What Is Herpes Simplex?
Herpes simplex is a virus causing skin infections. Once infected with the virus, the infection lasts a lifetime, causing painful or itchy sores and blisters that develop and disappear. Herpes simplex virus doesn't usually cause severe health problems, but it can be dangerous in infants and those with weakened immune systems. For more information about herpes simplex, call our Boardman, OH, dermatology practice to schedule an appointment.
What Is The Difference Between Herpes 1 & Herpes 2?
Herpes simplex is widspread around the world, with HSV-1 affecting the majority of people by the age of 50. While HSV-1 and HSV-2 differ in their manners of transmission, either can develop on any skin area that comes into contact with the virus. If you suspect that you have herpes simplex, our dermatology clinic can help provide you with testing, diagnosis, and treatment options best suited to you.
HSV-1 is commonly known as oral herpes. Its main characteristics are fever blisters, also known as cold sores, commonly forming around the mouth and lips. People can share HSV-1 through kissing and the mutual use of food utensils and toothbrushes, as it spreads through contact with saliva.
HSV-2 is commonly known as genital herpes. A sexually-transmitted disease, HSV-2 is associated with blisters below the waistline and on the genitals. Symptoms of the virus generally progress through phases of dormancy and attacks called outbreaks. Herpes simplex is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected person.
What Causes Herpes Simplex?
Herpes spreads through close contact with an infected individual. If an individual has herpes simplex, they are most likely to pass the virus to another person when the infected individual has sores. Yet, they can infect another person even if they don't experience any symptoms at the time of contact. Our skin specialists refer to this as asymptomatic viral shedding.
You may become infected with HSV-1 through kissing; touching a person's skin near their mouth; sharing food utensils, lip balm, or razors; and receiving oral sex from someone with a cold sore. People may contract HSV-1 through intercourse, including anal, vaginal-penile, and vaginal-vaginal intercourse; oral sex, both giving or receiving, with an infected individual; skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation; touching open sores; and childbirth by a mother or gestational parent with an active infection.
What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Simplex?
Many people infected with the herpes simplex virus never experience any symptoms. If a person does experience symptoms, however, you will experience them differently depending on whether you're having your first herpes outbreak or a flare-up. In most cases, symptoms that recur during a subsequent outbreak are usually milder than the first.
Additionally, HSV-1 symptoms and HSV-2 symptoms don't endure as long as later outbreaks. Some individuals may experience only a couple of outbreaks during their lifetime, while others may have four or five outbreaks each year. Individuals who experience herpes simplex symptoms type 1 may experience the following.
- Cold sores around their lips, mouth, or tongue
- Cold sores that appear crusty
- Cold sores that look like fluid-filled blisters
- Tingling, itching, or burning
- Fever and discomfort
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Muscle aches
If you are infected with HSV-1, you may notice burning or tingling around your mouth in the days before a cold sore develops in the area. These blisters may break open and ooze fluid before drying and forming a crust. In most cases, the sores last 7‐10 days but may last longer. Find effective, clinical treatments for HSV-1 sores from a local dermatologist you can trust at Advanced Dermatology and Skin Cancer Center.
Who Can Develop A Herpes Simplex Infection?
Anyone can contract HSV, regardless of age. If you are exposed to HSV-1 or HSV-2, you will likely contract the virus. HSV is very common and many people living with the virus never realize they've contracted HSV. You may have a higher chance of contracting HSV if you:
- Are sexually active with a person living with HSV
- Were assigned female at birth (AFAB)
- Are immunocompromised
How Is Herpes Simplex Treated
With no real cure, herpes treatments focus on the suppression of symptoms. Drugs are available to suppress herpes outbreaks. In some patients, certain medications lead to immunosuppression and the further worsening of physical symptoms. Home treatments for herpes symptoms include soaking areas with sores in a warm bath. A dermatologist can take a swab from herpes simplex sores and send for lab work to diagnose the condition. Once there is confirmation that a patient has herpes, the dermatologist can recommend topical treatments to alleviate the discomfort caused by surface-level outbreaks. Such remedies include antiviral creams and ointments that relieve burning and itching sensations. Dermatological therapies also can shorten the duration of outbreaks and enable patients to live more normal lives.