Herpes and Genital Herpes

Herpes and Genital Herpes

Herpes and Genital Herpes

Herpes is the name given to a chronic, lifelong infection by the herpes virus, Herpes simplex.

Although there are seven different types of herpes virus, it is when infection is caused by either Herpes simplex-1 (HSV-1) or Herpes simplex-2 (HSV-2) that the disease is considered sexually transmitted.

Other strains of herpesvirus are responsible for Chicken pox (herpesvirus: varicella zoster virus, VZV), shingles (reactivation of dormant varicella zoster virus, VZV), Epstein-Barr virus, cytomegalovirus, human herpesvirus 6 and humanherpes virus 7.

It is estimated that 40 million people currently have genital herpes and that 500,000 new, symptomatic, cases occur each year with even more asymptomatic cases which go undetected.

Preventing Herpes Infection

You can get and spread herpes through oral, anal and vaginal sex. Be aware that many genital herpes infections are spread by people with no noticeable symptoms.

You can also get the herpes virus from kissing, touching, and caressing of infected areas.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is usually the result of infection by the Herpes simplex-2 (HSV-2) strain of the herpes virus group and is sometimes known as Herpes genitalis.

Genital herpes may also result from infection by Herpes simplex-1 (HSV-1), the strain of the herpes virus which is normally responsible for causing cold sores.

Testing for Herpes

Sometimes the diagnosis can be made by physical examination when blistering is present. For testing, the doctor will collect a small amount of fluid from the sores and send it to a lab to see if the herpes virus is present.

Herpes Symptoms

Genital herpes symptoms may vary depending on the individual. Many people who do contract herpes will remain asymptomatic; that is to say, they will initially experience no symptoms and show no signs of the disease even though they are infected. Others will only develop very mild, barely noticeable, symptoms and may not associate them with genital herpes.

They may, however, develop the disease at a later stage if they develop an illness which places a strain on the immune system or encounter emotional or physical stress.

For those who do develop genital herpes symptoms, the symptoms usually appear between 4 and 7 days after infection. The most obvious and telltale symptom is the appearance of small clusters of painful, fluid-filled blisters at the site of infection. This can occur over a period of a few hours to a few days and is preceded by an uncomfortable, tingling, prickly sensation at the site of the blister eruption.

The blisters then break open and will ooze fluid for several days before forming a crust-layer and eventually healing.

Other Symptoms of Genital Herpes

Other symptoms of genital herpes may be less obvious until the formation of the characteristic herpes blister but these include:

  • swollen lymph glands
  • pain in the groin area or inner thighs
  • burning or tingling
  • itching
  • localized tenderness
  • muscle aches
  • headache
  • fever
  • pain and difficulty in urinating (particularly in women)
  • vaginal discharge
  • urethral discharge in men

The symptoms of genital herpes may or may not recur. On average, symptoms occur approximately 5 times a year.

Where do Genital Herpes Symptoms Develop?

Genital herpes can develop anywhere on the body. Common areas of infection and development of blistering occur on, or in, the:

  • penis
  • vagina
  • anus
  • buttocks
  • thighs
  • mouth
  • fingers

Herpes Treatment

Herpes cannot be cured since the virus remains permanently in the body, retreating deep into the nerve cells after each episode and remaining dormant until the next flare up.

Treatment for herpes, which helps minimize the duration and severity of an outbreak and reduces the possibility of the virus multiplying and infecting other areas of the body, typically involves antiviral agents such as acyclovir (Zovirax ), famiciclovir (Famvir ) and valacyclovir (Valtrex ).

Herpes Complications

  • Additional complications of herpes may arise if an infected person suffers immune suppression, for example, from chemotherapy; or HIV.
  • Infection with herpes also increases the risk of contracting HIV.
  • Pregnant women with herpes must seek medical advice.
  • Transmission to the fetus in the womb can be fatal to the fetus or cause it permanent neurological damage.
  • Additionally, babies can also be infected at birth as they pass through the birth canal or vulva.
  • Herpes may also spread to the eye (ocular herpes).
  • Herpes can also invade the central nervous system, including the brain, leading to herpes simplex encephalitis, a serious and sometimes fatal inflammation of the brain.




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