Herpes Virus | The Definition With Symptoms & Treatment Options

Herpes is an infectious skin disease that brings with it the occurrence of painful rashes. The same virus causes herpes as smallpox. It is a virus known as varicella-zoster from the group of herpes viruses. As with the other viruses represented in this group, the infection occurs in two phases, the first of which is typical of childhood and brings with it, as we mentioned above, the disease of varicella.

This disease occurs only once in a lifetime, in contrast to herpes, which is the second stage of infection and can recur occasionally. The first symptoms appear mostly on the spine in concentrated clumps-bands, so this disease has earned a distinctive name – herpes. It occurs mainly in middle-aged and older people, but it is not excluded in younger years in exceptional cases.

The first symptoms of herpes most often are:

  • Tingling or painful sensation on the skin;
  • Severe headache or feeling generally sick, dizziness.

What does herpes look like?

You can observe it relatively easily, as it usually manifests itself on the skin. The varicella-zoster virus stays in the nerve nodules of our body, where it survives for a long time. As soon as favorable conditions occur, then small blisters are sown in the areas where the nerve passes under the skin.

Subsequently, a rash appears like a red spot or smudge that forms a cluster of tiny blisters. The skin is irritated and red. This phenomenon usually occurs on the chest and abdomen, but can also occur on the face, limbs, or even the eyes and genitals. The spots become itchy blisters, from which, in most cases, a clear liquid begins to flow out. 

Herpes infection lasts 2 to 4 weeks. Subsequently, the blisters dry out and become scabs, which can leave small scars. High fevers can sometimes complicate the course. The herpes symptoms vary depending on each individual.

Herpes transmission

Herpes is one of the most common human infections, and the number of people infected is rising. The number of people affected by this disease is around 90%, regardless of age or gender!

First of all, it should be noted that the transmission of herpes is not possible because herpes alone is not an infectious disease. However, there are two exceptions, namely:

Pregnant women – contact with the patient endanger the fetus. The virus can be transmitted by the so-called transplacental route from mother to fetus.

People who have not yet survived smallpox may be infected with the virus, and therefore may have an initial stage – smallpox, which is especially dangerous for older people.

Herpes stages

Once infected with the virus, it survives in nerve cells. Due to a triggering factor (such as a weakened immunity), viruses travel to skin cells. Then you will feel itching and burning on the skin.

  • Day 1 – Armor phase, feeling of tension.
  • Day 2 – 3 – Stage of ulcers, herpes rushes to the surface like a bunch of small sores. These are yellowish and contain pus.
  • Day 4 – Sores burst, fluid leaks out. This phase can be very painful.
  • Day 5 – 8 – A scab forms, but often cracks. This can be caused by opening your mouth too much. The scab then itches, burns, blood can also flow out of it.
  • Day 8 – 12 – Herpes gradually disappears, but a red spot or scar may remain.

Oral Herpes – Herpes Simplex

Herpes on the lips, an infectious disease caused by HSV1 and HSV2 viruses, is the most common form of recurrent herpes. Other names for a herpetic infection are fever, greaves, cold shores, and herpes simplex.

Usually, cold sores are relatively mild – with no general symptoms such as fever or muscle aches. Herpes virus infection is common, and recurrence is favored by weakened immunity and stress.

Herpes labialis manifests itself as clusters of pustules and ulcers – usually, there are ulcers, painful blisters on the lips and the corners of the mouth. Additionally, herpetic stomatitis may occur (herpes on the tongue, erosions).

Is it contagious? Yes – the serous fluid from the vesicles is contagious. The herpes virus type 1 (HSV-1) occurs in saliva. Herpes infection can be caught both after direct contact with the affected areas of the mucous membranes (e.g., a kiss) and by using a person infected with herpes from shared dishes or towels (lots of less often – the herpes virus dies after drying and at room temperature).

Once infected, the herpes virus penetrates the mucosa into the blood vessels’ cells, causing inflammation. Exudation and serum fluid may appear at the site of endothelial necrosis. The herpes virus multiplies in vesicles within 5-6 days. After a few days, the immune system reacts to the presence of the herpes virus – vesicles with serous fluid usually burst, the lesions begin to heal.

Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a disease that most people find embarrassing. It is sexually transmitted, and it’s caused by the herpes virus type 2 (HSV-2). It is especially dangerous for pregnant women – it is a direct threat to the fetus.

The disease is the most commonly diagnosed venereal disease. It is caused by the herpes virus type 1 HSV-1 – usually responsible for mouth herpes, but it also affects half of the genital virus cases and HSV-2 virus type 2 – which in turn corresponds to just for the appearance of herpes on the genitals.

Genital herpes is asymptomatic in many people and is passed on to a partner during sex. Possible symptoms are very easy to recognize by a doctor, there may be pain and skin changes in the form of blisters, which are located in the genital area and perineum (both in women and men).

Herpes on penis occurs through contact. It may be sexual contact (also oral and anal). The anus, mouth, and genitals are susceptible to infection because of their humidity. It comes by using the same towels as the carrier or other personal items.

Genital herpes may be asymptomatic or with changes in the skin and mucous membranes. The disease is especially dangerous for pregnant women due to the possibility of transmitting the infection to the fetus, causing serious complications. Full-blown infection during pregnancy may cause intrauterine, perinatal, or postnatal infection of the baby.

In the first trimester of pregnancy, there is a high risk of spontaneous miscarriage in the second trimester – preterm labor or IUGR (intrauterine growth restriction). The first symptoms are:

  • Itching;
  • Burning and stinging;
  • Painful blisters develop.

The blisters that attack the genitals take up to two weeks to rupture eventually and become painful sores. Herpes can also cause lymphadenopathy in the groin, which can be easily felt when touched. In some patients, the disease manifests itself as painful urination, and in women, vaginal discharge may also occur. Genital herpes in women causes ulcers and blisters on the cervix, which develop for up to twenty days and disappear spontaneously, leaving no visible scars.

How to cure herpes?

To reduce the symptoms of herpes as soon as possible, preparations that inhibit the further development of HSV must be used as soon as possible. For this purpose, it is recommended to use zinc-based ointments, any sticks, and patches that not only heal but also help to mask the unsightly lesion on the lips. If you are struggling with a bacterial herpes infection, see a general practitioner who will prescribe a prescription for an appropriate antibiotic.

It is extremely important during convalescence to take care of strengthening the immunity of our body. For this purpose, you need to enrich your meals with vitamin C and B vitamins, take care of the right amount of sleep, a balanced diet, and use preparations with UV filters in the summer.

How to protect yourself from herpes?

The most important rule is to avoid contact with sick people. Make sure you don’t kiss or cuddle a person with herpes and don’t use the same cups, cutlery, or towels. If we are already infected with the herpes virus, let’s take care of our immunity. The virus activates in periods of weakening of the body, so it is worth not to allow colds and if you feel worse, react immediately. 

If we get sick often, it is worth talking to a doctor about appropriate supplementation. Let’s also take care of the skin of the lips. Not only after herpes has been cured, but the epidermis should also be moisturized, and the skin regenerated. Special preparations will help with this problem. 

Regular hydration keeps your lips smooth and full. It is worth protecting yourself against cold sores because it is troublesome (causes pain and discomfort) and looks unsightly and is difficult to mask, even with makeup. As the famous saying goes, also in the case of herpes – prevention is better than cure!

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