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Herpes Simplex - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Herpes simplex is a common viral infection that presents with localised blistering. The virus can spread even when sores are not present. In addition to oral and genital lesions, the virus can also lead to complications such as meningoencephalitis or cause an infection of the eye -- in particular the conjunctiva, and cornea. Mothers can also infect their babies during childbirth. The sores from the primary infection heal completely and rarely leave a scar. However, the virus that caused the infection remains in the body. The virus may be transmitted even in the absence of symptoms or visible lesions. Once the virus is acquired, it spreads to nerve cells and remains dormant. It may intermittently reactivate and cause symptoms. Oral herpes causes cold sores around the mouth or face. The infection can be passed on from someone else with an active infection and it can also be passed on from individuals without symptoms. The virus is shed in saliva and genital secretions, during a clinical attack and for some days or weeks afterwards.

Herpes is contagious if the carrier is producing and releasing virus. Although no cure is yet available, treatments exist which reduce the likelihood of viral shedding. Oral anti-viral medications such as acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir have been developed to effectively treat herpes infections. These medications can be used to treat an outbreak or can be used constantly to suppress herpes recurrences, reduce outbreaks, and spreading by viral shedding. A herpes virus can infect the fetus and cause congenital abnormalities. It may also be transmitted to a newborn during delivery in mothers infected with herpes viruses, particularly if the mother has active infection at the time. Suppressive therapy reduces frequency of symptoms and recurrence of outbreaks. In addition, suppressive therapy reduces subclinical shedding, lowering the risk of transmission through contact or kissing.

Causes of Herpes simplex

Herpes simplex virus 2 is transmitted and is usually associated with genital ulcers or sores -- however individuals may harbor HSV-2 and not have developed any symptoms. The virus is shed in saliva and genital secretions, during a clinical attack and for some days or weeks afterwards. The lesions of both types of herpes simplex, can be spread by touching an unaffected part of the body immediately after touching a herpes lesion.

Common causes and risk factors of Herpes simplex:

  • A herpes simplex virus.
  • Contact, kissing, or other close contact.
  • Menstruation can act as trigger factors,
  • Sun exposure.
  • Physical or emotional stress.

Signs and Symptoms of Herpes simplex

The first symptoms of a herpes simplex infection usually include burning, tingling or itching sensations around the edges of the lips or nose; this is referred to as a prodromal stage. Females may have a discharge. Usually the blisters will disappear without treatment in two to 10 days, but the virus will remain in the body, lying dormant among clusters of nerve cells until another outbreak is triggered. Sores typically come back near the site of the first infection. Usually, as the outbreaks recur, there are fewer sores and they heal faster and are less painful.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • Genital lesions.
  • Fever.
  • Sores near the area where the virus has entered the body.
  • Blisters or ulcers.
  • Lesion begins to heal, usually without scarring.

Treatment for Herpes simplex

Some cases are relatively mild and may not require treatment. Acyclovir has been found to reduce the reproduction of the virus in initial outbreaks, thus possibly lessening the number of subsequent outbreaks. Long-term drug therapy may be helpful for individuals who suffer frequent recurrent outbreaks. Suppressive treatment will reduce outbreaks by 85 percent and reduces viral shedding by more than 90 percent. Topical antibiotic ointments also may be applied to prevent secondary bacterial infections.

Treatment may include:

  • Some cases are relatively mild and may not require treatment.
  • A drug called acyclovir is effective in treating herpes simplex. It must be taken by mouth.
  • Many people have reported significant results with natural treatments such as Dynamiclear, a powerful and effective way to manage this condition.
  • Apply Polysporin ointment to the area once or twice a day to prevent bacterial infection.
  • Oral anti-viral medications such as acyclovir, famciclovir, or valacyclovir have been developed to effectively treat herpes infections.
  • The area should be washed twice a day with a mild soap, such as Dove or Basis.