What Should I Know About Herpes?
The first thing to realize when dealing with herpes is that you are not alone. It is estimated that 50-80% of the population have oral herpes and over 30% carry the genital herpes virus. The second thing to realize is that, unfortunately, there is no known cure. But the good news is that with proper treatment outbreaks can be contained - outbreaks can be suppressed and the sores restricted. And no one has to know you have it unless you decide to tell them.
Herpes is the name we commonly give to both a medical condition and the virus that causes it. There are two common strains of herpes that concern us most - herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or oral herpes and herpes simplex viruses type 2 (HSV-2) genital herpes. The herpes simplex virus can enter the body through cuts and abrasions in the skin or directly through mucous membranes. Many people have the virus and never realise it. They carry and pass on the virus without ever showing any symptoms. The average age of first having oral herpes is 3 years old.
Oral Herpes vs. Genital Herpes
Oral herpes or herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) shows itself through cold sores on and usually in and around the mouth, lips and face, although they can be transmitted to the genitals. HSV-1 often causes lesions inside the mouth, such as cold sores, or infection of the eye. These are small itchy bumps which sometimes blister or become open sores and then scab before healing. It may take a couple of weeks for the cycle to be completed.
Genital herpes or herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) produces similar symptoms such as ulcers or sores, but are usually found around the genital area and anus, although similarly it can also be transferred to mouth. At the first outbreak, sufferers often endure flu-like symptoms such as headaches and weakness. A swelling of the lymph nodes in the pelvic region is also common. The cycle usually lasts 2-3 weeks on the first occurrence, including a second batch of lumps 5 to 7 days after the first. Repeat occurrences are likely to be less severe, lasting 2 to 10 days.
Repeat Herpes Outbreaks
With both strains, a carrier might have long gaps between outbreaks of the physical symptoms, but about 45% of people who have one outbreak will have more. Once the virus has shown itself there are a number of factors which might encourage it to return to activity:
Stress-The emotional pressure of stress weakens the physical body, leaving it vulnerable to attack.
Lack of Nutrition-It is important you eat properly if you are proned to outbreaks. The proper vitamin intake can help to strengthen your immune system and ward off outbreaks. We recommend HerpaIQ to properly support your immune system and suppress herpes outbreaks.
Menstruation-Another time when the body is not at 100% and the door is left open to an outbreak.
Sun Exposure- Exposure to the sun for extended periods of time can lead to an outbreak.
Low Immune System-This might occur for a number of reasons from a lack of proper nutrients to suffering from HIV as well as medically induced episodes such as the effects of chemotherapy. The herpes virus might normally be under check, but overwhelm the body's defences when the guard is weakened.
Fatigue-Physical work or illness may leave the body tired and its defences vulnerable.
Friction-sexual friction can stimulate an outbreak.
How is Herpes Transmitted?
There are many ways in which the herpes virus can pass from one person to another. The main causes are listed below. It is important to be cautious if you carry the virus as it is spread quite easily. Although, contrary to the belief and fear of many, the virus cannot live long outside the body. For example, it cannot be transmitted by towels, toilet seats and the like. Both herpes simples strains, genital and oral, can be moved about a person's body by their own hand actions. For example, scratching their genitalia and then wiping their mouth or the reverse can spread the virus from one area of the body to another. This is why it is very important that if you carry the virus, to always keep your hands clean and sanitized. The most common ways of contracting the virus are listed below:
- Oral herpes (Cold Sores / Fever Blisters) is most often transmitted through kissing which is how young children often get it and pass it on.
- Oral herpes can be passed from the mouth area to the genital area by oral sexual activity.
- Oral herpes can be transmitted from the mouth to other people or other parts of the body through hand to skin contact after touching the affected area.
- Genital herpes can also be passed by sexual intercourse and other sexual activity between genitals short of full intercourse including rubbing and pressing of genitals.
- Genital herpes can be passed from the genitals to the mouth of another by oral sexual activity.
- Genital herpes can be transmitted from the genitals to other people or other parts of the body through hand to skin contact.
Diagnosis can only be carried out by medical professionals. Visual inspection and experience may lead to an obvious conclusion, but it can also be incorrect as other conditions have similar symptoms. Scientific confirmation is often hard at the time. Tests using a swab from the sores and developing a culture are usually effective but can at times be misleading, often missing the virus.
A blood test is more accurate since it relies on detection of the antibodies developed to fight the disease. However, these take a couple of months fully to appear and a blood test taken too quickly after a suspected outbreak could be misleading. Some people claim that blood tests are the most accurate and can distinguish between HSV 1and 2. This is not universally accepted. Doctors also use a technique known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which is a modern method of developing a small chain of DNA many times to give a large enough sample to test adequately.
Complications with Herpes
Although the ulcers and sores that develop after a herpes outbreak are themselves not serious to the health of the sufferer, they can be uncomfortable and unsightly. Cold sores around the mouth are very noticeable and make it hard to feel you look your best. This is especially so for women who may find makeup difficult. Since sufferers usually are run down to allow the cold sore to develop, the knowledge that you do not look your best just adds to the negative feeling.
When herpes occurs in the genitals it can leave a person leaving unwanted and unattractive. The outbreak sores appear in parts of the body not normally shown or discussed. The sufferer will feel acute embarrassment as well as being unable or unwilling to engage in sexual activity. The psychological trauma of an outbreak should not be underestimated. If a person feels overwhelming feelings they should seek a professional immediately..
When the body encounters a herpes outbreak it is weakened and can be vulnerable to other diseases and issues leading from a weakened immune system. For example many sexually transmitted diseases can more easily penetrate the body and affect an individual if they are suffering an outbreak, even std's that would normally be repelled by a strong immune system. Particularly in women, the virus can cause urine retention and other urinary tract difficulties. Some men may suffer from an inflammation of the last six inches or so of the lining of the rectum, especially if they engage in anal sex, known as proctitis. But, perhaps the biggest danger is to an unborn child. A woman delivering a child whilst suffering a herpes attack with open sores will have a high risk of passing the virus to the newborn. In severe cases, herpes in a baby like this can cause severe problems such as blindness, brain damage or even death. In a very few cases the virus can cause inflammation of the lining to the spinal chord and brain, becoming meningitis.