What Is Herpes?
Herpes is a virus and sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is very easy to contract and because of this, is quite a common disease. It is caused by two separate but similar viruses called herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simple virus type 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2).
Herpes has no cure and stays with you for life. The symptoms and “breakouts” appear and disappear.
Both types of herpes can affect the genital area, the oral area or both. Oral herpes, as it is referred to when the mouth is infected, is usually caused by HSV-1. Genital herpes is usually caused by HSV-2. Up to 80% of American adults have oral herpes and 25% have genital herpes. However, because herpes symptoms can be dormant for a person’s entire life, millions of Americans have no idea that they are infected. It is also hard to tell where a person contracted herpes because when symptoms do show up, they usually do so after many years.
As stated above, herpes can be spread easily by kissing, touching, and sexual interaction. Any sexual contact, such as vaginal, anal and oral sex can lead to an infection and can be transferred from one part of the body to another. Even quick skin-to-skin contact can result in the transmission of the virus.
History of Herpes
The history of herpes dates back to ancient Greek times. In fact the word “herpes” means “to creep or crawl” which is the way the Greeks at that time described how the sores spread from person to person. Even William Shakespeare was thought to have referenced herpes in his play Romeo and Juliet when he talks about “blisters plagues.” However, the root or origin of herpes is still widely unknown. Today, we only know that it has no cure and that it has indeed been around for a while.
Symptoms of Herpes
Symptoms of oral herpes can show up in the form of a blister or cold sore. These usually show up around the mouth or on a person’s lips. Although rare, blisters or sores can appear inside a person’s mouth, but this only usually happens during a first outbreak and does not happen again. Sometimes symptoms last for a few weeks and go away for a period of time, even years. Oral herpes symptoms are not dangerous or necessarily painful in any way, they are just very bothersome; although cold sores can be dangerous to newborns.
A large portion of individuals with genital herpes never have symptoms or have very mild symptoms that are not easily recognizable as an infection. Genital herpes symptoms show up in the form of a cluster of blisters and can show up on the vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, buttocks and/or anus.
People who experience an initial outbreak usually experience the worst symptoms they will have as additional outbreaks may never happen or occur with slight symptoms.
The following are some symptoms of genital herpes:
During a first herpes outbreak, the following can occur:
A first outbreak of herpes can occur between 2 and 20 days after infection. However, it can be months or years before symptoms appear.
Sores from a first outbreak can take anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to heal. Additional outbreaks heal quicker, in less than 2 weeks. In people with existing illnesses, herpes can weaken the immune system and make the individual more susceptible to other sicknesses.
Diagnosing herpes is easy to do with a test at your local health care provider. A series of physical exam and tests can be conducted, along with a blood test, to determine if you are infected with oral or genital herpes. Even if you are not experiencing symptoms, your healthcare provider will be able to tell if you have herpes from the test results.
If you believe you are infected or are experiencing any type of irregular sores, contact your local healthcare provider immediately and get tested. It is important to find out if your sores are indeed those associated with herpes because other STDs have similar sore-like symptoms.
Treatment for Herpes
There are medications available for the treatment of herpes and its symptoms. Available medication is helpful for quickly reducing and healing of herpes sores. It also will help in the prevention of spreading the disease.
What Happens if Herpes Goes Untreated?
Nothing detrimental can happen if you choose not to treat herpes. More than anything, the outbreaks are a nuisance and can bring pain and discomfort. But, because herpes is an infection with no cure, there is no treatment other than keeping the symptoms at bay.
After the initial outbreak, when herpes shows up again it is referred to as an “outbreak” or “flare up.” As stated above, herpes does not always recur, and if it does the degree to which the outbreak occurs and the length of time between outbreaks varies by person.
Some signs that an outbreak is about to occur include tingling sensations, itching or burning sensations in the area where you had your initial outbreak.
Oral herpes can recur by things such as sunburn, an injury to the lips, stress, and menstruation.
The best way to prevent against getting herpes is to abstain from sexual intercourse; however, there are other non-sexual ways to transmit herpes. Just being aware of your surroundings also can play a huge factor in not being infected.
Here are several ways to prevent herpes outbreaks:
Who Is at Risk for Contracting Herpes?
The following list includes those people that are at a higher risk of contracting Hepatitis C:
Statistics about Herpes
The following are some important statistics about Herpes:
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