Herpes simplex affects one in four adults although children can be affected, too. The best way to avoid becoming infected or to prevent a recurrence of infection is to educate yourself and your partner about this viral disease.
The herpes simplex virus is a deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) virus that can be spread when the infected individual is producing and shedding it. As previously mentioned, there are two types of the virus, namely:
Type 1 (HSV-1) is the most common cause of oral herpes simplex, which is also called fever blisters and cold sores. Type 2 (HSV-2) most commonly cause genital herpes and the other types of the viral infection. It usually spreads through sexual intercourse and skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual.
Both types of the herpes simplex virus die quickly once outside of the human body. As such, it is virtually impossible to be infected via contact with towels, toilets and other objects that were used by the infected person. Instead, touching infected mucous membranes, saliva and skin are the primary modes of infection.
Both types of herpes simplex infection undergo three distinct stages.
Primary infection enters the body and the symptoms become obvious although an infected person may have no symptoms, too. Latency stage is when the virus moves to the dorsal root ganglion in the spine and becomes inactive. Recurrence stage occurs when the virus causes new symptoms.
The specific symptoms for herpes simplex vary depending on the site of infection. For cold sores, the most common signs are burning, tingling and itching coupled by pain on the site of infection before the characteristic sores appear. These sores often appear on the lips, gums, throat, front of the tongue, inside of cheeks and roof of the mouth, all of which can be intensely painful.
For genital herpes, the symptoms may not even be present, thus, accounting for the high rate of infection among sexually active adults. When present, however, the infected person suffers from pain, itching and burning in the genital area – vagina, buttocks, anus and cervix for the women while the men may experience these symptoms on the penis, scrotum, anus and the urethra.
In both cases of herpes simplex, tiny white blisters or small red bumps will appear within several days. These skin infections will then rupture and become bleeding ulcers. Eventually, the ulcers will heal and the scabs will take their place.
Usually, doctors will give a definitive diagnosis of herpes simplex from a physical examination. But if other organs appear to be involved, laboratory tests including culture analysis, antigen and antibody studies, and blood sampling will be directed.
Unfortunately, the herpes simplex virus is never eliminated from the human body by its immune system. The best that modern medicine can do is to manage the symptoms to prevent health complications.
Antiviral medications are given to help the sores heal faster, to lessen the severity and frequency of recurrent outbreaks, or to minimize the transmission rate. The most common antiviral medications are acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir. Self-care can include the use of pain relievers and increase of fluid consumption to prevent dehydration.
In the end, the best way to prevent a recurrence of infection is to abstain from sexual intercourse in any form or to limit sexual activity to one non-infected partner. Or use a latex condom to lessen infection, for that matter. It is also important to avoid extreme stress of the physical and emotional kind to lessen the chances for a recurrence.
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