Herpes: Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Bajaj Finserv Health Team
November 20, 2020

Infections are caused by different organisms, but viral infections are particularly difficult to deal with because they’re resistant to antibiotics. Moreover, infections caused by the herpes simplex virus are those that remain with you for life as there is no herpes cure, making them that much deadlier. To add to this, the herpes virus is very common, highly contagious, and can also infect children. This means that improper care or untreated symptoms could very easily infect entire families and this could then lead to a trickle-down effect in communities.

The herpes disease, like many other infections, is something you should be aware of, especially if you know an infected person. This helps to protect yourself against the infection and also allows you to take the right measures if you do get infected. Moreover, not all symptoms of herpes are visible and knowing what to expect can help you keep it from spreading further.

Here is all you need to know about herpes.

What is herpes?

Herpes is an infection that is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It can manifest in multiple parts of the body, with common spots being the genitals and the mouth. There are two main types of herpes simplex viruses, HSV-1 and HSV-2, and both cause unique symptoms. Take a look at both of these.

  • HSV-1: Causes oral herpes primarily, and generally presents with ulcers and cold sores on the mouth and surrounding skin. It can be contracted from general interactions and the risk of transmission is much higher when the infected is experiencing an outbreak.
  • HSV-2: Causes genital herpes primarily, and this infection presents with sores around the rectum or genitals. Typically, transmission of the virus takes place during sexual intercourse with an infected person.

However, it is possible to get genital herpes from someone with an HSV-1 infection. This also applies to pregnant women as genital herpes can pass down to the child during birth.

As per the WHO, 11% of the global population are infected with HSV-2 while a staggering 67% have HSV-1. This sheds light on how common herpes is and why it should be treated with utmost importance, especially if you’re around an infected person.

Herpes causes

It is important to note that herpes can only passed on through direct contact with an infected person’s sores or fluid from the sores. However, it is contagious, especially since it can also spread via asymptomatic carriers. Here are the major ways one contracts the herpes disease.

  • HSV-1
    • Mainly through oral-to-oral contact
      • Kissing
      • Sharing lip products
      • Sharing eating utensils
    • Oral-genital contact (causes genital herpes)
  • HSV-2
    • Genital-to-genital contact

In rare cases, HSV (HSV-2 or HSV-1) may be transmitted during childbirth (which causes neonatal herpes).

In addition to these, there are other factors that also increase the risk of HSV-2 infection. They are:

      • A weakened immune system
      • Multiple sex partners
      • Engaging in sexual intercourse at a young age
      • Being infected with another sexually transmitted infection

Herpes symptoms

As herpes is still a virus infection, there are a few symptoms that you may experience when infected. In most cases, you’re likely to develop sores on either the mouth or the genitals and these appear anywhere between 2 and 20 days from exposure.

In case of oral herpes, common symptoms are:

      • Nothing (Asymptomatic)
      • Open sores in and around the mouth
      • ‘Cold sores’ on the lips
      • Tingling, itching, or burning prior to the sores appearing

In case of genital herpes, common symptoms are:

      • Nothing (Asymptomatic)
      • Genital/anal blisters or ulcers
      • Tingling or sharp pain before the ulcers appear
      • If due to HSV-1, the symptoms do not normally recur frequently, as is often the case with HSV-2

Besides this, here are the symptoms associated with herpes.

      • Itching
      • Pain during urination
      • Lack of appetite
      • Headaches
      • Fever
      • Swollen lymph nodes
      • Tiredness

In some cases, the infection can also spread to the eyes. This is called herpes keratitis and you may experience eye pain, fluid discharge, or a gritty feeling if you have the condition.

Herpes treatment

As there is no herpes cure, the only solution is to manage the symptoms. Here, there are many options to go with, such as antiviral medication to prevent the virus from multiplying or creams to keep tingling and itching to a minimum. Here are some of the more common herpes treatment options you can rely on if infected.

      • Antiviral medication
      • Herpes creams
      • Pain relief medication
      • Lidocaine creams

In addition to these, there are so a few home remedies and recommendations that can help keep the symptoms in check. Here is a list for reference.

      • Aloe vera gel for sores
      • Corn-starch on infected areas
      • Bathing in salted water
      • Petroleum jelly for sores
      • Wearing loose clothing

Herpes prevention tips

Given how contagious this infection is, prevention should be a priority. To help with that, here are a few smart practices to put in place to keep it from spreading or contracting it yourself.

      • Maintain good person hygiene if in contact with an infected person during an outbreak
      • Do not share objects that have come in contact with the saliva of a patient with HSV-1
      • Avoid kissing if there are active sore in and around the mouth area
      • Refrain from oral sex
      • Abstain from sexual intercourse if symptoms are present

As it can be transmitted sexually, such infections require special care, especially when it comes to herpes. Meaning, you need to be cautious about infecting others and being infected as well. However, in the unfortunate circumstance that you do get infected, you’re now armed with the information on how to manage it and identify symptoms early on. This helps you seek medical treatment early in the infection, thereby ensuring you don’t face any health complications. With the Bajaj Finserv Health app, availing healthcare for the herpes simplex virus is easy, simple and hassle-free.

With it, you can search for the best specialists in your vicinity, book appointments at their clinics online and avail other digital features. Additionally, you can also choose to virtually consult with specialists via video for a more convenient experience. The Bajaj Finserv Health app also allows you to maintain digital patient records and share them with doctors digitally for efficient treatment. To get access to all these features and benefits today, download the app for free on Google Play or the Apple App Store.