Herpes: Complete Guide

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Are you looking for a guide related to Herpes?

This article will provide an in depth information related to it based on its types, causes, symptoms, treatment.

Let’s dive right into it to find out more about herpes and related complications.

What is Herpes?

It is a viral infection  that affects your skin, mostly the skin around mouth and genital area. Along with the skin lesions and sores, it has some other side effects as well.

It is highly contagious and its time of delivery is during sexual contact.

In some cases, after acquiring its primary symptoms, the virus can live dormant in your body and cause reinfection multiple times in a year.


Herpes Simplex Virus

two types of virus can cause herpes

The virus that results in herpes is Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). The virus is of two types,

  • Type 1  (HSV-1)
  • Type 2  (HSV-2)

They can also sometimes be confused with canker sores.

These both represent lifelong infections and mostly they do not show any symptoms.

These infections are most likely to spread in the presence of symptoms but still can be transmitted in dormant phase.


Types of Herpes

The different viruses result in different types of herpes.

1. Oral Herpes

Oral contact is the primary mean for transmission of oral herpes and most commonly it affects the skin portion around and inside.

It is also commonly referred as cold sores.

However, it can also be transmitted through oral-genital contact and infect the area around genitals, also know as genital herpes.

Moreover, people who already develop oral HSV-1 are unlikely to to acquire genital HSV-1.


2. Genital Herpes

On the other hand, sexual contact while sex is the primary mean for transmission of genital herpes.

Moreover, it results in skin infection around genitals and anal areas.

Very rarely in extreme cases, the infection transmits from a mother with HSV-1 genital herpes to her newborn and causes neonatal herpes while delivery.


What Causes HSV?

It is caused by a contagious virus that spreads from one person to another through simple direct contact.

Children more commonly acquire the disease through the exposure to an initially infected adult.

The virus lives inside their body in inactive or active phase for their entire lives.

In many cases, the virus related to HSV enters a dormant phase which can again activate by the following conditions,

  • General illness ranging from mild to serious
  • Fatigue and lethargy
  • Physical and emotional stress
  • As a side effect of medications due to AIDS, chemotherapy or steroids.
  • Sexual activity resulting in trauma to the affected site
  • Menstrual cycle


The causes for this cold sores include,

  • sharing food or using same utensils
  • Multiple people sharing the same lip balm
  • Oral contact
  • Kissing

The virus is more easy to spread when the person carrying it has physical symptoms like blisters and rashes.

According to an estimate by World Health Organisation (WHO), 67% of the total population acquired HSV-1 in 2016.

Another important fact is the emergence of genital herpes if the individual performing oral sex carries HSV-1 at the time of sexual activity.


This spread of this type links with performing sexual activity with a person already having HSV-2.

According to an estimate by World Health Organisation (WHO), 11% of the total global population have HSV-2.

Moreover, the virus in this type transmits after contact with a sore caused by the virus itself.

On the other hand, the people with HSV-1 usually contract the virus from the people having no physical symptoms of the disease.

Who is at Risk for Developing HSV infections?

anyone is at risk at developing the virus

When it comes to contracting HSV, there are no certain age barriers. Therefore, acquisition of the disease entirely depends on your exposure to the virus.

However in case of sexual transmission, having protected sex and using other modes for barrier can reduce the  risk and chances for acquiring virus.

The other risk factors relating to HSV-2 include,

  • Multiple sex partners
  • Sexual activity at younger age
  • Being a female
  • Already acquired Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
  • Poor immunity towards viruses

Herpes Symptoms

The first step is to learn that a person can have no visible symptoms and still be infected by the virus.

Therefore, it is important to learn that you can still transmit the virus even though you are asymptomatic.

Common Symptoms

Commonly people with HSV develop symptoms of tingling, irritation and burning sensation in the affected site. However, these later transform into cold sores or fever blisters and lesions later on at that exact site.

Some of the common symptoms associated with herpes include,

  • Lesions and sores in the area surrounding your mouth or genitals
  • Extreme pain while urinating
  • Itching and intense irritation on the affected site

Whereas the other related flu like symptoms which you might feel include,

  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite

Oral Symptoms

These are also referred as cold, visible sores, which are lesions or blisters in the area surrounding lips and mouth. Therefore, they are called oral due to the location of appearance of symptoms.

However, the sores can also form on the other areas of skin like face or tongue. Rarely, the can appear on the skin of other body parts.

The duration for these type of sores is generally 2 to 3 weeks in time.

Genital Symptoms

different genital symptoms exist for this condition

These are characterized by formation of lesion and sores in the area surrounding penis, vagina, buttocks or anus. However, still these can form on the skin of other areas.

Genital HSV can result in extreme pain and burning sensation while urination and result in excessive vaginal discharge.

The duration for these type of sores is generally 2 to 6 weeks in time.

Moreover, the symptoms recur more often after the first outbreak of infection. However, the symptoms decrease over time along with the incidence rate of symptoms.

Recurring symptoms

These are symptoms similar to the previously discussed but these are less severe and last for relatively shorter periods of time.

According to the studies, almost recurring symptoms appear in 33% of the total population with cold sores and 50 % with genital herpes.

According to the American Sexual Health Association, the duration for recurring symptoms in cold sores is usually 8-10 days.

However, the duration of genital herpes recurrence is same as for cold sores with lesser sores as compared to the former during the initial phase.

During the genital recurrence, the virus is transferrable for 2 to 5 days.

However, if the virus spreads and infects your eyes, it causes herpes keratitis. The specific condition can result in symptoms like pain in eyes, fluid discharge and cloudy vision.

Diagnosis of HSV

Initially your doctor assesses you for herpes using detailed physical exam and obtaining results from laboratory tests for hsv-1 and hsv-2.

Therefore, diagnosis procedure includes,

  • Viral Culture. It basically involves taking samples of tissues and small pieces from affected site and their detailed examination in the laboratory.
  • PCR test. This test involves duplicating your DNA by taking a blood sample from the affected site or spinal fluid. The DNA is then examined to determine the presence and type of HSV you have.
  • Blood test. This is used to assess the presence of HSV antibodies in your blood to indicate the history of HSV infection in your body.


Herpes Treatment

To be completely honest, there is no current treatment or cure for herpes. However, the use of antivirals may help you in multiple ways.

The benefits of using antiviral include:

  • Quick recovery after initial outbreak of infection
  • Reduces the symptoms and duration of the recovery period overall
  • Lessens the frequency rate for reappearance of symptoms
  • Drastically reduces the chances of transmission of the virus

Medicinal Treatment

The antiviral medications used for genital herpes include,

  • Acyclovir
  • Valacyclovir

Strictly follow the prescription provided by your doctor.

Your doctor may direct you to either use the medicine only after the appearance of symptoms or take the medicine daily even when you suffer no symptoms at all.

These medicines are safe to use and generally have no to very few side effects in some cases.



Got answer to everything you wanted to know about herpes? This article was an ultimate guide for herpes.

Don’t forget to check out other related articles like HIV and AIDSHives and Blisters.

Let me know in the comments section below that which part proved to be the most useful for you.

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