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Herpes

Category(s): Infectious Diseases

Overview

Herpes is an infection which is caused by a herpes simplex virus. Herpes simplex virus is also known as HSV. Herpes may appear in different parts of the body, most commonly on the mouth or genitals. 

Types of the herpes simplex virus: There are two types of the herpes simplex virus. 

HSV-1, also known as oral herpes, may cause cold sores and fever blisters around the mouth and on the face.

In general, HSV-2 is responsible for genital herpes outbreaks. Genital herpes affects the buttocks, genitals or anal area. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Other herpes infections can affect the skin, eyes, or other parts of the body. The virus may be dangerous in newborn babies or in people with weak immune systems.

Herpes simplex virus transmitted through direct contact. Some people have no symptoms while others get sores near the area where the virus has entered the body. They turn into blisters, become itchy and painful, and then heal. In most people this disease occurs several times a year. 

Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of herpes simplex include:
It is important to understand that although someone may not have noticeable sores or symptoms, they may still be infected by the virus and may pass on the virus to others. Some of the symptoms associated with this virus include:

  • Itching
  • Pain during urination (genital herpes)
  • Blistering sores (in the mouth or on the genitals)
Additionally, people may experience many symptoms that are similar to the flu. These symptoms may include:

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Lack of appetite
Herpes Simplex Virus may also spread to the eyes, causing a condition called herpes keratitis. This may cause symptoms like:

  • Eye pain
  • Discharge
  • A gritty feeling in the eye

Causes

Causes of herpes simplex are: The herpes simplex virus is an infectious virus which may be passed from individual to individual through direct contact. Children will frequently contract HSV-1 from early contact with an infected adult. They then carry the virus with them for the rest of their life.

Infection with HSV-1 may occur from general interactions such as sharing lip balm, eating from the same utensils, or kissing. The virus spreads more rapidly when an infected individual is experiencing an occurrence. Additionally, it is possible to get genital herpes from HSV-1 if the person has had cold sores and performed sexual activities during that time.

HSV-2 is contracted through forms of sexual contact with a person who has HSV-2. It is estimated that around 20 per cent of sexually active adults have been infected with HSV-2. HSV-2 infections are spread by coming into contact with a herpes sore, however most people get HSV-1 from an infected person who is asymptomatic, or does not have sores.

It is important to know that both HSV-1 and HSV-2 may be spread even if sores are not present.
If Pregnant women has genital herpes, then genital herpes may be passed on to the baby during childbirth.
For many people with the herpes virus, which may go through periods of being dormant, attacks (or outbreaks) may be brought on by the following conditions:

Fatigue
General illness (from mild illnesses to serious conditions)
Immunosuppression due to AIDS or such medications as chemotherapy or steroids
Physical or emotional stress
Menstruation
Trauma to the affected area, including sexual activity

Risk of developing herpes simplex infections: Anyone can be infected with herpes simplex virus, regardless of age. The risk is determined almost totally based on exposure to the infection.

In cases of sexually transmitted herpes simplex virus, people are more at risk when they participate in risky sexual behavior without the use of protection, e.g. condoms.

Other risk factors for herpes simplex virus-2 include:
  • Being female
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Having a weakened immune system
  • Having another Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
If a mother is having an occurrence of genital herpes at the time of childbirth, it may expose the baby to both types of herpes simplex virus (HSV-1, HSV-2) and may put them at risk for serious complications.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of herpes simplex include:

Physical exam: Herpes Simplex is generally diagnosed with a physical exam. The doctor may check patient’s body for sores and ask him/her about some of the recent symptoms. 

HSV testing: Also known as herpes culture. The doctor may order HSV testing to confirm the diagnosis if the patient has sores on genitals. During this test, the doctor will take a swab sample of fluid from the sore and send it to a lab for testing.

Blood tests: This is done to look for antibodies HSV-1 and HSV-2 to diagnose these infections. This is particularly useful when sores are not present.

Treatment

Treatment of herpes simplex are: 

Currently, there is no cure for herpes simplex. Often sores will disappear without treatment. But treatment can alleviate symptoms and shorten an outbreak. The doctor may prescribe one or more of the following medications:

  • Valacyclovir
  • Acyclovir
  • Famciclovir

These drugs can help the patient reduce the risk of spreading the virus to other people. The drugs also help to lower the frequency and intensity of outbreaks. These medications are available in tablet and cream. These medications may be administered by injection in severe outbreaks.

Latest Treatment

Recent advancements in the field of herpes treatment are as follows:

  • A topical foscarnet cream and a topical gel of anti-cytomegalovirus drug cidofovir are being studied by the researchers. There is one more drug which is being studied by the researchers named as trifluridine. Trifluridine is already an approved drug for the treatment of herpes infection of the eye.
  • At the present time, foscarnet (Foscavir) is the most common treatment for acyclovir-resistant herpes.