What is the cause of Herpes Infections?
Herpes is caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV) and can be divided into two types: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Genital herpes is most commonly caused by HSV-2 and oral herpes is most commonly caused by HSV-1.
What is Genital Herpes?
Genital Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affects around 25% of the sexually active population in the UK. This rate is low compared to many other areas of the world.
What are the symptoms of Genital Herpes?
Genital herpes typically affects the genitals, buttocks and anal area. The first noticeable outbreak often occurs 2-10 days after exposure to an infected partner although the first attack can occur much later.
Symptoms of primary infections (the first outbreak) can include:
The disease lies dormant in the nerves after an infection. Recurrence occurs when the disease travels from the nerve back to the skin. The frequency of recurrence varies from person to person but the disease can recur several times a year. Over time, recurrences typically decrease in frequency.
Symptoms of recurrent infections include; burning, tingling and pain are early warning signs. These can be followed by similar symptoms to those experienced during a primary infection but generally less severe and less painful.
Who is at risk of getting Genital Herpes?
Those more likely to get genital herpes include:
What is the treatment for Genital Herpes?
Herpes is a self-limiting infection, which means that it can resolve on its own without treatment. Although there is no cure for herpes, several medications are available for symptomatic relief and to reduce frequency and severity of outbreaks.
Some find it helpful to keep a diary to track frequency and severity of recurrences and assist the doctor in determining how to approach treatment.
Some of the treatments available include:
How can Genital Herpes be prevented?
Ongoing therapy may be needed if you experience at least 6 attacks a year. It can reduce the frequency of attacks as well as the chance you might infect others when you have no symptoms. Aciclovir is the usual treatment and should be discontinued and reassessed every 12 months to determine if preventative therapy is still needed since the frequency of recurrences typically decreases over time.
What is Oral Herpes
Oral herpes is often acquired in childhood by contact with oral secretions that contain the virus. In the UK, around 25% of the population have been infected by the age of 15 and 50% have been infected by age 30. It is prevalent in 70% of people in developed countries and 100% of people in developing countries.
What are the symptoms of Oral Herpes?
Oral herpes often leads to cold sores around the mouth or face.
What is the treatment for Oral Herpes?
How can Oral Herpes be prevented?
Triggers can include stress, trauma, sunlight, menstruation, and immunosuppression. Those who are obese are at increased risk of infection.
Further information about Herpes Infections:
Children, pregnant women or those with HIV require specialists to evaluate their condition and treatment of HSV-2
Crossover can occur so that HSV-1 can infect the genitals and HSV-2 can infect the mouth. This commonly occurs with oral sex. When crossover occurs, the infection is often less severe with fewer or no recurrences as the virus finds it more difficult to thrive in a new environment, especially HSV-2.