What is herpes?
Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, a virus which affects the genitals and the cervix, as well as other skin areas. This virus is known as the herpes simplex virus or HSV. It comes in two types – HSV 1, which causes sores around the mouth and lips which are sometimes called fever blisters or cold sores; and HSV 2 where an infected person generally may have sores in the genital and rectum areas.
Herpes is extremely contagious and passes from one person to another very easily. The HSV 1 virus is usually passed on by close contact with another person like kissing, or even touching the skin, sharing a razor, or lip balm. You can also pick it up if you come into contact with a child’s fever blister or cold sore.
HSV-2 is generally transmitted during sexual intercourse. However, if someone who has a cold sore performs oral sex, HSV 1 can spread to the genitals.
Who gets herpes?
There are no distinctions – anyone and everyone can get herpes. Most people seem to pick up the HSV-1 as an infant or a child as it is generally spread by skin-to-skin contact with an adult who carries the virus. An infected adult does not need to have sores to spread the virus. A kiss, sharing a towel, or even eating from the same utensil easily passes on the infection to another.
HSV-2, infection in the genital or anus area, is passed on during sex. This is especially common if one or other of the partners have blisters or sores in those areas. The use of a condom will help, but not necessarily offer full protection as a condom might move, leaving you open to passing on or picking up the virus.
Are some people more likely to get HSV-2 than others?
Some folk are more sexually active than others, and these are the people who would be more prone to picking up genital herpes. This would include those who:
- Became sexually active at a youngish age.
- Have presently another sexually transmitted disease, or have had in the past.
- Have had several different sexual partners.
- Have a weakened immune system due to disease or poor diet.
Some common symptoms HSV-2, (genital herpes)
It is quite possible that you may not notice the symptoms of having contracted the herpes virus. This is mainly because sometimes the outbreak of first symptoms might take months to appear. However, the infection is still able to be passed on.
It is also likely that you could experience some of the following symptoms as rapidly as in a few days:
- Itchiness or burning in genital and anus areas.
- Appearance of red, raw areas, and small blisters that break open and lead to painful sores in genital area.
- These could also manifest on the top of the thighs, buttocks or rectal areas.
- A female can experience pain when urinating over open sores.
- Possible fever, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue.
- Cold sores around the mouth or blisters on other skin areas.
Is treatment available for the herpes virus?
Herpes is classified as a chronic condition, which in medical terms means long term. Symptoms do not generally last for long periods, but severe symptoms can be treated by prescribed medication from a medical practitioner, such as anti-viral medicine, which will offer some relief. Mild symptoms could be treated by keeping the affected areas clean by using plain water with added salt to prevent blisters or sores from becoming further infected. Application of a disinfecting lotion or a warm bath containing Epsom salts will also be good.
Good news and bad news
The bad news is that once you have been infected with the herpes simplex virus, it never leaves your body!
The good news is that for the most part, outward symptoms do not last long, and the virus lies dormant for 99% of the time. It only flares up when your immune system is not functioning as it should.
Here are some issues which can compromise your immune system and set off a herpes flare-up.
- Menstrual periods
- Poor lifestyle habits, and a poor diet which is low in healthy nutrients
Unless there is a severe outbreak of genital herpes (HSV-2) which manifests as raw areas, sores, and blisters, sexual activity is not generally affected. However, it is advisable to refrain from sex while the sores and blisters are evident, as intercourse may spread the infection which could then take longer to heal.
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