Herpes is one among the most common sexually transmitted diseases caused by the herpes simplex virus. It is crucial for people to have an understanding of the disease so that proper measures can be taken to prevent contracting it or to treat it in case one is already infected.
Herpes simplex viruses — more commonly known as herpes — are categorized into two types: herpes type 1 (HSV-1, or oral herpes) and herpes type 2 (HSV-2, or genital herpes).
There are two types of herpes – the HSV 1 and HSV 2; both can affect the oral area or the genital area or sometimes both areas. The infection might come with symptoms that are hard to notice but an infected person can know during outbreaks as pain might be felt around the genital parts. There is no cure for the infection but the symptoms can be treated and relieved with certain medication treatments.
If the virus affects the area around the mouth, it is known as oral herpes. Oral herpes causes sores on the mouth or lips called “fever blisters” or commonly referred to as “cold blisters”. Oral herpes is mostly caused by HSV 1 herpes virus. If the infection is on or near the genitals of the infected, then it is known as genital herpes, which is usually caused by the HSV-2 virus. In recent years, it has become more common to find occurrence of HSV-1 around the genitals as people engage more and more in oral sex.
Genital herpes is contracted by skin to skin contact with an infected person usually during vaginal or anal sex. The infection is not as contagious if the herpes sores are not open, however, one can still contract the infection. A person with oral herpes can easily transmit the infection to their partner if they indulge in oral sex. In this way, most cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-1 unlike the usual genital to genital transmissions.
Contrary to the myths, one can only contract genital herpes through skin to skin contact; one cannot get the herpes infection from swimming pools, towels or toilet seats. First outbreaks are the severest with subsequent outbreaks getting less painful with fewer symptoms. A healthy diet and suppressant drugs might go a long way in minimizing the outbreaks. This period is known as the dormant period; any time after this, the outbreak might restart and cause sores around the genitals.
Different people have different patterns of the outbreaks, also known as recurrences, since they have different lifestyles. Genital herpes caused by type 2 of the virus has frequent outbreaks as compared to one caused by type 1 of the virus. The frequency, severity and outbreaks can however be reduced with proper treatment and use of medications.
During the outbreaks the infected might experience the following;
- Discomfort or pain around the genitals, legs or buttocks.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area.
- Burning or itching while urinating.
- Difficulty in urinating or constipation.
- Fever, chills, headaches, body aches or other flu symptoms.
One might not know when the next outbreak might occur but the infected might get a feeling of itch, numbness or tenderness where the sores are to appear. There might be pain near the buttocks back of legs or lower back. These symptoms may show hours or days before the outbreak. If one is oblivious of their status, testing is advised to enable one make the necessary adjustments.