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Understanding Herpes: Types, Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Herpes What is It ,Symptoms, Causes & Treatment
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Are you experiencing sores in your genital or oral regions? If yes, it might indicate a condition called herpes, also known as the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which shows up in the form of cold sores or blisters in the oral or genital region. While there’s no cure for herpes, antiviral medications and home remedies help ease symptoms greatly. 

Around 67% of the global population under the age of 50 is at risk of contracting oral or genital herpes. While HSV-1 is more common than HSV-2 among the types of herpes, approximately 13% of the population aged 15 to 49 is at a higher risk of contracting HSV-2. 

Misconceptions still cloud the condition despite its widespread occurrence. Many are attributed to people not coming forward with the problem due to fear of social stigma. Hence, in this blog, we aim to raise awareness about the disease by providing essential information related to the causes, symptoms, treatments, and different preventive measures to deal with herpes. So, stay tuned. 

What is Herpes?

Herpes is a common viral infection that affects both oral and genital areas in our body. Caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), many individuals with herpes show no symptoms at all. They carry the virus without experiencing any active episodes or flare-ups. This asymptomatic nature means they can unknowingly transmit the virus to others. 

For those who do experience symptoms, herpes often manifests as blisters or small fluid-filled lesions. These blisters can appear on different parts of the body which means they can show up around the lips or mouth, or in the genital regions. Since it can be easily transmitted, sometimes these sores may appear in the hands or fingers. The first outbreak is usually the most severe, with subsequent flare-ups being less intense.

Are there any Types of Herpes?

Yes, herpes is categorised into two main variants: 

Type of Herpes Affected Areas of the Body Visible Signs 
HSV-1 Patients who have this type of herpes usually experience growth in the oral region Cold sores or fever blisters appearing on the patient’s face or in the mouth
HSV-2 This type often targets the areas in the lower part of the body.    Lesions and blisters in the inner thighs, buttocks, anus, and genitals including the female vaginal area.

What are Herpes Symptoms?

Not everyone experiences the symptoms caused by herpes. If they do arise, whether they are primary or periodic infections, often decide how harmful the symptoms are. Usually, the main symptoms of this condition take around a few days to weeks after coming into contact with an infected individual. The following are herpes symptoms:

Major Symptoms of Herpes
High-temperature weakness or unusual weariness Headache or frequent body aches Sharp pain in the affected area Enlarged Lymph Nodes
Cold sores in the mouth, lips, or tongue Discomfort during urination Sores in the vaginal area Loss of appetite

What causes Herpes?

Herpes is primarily transmitted through sexual contact, but it can also spread through other means. This includes skin-to-skin contact with an infected area, sharing personal items like razors or towels, or from a mother to her baby during childbirth. The herpes virus is usually detected in the saliva and skin of the HSV patient.  Here are some of the other causes of herpes or HSV-1 and HSV-2 transmission in the table below:

Types  Causes
HSV-1 transmission For individuals who have been experiencing the symptoms of herpes, possibilities are that they contracted the virus through:

  • Shared food or cosmetics such as lipsticks or razors 
  • Sexual intercourse with an infected person affecting the genital region 
  • Kissing 
  • Touching the skin of an infected person’s 
HSV-2 transmission People diagnosed with this type might have caught the virus through: 

  • Oral sexual intimacy with an infected person
  • Sexual intercourse i.e. anal, vaginal-penile, or vaginal 
  • Sexual contact through skin-to-skin without ejaculation
  • Giving birth to a baby by an infected mother or gestational parent 
  • Open sores touching during breastfeeding 

How is Herpes Diagnosed?

Dermatologists in Gurgaon usually perform a culture test involving fluid extraction from the sore, which is sent to the lab for assessment purposes. Diagnosing herpes involves several methods, each designed to accurately detect the presence of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). 

