Herpes – Types and preventive measures
Herpes is an infection caused by herpes simplex virus. It is a fairly common virus that remains in the body. The external genitalia, anal region, mucosal surfaces and skin in other parts of the body are affected by this virus. It is often possible that people may not have symptoms even when they are carriers of the virus. Such people can also cause herpes to spread. Herpes usually appears in the area of the skin which has been in contact with the affected area of the infected person. Symptoms are blisters, ulcers, pain during urination, cold sores, and vaginal discharge. It is an annoyingly irritating and painful infection, but it is not a serious health problem. It is treatable with countertop medicines and home remedies.
Types of herpes
Two types of herpes simplex virus are HSV-1 (oral herpes or herpes type 1) and HSV-2 (genital herpes or herpes type 2).
When one has HSV-1 or HSV-2 in the area around the mouth
It leads to sores on the lips, mouth, and throat. These can be seen clearly in the pictures of herpes. These are also called cold sores or fever blisters. Of the two strains, HSV-1 usually causes oral herpes. HSV-1 is more likely to recur when it is on the face and less likely to reappear when it is on genitals.
When one has got HSV-1 or HSV-2 on the area around the genitals
It causes sores on vulva, vagina, cervix, anus, penis, scrotum, butt, inner thighs. Usually, HSV-2 strain causes genital herpes. HSV-2 is more likely to reappear when it is on genitals.
Both the strains of the virus family can cause sores depending on where they are caught. Despite being two different strains, the visible symptoms caused by the two are same. But it is not possible to reinfect yourself with herpes virus on other parts of your own body. It takes 2 to 14 days for the first symptoms of herpes to appear after having contracted it from an infected person. For most people, the average is 4 to 5 days. If one has herpes in more than one part of the body, one will be able to notice it in the first outbreak itself.
Majority of the people get recurrences, but the recurrence is not similar to the first illness. The body generates antibodies to fight the virus, so the repeat outbreaks usually heal much faster. They are milder and are not accompanied by flu-like symptoms. Some people with the herpes virus have recurrences happening more frequently. Each recurrence tends to get less severe with time. Primary infection or the infection for the first time is an outbreak of genital herpes which can be quite severe and painful. It includes blisters on external genitalia or in the vagina, itching, vaginal discharge, fever, cold sores around the mouth and red blisters on the skin. When infection recurs, the symptoms do not last more than ten days and are much less severe in intensity.
When the herpes simplex virus is present on the surface of the skin, it can easily be transmitted to a healthy person through the moist skin lining the mouth, anus, and genitals of the infected person. Similar to any other virus, the herpes virus is also not treatable. Though doctors may prescribe antivirals for primary infection, yet no treatment is prescribed for recurrent outbreaks as they are usually mild.
Prevention of herpes
There are ways by which its symptoms can be treated, and the infection can be managed. Medicine for herpes makes the sores go away sooner and prevent their frequent recurrence. There is an old and proven saying that prevention is always better than cure. Here is a brief on how to prevent herpes:
- If one has frequent herpes outbreaks, the doctor may recommend taking of suppressants every day to prevent present and future outbreaks.
- Use condoms when having sex.
- Avoiding sex when symptoms are present.
- Avoiding kissing when cold sores are present in the mouth area.
- Restricting the number of sexual partners.
- Identifying the triggers that lead to outbreaks and trying to avoid them.
- Eating healthy foods with plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Taking adequate sleep.
- Avoiding stress; as it is known to affect the immune system and reduce the abilities of the body to fight infections.
- Avoid causing soreness to the genital skin. Waxing, thongs, tight trousers, horse or bike riding or even sexual activity may cause outbreaks.
Some facts relating to herpes
- More than 50% of people in the country are afflicted with HSV-1 and near about 15.5% of the people have HSV-2.
- Herpes can appear years after a person catches it. It can appear unexpectedly in a long-term faithful relationship. So, it should not be taken as a measure of infidelity.
- Genital herpes cannot be contracted from a toilet seat or an application of a topical ointment.