What is herpes simplex virus?
Herpes simplex is a common viral infection that causes cold sores. Most cold sores are caused by HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus type 1), which results in oral/mouth herpes. HSV-2 results in genital herpes, but both HSV-1 and 2 can cause a herpes sore on the face or genitals.
What are the causes?
Since this is a viral infection, it is spread from person to person through close contact. You can get herpes simplex from touching a herpes sore or through sexual contact. Having said that, most people get the infection from an infected person who does not have sores. Doctors call this “asymptomatic viral shedding.”
Once you become infected with a herpes virus, it will never leave your body. After the first outbreak, the virus moves from the skin cells to nerve cells, where the virus stays forever. From that point, the virus will cycle through stages of being dormant and active. Triggers that cause the virus to flare up include illness, fever, stress, menstrual periods, surgery, and sun exposure.
What are the signs and symptoms?
Many people who get the herpes simplex virus never experience any signs or symptoms. If you do, you may notice:
- Itching, burning, or tingling
- Oral herpes (HSV-1)
- Genital herpes (HSV-2)
- Herpes keratitis (an eye infection)
- Problems urinating and/or burning during urination
- Flu-like symptoms
If you do develop oral herpes, you can expect to experience signs and symptoms for 2-3 weeks. For genital herpes, the first outbreak usually lasts for 2-6 weeks.
How is it treated?
We encourage you to schedule a consultation at Dermatology & Skin Health so that a board-certified dermatologist can diagnose your condition. To confirm that a patient has herpes simplex, we can take a swab from a sore and send it to a lab. When sores are not present, a blood test can detect the virus.
There is no cure for this virus, but the sores will often clear without treatment. However, treatments can relieve symptoms and shorten the outbreak. Most patients are treated with antiviral medicine. Ointments and cream can relieve the itching, burning, or tingling. Pills or a shot can short an outbreak of herpes.
Daily medication can lessen the frequency and severity of outbreaks. They can also help infected people from spreading the virus.
Schedule treatments in New Hampshire or Massachusetts
If you suffer from herpes simplex or feel you may be suffering from it, schedule a consultation at Dermatology & Skin Health. We are located in Dover, NH, Newington, NH and Peabody, MA. Book your appointment online or give us a call at (603) 742-5556 (Dover & Newington) or (978) 525-0100 (Peabody).