stress.
One of the major triggers is friction. If you’re having sexual intercourse or masturbating without lube then the friction might cause recurrence to happen.
You can control this by always using lube which is available from any local pharmacy. There are other triggers as well. If you are not feeling good then it might cause the herpes virus to trigger again. If there’s any other sort of virus or bacteria in your body then it may trigger the dormant herpes virus.
Stress can trigger herpes recurrence. It’s important to keep yourself calm. This can be really difficult in this day and age. But stress generally contributes to many diseases and herpes is one of them.Stress is a regular part of everyday living. However, it can cause debilitating effects when present at excessive levels. Managing stress helps in promoting overall health.
Mental and physical stress can cause viral outbreaks. Stress not only reduces one’s immunity, but it affects how our body runs from the inside. Managing stress properly begins with balancing everything in your life.
You should try to stay as healthy as possible. Drink and eat in the correct amount and get a lot of vitamins. What you eat has a huge say on how healthy you will become. This doesn’t change even when you are in the midst of an infection. Proper nutrition keeps your cells healthy and keeps your immune function up. It helps in keeping stress under control.
Aside from getting a balanced diet, it’s important to monitor the consumption of speciﬁc foods. Excess carbohydrates, cholesterol, alcohol, and arginine can all trigger outbreaks. Eat foods that cover the food pyramid on a daily basis. Taking nutritional supplements can also be extremely helpful.
If you become weak then it might impact your immune system. This might further make it easier for the virus to recur and do bodily harm.There are other ways that you can weaken your immune system. This can be through chemotherapy or even some kinds of medication. You have to make sure that you stay at the pinnacle of your health if you carry herpes.
There are certain risk factors that you have to consider about herpes. For one, there are some people who are more likely to encounter herpes than others. Most of the factors are related to your sexual history and preferences. These risk factors make it easier for you to encounter herpes and have major recurrence episodes.
If you have had an STD before, then you’re going to get herpes more easily than anyone else. If you get an STD, then you’ll be more open to getting herpes. STDs also weaken your immune system making it easier for the herpes virus to attack you. If you have sex at a very young age then you are more likely to get it.
This is because minors generally don’t use protection. And even if they do, their immune systems aren’t mature enough to counter a virus like herpes. If you have unprotected sex, then you just increase the chance of encountering herpes. If you have sex with multiple partners then you deﬁnitely need to be more careful about your sexual encounters.
Other factors include:
- Alcohol: You should abstain from drinking alcohol while you have herpes because it leads to recurrence
- Ultraviolet Light: Stay from ultraviolet lights. They cause your skin to become moister which might trigger the herpes virus
- Surgery: Surgery of any sort on your genital area might cause recurrence as well. Leave your genitals alone for a while if you have herpes
When you get herpes it doesn’t go away that easily. The virus stays in your body for a long time and you may witness outbreaks from time to time. It usually takes some time before the first outbreak. But even after the blisters and sores go away, it doesn’t mean that it’s now dormant.
Oftentimes, these diseases are associated with negative feelings. Because of this, not a lot of people want to talk about it. Only a few who have it will also be courageous enough to step up and ask for treatment.
Once you have herpes, you will carry it for the rest of your life. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t have a normal life. As long as you keep outbreaks in check, you’ll be ok.