Herpes simplex, or simply herpes, typically refers to two different viruses that typically appear in separate places on the body. Herpes type 1 is also known as oral herpes due to its appearance as sores around the mouth and lips. These sores are commonly called fever blisters or cold sores. Herpes type 2 usually appears in the genital area and thus is commonly called genital herpes.
Of the two, oral herpes is by far the most common. Though the two viruses present themselves as skin conditions, they are also linked to conditions such as herpetic whitlow, herpes gladiatorum, ocular herpes, cerebral herpes infection encephalitis, Mollaret’s meningitis and neonatal herpes. In both types, the virus is never completely eliminated from the body.
What are the symptoms?
Both herpes viruses initially appear as raised, round lesions or blisters around the mouth or genitals. Eventually, the blisters break, leaving open sores.
Who gets it?
Herpes type 1 (oral) can be contracted by some easy methods, including:
Kissing an infected person
Sharing objects that are used in the mouth such as a fork or toothbrush
Incidental contact with an open herpes wound
Herpes type 2 (genital) is spread through sexual contact with an infected person. Someone with herpes type 1 may spread the infection through oral-genital contact.
Though contact with an infected person is one way of contracting herpes, the disease can be contracted even if sores are not present. The herpes viruses may appear in those who are experiencing extreme fatigue or stress or in women during their menstrual periods.
There is no cure for herpes; however, there are prescription medications that can effectively reduce healing time and lessen any pain related to an outbreak. These medications include the brand names Famvir, Zovirax, and Valtrex. A warm bath may relieve pain from genital herpes.