  • Physical Examination: The doctor will focus on any visible sores or blisters, or herpes lesions, which are typically small, fluid-filled blisters that can appear on the lips, mouth, genitalia, or other areas of the body.
  • Viral Culture: If sores are present, a viral culture can be performed. This involves taking a sample from the source for analysis. This is more effective for a new sore and not so much for older sores or asymptomatic cases.
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test: The PCR test is a highly sensitive method used to detect HSV DNA in a sample from a sore, blood, or other bodily fluids. This test can differentiate between HSV-1 and HSV-2, providing precise information about the type of herpes infection.
  • Antibody Tests: Blood tests can detect antibodies that the body produces in response to an HSV infection. IgM Antibody Test: Detects recent infections. IgG Antibody Test: Detects past infections and can distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2.

For pregnant women, diagnosing herpes is especially important to prevent transmission to the baby during childbirth. Viral culture and PCR tests are often used to diagnose and monitor HSV in pregnant women. A blood test is involved when a person has been exposed to the virus but there is no sign of symptom to identify HSV antibodies.  Be mindful that it could take 12 weeks for blood testing to correctly identify HSV after you contract the illness.

What are the options available for Herpes Treatment?

According to health experts, presently there is no cure available for herpes treatment but the following options can help relieve the symptoms effectively: 

  1. Medication: Blisters usually go on their own or improve with time without the need for clinical treatment. A doctor often recommends antiviral medications in cases of severe or regular outbreaks. With the antivirals, the patient can notice the difference in several episodes experienced. Antiviral medications also reduce the possibility of spreading the virus during a herpes event or shedding when the patient doesn’t have any symptoms.
  2. Home Remedies: You can involve certain home remedies to relieve the pain or discomfort caused by herpes condition. Here are some remedies that can help manage herpes at home:
Managing Herpes at Home
Don’t wear tight-fitted clothes, especially pants Use tea-tree oil on blisters Use baking soda or cornstarch over sores Warm or cold compression 
Use light-salt water when bathing  A crushed garlic mixture can provide relief Using aloe vera gel on the blisters Eucalyptus or peppermint oil

 What are the Prevention Tips for Herpes?

Preventing herpes is not a hassle, you just have to follow certain precautions and you are going to be fine. Here are these tips:

  • Don’t get involved in sexual intercourse without using condoms
  • If symptoms are noticeable, again avoid sexual intercourse 
  • Try avoiding sexual activity if you have cold sores 
  • Make sure to wash your hands regularly 

Conclusion

Herpes diagnosis involves a combination of physical examinations, lab tests, and understanding the emotional impact. Accurate diagnosis is the first step in managing the condition effectively. If you suspect you have herpes, consult a healthcare provider for a comprehensive evaluation and personalised care plan. Getting diagnosed with herpes can be emotionally challenging. But it helps to remember, herpes is a common condition, and with the right care and support, you can lead a healthy, fulfilling life.

FAQs about Herpes

Can Herpes be cured?

There is no cure available for herpes at present, but antiviral medications help control the symptoms and minimise the frequency of occurrence. There might be a need for lifelong management for some people depending on the severity of this condition.

How can I avoid transmitting Herpes to my Partner?

Here is how you can reduce the herpes transmission: 

  • Use condoms during sexual intercourse
  • Take antiviral medication
  • Avoid sexual contact during outbreaks

If you know you have herpes, it is mandatory that your partner is aware and understands your condition. Addressing the stigma starts with open communication.

Can someone have Herpes without any Symptoms?

Yes, for some people, it might be hard to know they have herpes as they are asymptomatic. Even without visible occurrences, they can still spread the virus.

Can Herpes affect Pregnancy?

For most females, herpes doesn’t affect their pregnancy or the health of a child. However, doctors might recommend C-sections to females who have contracted the virus in their last trimester as it increases the possibility of passing the virus to their fetus.

What Triggers Herpes outbreaks?

Herpes outbreaks are often triggered by certain factors such as stress, fatigue, hormonal changes, exposure to sunlight, and a weak immune system.

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