Herpes is a collective term given to a group of virus that belongs to the family Herpesviridae (Herpes Virus). Herpesviridae are categorized into 25 viruses that cause various infections in the body. It is the leading cause of viral disease in humans, after influenza.
Out of them the two most common herpes viruses’ strains that are known to effect human beings severely are Herpes Simplex Virus-1 and Herpes Simplex Virus-2. Herpes Virus-1 is known as oral virus that affects area around the mouth and Herpes Virus -2 is commonly known as genital herpes that affects the genital area. HSV is responsible for lesions and cold sores.
Signs and Symptoms of Herpes Virus
HSV-1 and HSV-2 both comes from the similar strain of Herpes Simplex virus, but the signs and symptoms for both of them are different. Cold sores on the affected area are a common sign for both of them.
Herpes Simplex Virus-1 (HSV-1)
Herpes virus-1 is also known as oral herpes because it affects areas surrounding mouth and lips. It takes a minimum of 12 days incubation period for the symptoms to appear, and they generally last at least 2 weeks. It is mostly acquired orally. Research reveals that due to prolonged incubation period of 12 days, people suffering from this infection don’t even realize that they are being infected by a virus. This makes the situation even worse because people fail to take any preventive measures to combat the infection.
Major signs and symptoms include:
- Burning and itching are the most commonly reported symptoms of HSV-1 before the formation of blisters. This is often accompanied with severe pain as well. The blisters are formed in clusters.
- Cold sores occur on and around the lips and make eating difficult. They cause intense pain. They can occur on front part of tongue, lips, gums, and throat and can also extend down to the neck region.
- Dryness in the mouth and drowsiness.
- Mild fever which may become severe if not treated on time.
- Irritation and serious infection in the eyes as well.
Herpes Simplex Virus-2 (HSV-2)
Herpes Virus-2 is also known as genital herpes. In this infection the virus infects genital areas and causes the formation of sores on inner thighs, genitals and buttocks. Genital herpes is highly contagious and generally spreads through sexual contact. Anyone with active infection should stay away from people and avoid sexual contact. The signs of genital herpes develop after six to seven days of contact with infected person. Some major symptoms include:
- Formation of blisters on and around the genitals which cause discomfort.
- Problems in urinating, particularly for women, is one the major symptoms of HSV-2.
- Flu like symptoms is also common. These include fever, muscle aches and swollen lymph glands.
Causes of Herpes Simple Virus 1 and 2
Oral herpes occurs mostly in children and is caused by a viral strain Herpes Virus-1. This virus can enter the body through saliva, cuts abrasions or breaks on the skin surface. The main route is contact with any infected person. Children get this infection by simply coming in physical contact with any infected person. After the incubation period of 12 days blisters develop and then burst to form sores. These sores occur on the lips, gums, neck and throat.
Genital herpes is caused by a viral strain Herpes Virus-2. The virus can enter into the body by sexual intercourse. Newborn baby can acquire this infection if the mother is already suffering from genital herpes. This is highly contagious sexually transmitted disease which spreads uncontrollably.
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Risk factors associated with Herpes Simplex
The major risk factor associated with Herpes Simplex-1 and 2 are as follows:
- You are more likely to get infected if you have a family history of the disease.
- If someone is in sexual contact with any infected person. Herpes Simplex-2 is sexually transmitted from one person to another.
- Doctors and health care providers are at major risk of getting infected, as they come in contact with infected people everyday.
How Herpes Simplex is diagnosed and tested?
The infection can be diagnosed on the basis of physical and visual examination. This is usually identified by its characteristic blisters. The tests involved in the detection of disease are virologic test (examination of skin sample taken from infected area) and serologic test (blood test used to detect antibodies)
- Blood test: A sample of blood is taken and is tested for antibodies formed against herpes virus. This is a confirmatory test for HSV.
- Viral culture test: This is a culture test in which scrapings from the infected area of the skin or from the ruptured sores are taken and detected. The sample is then examined for the presence of viral culture.
- Tzank smear: This is a staining test which is used to strain virus in order to detect it.
Treatment of Herpes
Herpes Virus-1 and Herpes Virus-2 are different strains of same virus that affects different regions of human body. There are different medical procedures to treat each one of them.
Treatment of Herpes Virus-1 (Oral herpes)
The sores present on the lips and other adjacent areas are painful. They create discomfort in food and water intake. Generally there are many home remedies that help to treat oral herpes but they may take a lot of time to heal the infection. Some main treating methods are:
- Antiviral medicines: These medicines increase your body’s capacity to fight the viral strain. These medicines reduce pain and make the sores less prominent within 2-3 weeks. Some of the antiviral medicines used are Acyclovir, Famciclovir, and Valacyclovir. All these are oral medicines.
- Topical Medicines: These topical medicines can be used along with oral medicines. They shorten the time of healing and duration of the disease. Pencicolar cream, Famciclovir cream and Docosanol creams are the most common topical medicines prescribed by a skin specialist.
- Home Treatments: Some home treatments can also make you feel better and helps in healing the infection. Applying ice on the sores helps in lessening the amount of pain. Oral sores can be treated with cold-water gargles and eating popsicles. If the infection is severe, spicy, hot and salty foods must be avoided because they will increase the pain in sores. Taking a prescribed painkiller can also be of great help in easing pain. Drink plenty of fluids or fluid filled fruits are a good home treatment for HSV-1.
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Treatment of Herpes Virus-2 (Genital Herpes)
Herpes simplex virus -2 is incurable and the infection can reoccur after treatment. But drugs can however reduce the symptoms and shorten the healing times. This is generally transmitted to genitals from cold sores if unhygienic practices are followed. The antiviral medications can relieve pain easily.
- Antiviral Medications: The antiviral medicines that are used to treat genital herpes are Acyclovir, Famciclovir, and Valacyclovir. Keep the infected area clean all the time to prevent further infection. Acyclovir prevents this disease from multiplying further. All the antiviral medicines must be taken till the prescribed duration by your physician. Otherwise they wouldn’t benefit you much. All these antiviral medicines are strictly prohibited for pregnant women as they have many side effects like tiredness, itchiness and vomiting.
- Home Treatments: The foremost home remedy to treat herpes is to eat vitamin B and C rich food. Furthermore, zinc, lysine, iron, apples, apricots, beetroots and mangoes must be taken in order to strengthen immune system. Applying ice pack on the affected area eases the pain and heals the sores to some extent. Keeping your genitals and the adjacent areas clean and dry prevents further spreading of infection.
- Topical Treatments: Topical treatments are often used along with antiviral medicines. Most of the creams used to treat genital herpes contain an ingredient named Docosanol.
Preventive Measures for Herpes Simplex
Proper care and hygiene practices are the best ways to prevent herpes infection to spread. As there is no ultimate cure for herpes, it can often reoccur. For all those who suffer from repeated periods of infection here are a few things and habits that must be avoided.
- Abstinence form unhygienic practices: Unhygienic practices like having multiple sexual partners, not keeping your genitals clean, wearing dirty clothes and getting in contact with infected people should be strictly avoided. Take proper bath daily, don’t share personal utilities and follow all the everyday hygienic practices.
- Alter eating habits: Follow dietary habits that help in fighting the infection. Avoid foods that trigger the infection to a much higher levels.