Herpes: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment


Information regarding Oral Herpes Simplex virus 1 or cold sores and Genital Herpes known as Simplex virus 2.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Herpes Simplex

  • Herpes simplex - A viral disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. Infections are categorized based on the part of the body infected.
  • Genital herpes - Often simply known as herpes, may have minimal symptoms or form blisters that break open and result in small ulcers.
  • 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.

Main Document

Herpes is a very serious issue and a virus that is very easily spread.

More than fifty million people in the United States have the virus. This means one in five adults has a form of Simplex 1 or Simplex 2 virus. The symptoms of herpes are often dismissed as a yeast infection or a bladder infection. It may be years down the road before the person realizes they have herpes.

Infection with the herpes virus is categorized into one of several distinct disorders based on the site of infection.

Oral Herpes - Simplex virus 1 (HSV-1)

Herpes Simplex is also known as the common cold sore or fever blister. It is caused by Herpes Simplex virus type 1. This illness occurs when type 1 virus enters the tissue of the susceptible person; then, later manifestations are caused by the reactivation of the virus which remained latent in the person's tissues since the time it first entered.

Oral Herpes may be localized or generalized. If localized, the first sign of herpes may appear on the mouth and gums. Though cold sores tend to heal within 7 to 10 days without any cold sore treatment, the fact remains that the duration can seem like a lifetime to sufferers.

If you have repeated outbreaks of cold sores your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication to help with these occurrences. Although antiviral drugs can not cure cold sores, they certainly can help to curb the symptoms and shorten the duration of outbreaks. Many patients also report a decrease in size of the blisters and a reduction in the number of blisters experienced during an outbreak.

Docosanol is the only over the counter cold sore medication that has shown proven results in shortening the duration of cold sore outbreaks. It is especially effective if taken at the first sign of an outbreak, during the tingling stage.

Benzocaine and lidocaine are two common numbing agents that work to relieve not only pain, but also burning and itching that is associated with this disease. Ibuprofen and acetaminophen can also be taken to ease the pain associated with cold sore blisters.

Genital Herpes - Simplex virus 2 (HSV-2)

Infection of the genitals, commonly known as herpes, is the second most common form of herpes. Other disorders such as herpetic whitlow, herpes gladiatorum, ocular herpes (keratitis), cerebral herpes infection encephalitis, Mollaret's meningitis, neonatal herpes, and possibly Bell's palsy are all caused by herpes simplex viruses.

The genital herpes incubation period is the time between contracting the virus and the first signs of symptoms. This period can be anywhere from two to twenty days. About half of all individuals who contract herpes do not actually show symptoms, which is why so many people are not aware they have the virus.

Following the incubation period, it is common to feel a tingling, itching, burning sensation and pain in the genital area. This stage is often followed by an outbreak of pimple-like sores that will turn into single or multiple blisters. These blisters typically burst around the fifth day to form wet ulcerations that are extremely painful to the touch. This is the most contagious stage of a herpes outbreak and sexual activity is discouraged.

The key to stopping the spread of HSV 2 is understanding genital herpes prevention. The herpes simplex virus is spread only through skin-to-skin contact or mucous membrane contact. Common occurrences of skin-to-skin contact that result in the spread of the virus include penile-vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse, oral-genital sex, and other sexual body-to-body contact.

To reduce the risk of transmitting genital herpes, people who have the virus should avoid sexual contact from the time they first feel any symptoms until their lesions are completely healed. During periods when there are no signs of an outbreak, genital herpes prevention is still advisable. Latex condoms offer significant protection against the spread of HSV 2 to women.

Genital herpes is not transmitted through the air, and there are no documented cases of a person getting genital herpes from an inanimate object such as a toilet seat, body towel, or hot tub.

Herpes Treatment

There is no known cure for herpes, but there are a couple of good quality medications on the market to select from. Acyclovir, Famciclovir, and Valacyclovir are the most common ones. These drugs will suppress the virus and prevent future outbreaks. If taken on a daily basis, the risk of spreading the infections is greatly reduced.

Some individuals turn to herbal medicine because they don't want to cover the cost of prescription drugs to treat herpes. There are various plants said to heal the symptoms of herpes including lemon balm, rosemary, sage, and thyme.

Wash your hands and clean your face as often as possible. Don't share drinks, razors or cigarettes with other people, and use a clean glass or cup every time you have a drink.

If you have Herpes, you should contact a physician to learn more about your options.


In the U.S. April is STD Awareness Month. In Australia National Herpes Awareness Day falls on October 13th.

Quick Facts: Herpes Information &

  • Neonatal herpes simplex is a HSV infection in an infant.
  • HSV-1 has been proposed as a possible cause of Alzheimer's disease.
  • In all cases, HSV is never removed from the body by the immune system.
  • Herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that any sexually active person can get.
  • Herpes is contracted through direct contact with an active lesion or body fluid of an infected person.
  • The risk of transmission from mother to baby is highest if the mother becomes infected around the time of delivery.
  • As with almost all sexually transmitted infections, women are more susceptible to acquiring genital HSV-2 than men.
  • Many people infected with HSV-2 display no physical symptoms, individuals with no symptoms are described as asymptomatic or as having subclinical herpes.
  • Herpes simplex is divided into two types; HSV-1 causes primarily mouth, throat, face, eye, and central nervous system infections, whereas HSV-2 causes primarily anogenital infections. However, each may cause infections in all areas.

Statistics: Herpes

  • 85% of people with genital herpes don't know they have it.
  • There are approximately one million new cases of herpes each year.
  • There are more cases of genital herpes than there are all the other viral STDs combined.
  • Some people may experience several outbreaks during a year, while others have only 1 or 2 outbreaks during their lifetime.
  • Genital herpes is common in the United States. In the United States, about one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes.
  • Approximately 80% of persons having a first episode caused by HSV-2 will have at least one recurrence, while only 50% of persons with HSV-1 will experience a recurrence.
  • If the number of people infected with genital herpes continues to grow at the present rate, it is predicted that in time nearly half the US adult population will have genital herpes.

Not all genital herpes statistics are consistent from study to study. Most say 25% of American women have the virus, and 20% of American males. Other studies show slightly lower numbers.

Latest Herpes Simplex Virus Publications

WHO global estimate reveals over 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).

Article looks at whether people that have had Shingles or herpes zoster in the past could have another outbreak.

Research illustrates social and emotional impact cold sores can have and the need for products like Abreva Conceal.

The herpes zoster vaccine also known as the shingles vaccine is generally safe and well tolerated according to a Vaccine Safety Datalink study.

An experimental vaccine intended to prevent genital herpes disease in women although generally safe and well-tolerated proved ineffective.

Taking oral antiviral medications following infection with the herpes simplex virus may be associated with a reduced risk of recurring eye-related manifestations.

Cold sore virus may contribute to cognitive and brain abnormalities in schizophrenia.

Genital herpes virus can frequently reactivate throughout the genital tract.

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