A Guide To Understanding Herpes

Herpes is a virus, not a bacterial infection. A virus is small piece of nucleic acid which, when inside the cells of a living organism, begins to self-replicate. Herpes falls into this category. So far, only two types of herpes virus have been identified, type 1 or herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1) and type 2, herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV2).

These two strains affect the genitals and other areas of the human body, such as the lips. In this article, we will dive deep into each type and how it affects the body, the symptoms of each strain and possible treatment methods.

HSV type 2 is known as genital herpes, and affects any area below the waistline. HSV type 1 affects areas of the body above the waistline, most commonly the lips. HSV1 is most commonly observed in the form of a cold sore, and it estimated that around 90% of the population carry this strain.

However, an individual with HSV1 can transmit the virus to another person’s genitals through physical contact, ie oral sex. A person with HSV2 will observe sores in the genital area and anus. The most common form of transmission of HSV2 is via physical contact during oral, anal and vaginal intercourse. Sores in the mouth can develop, increasing the risk of spreading the virus via saliva.

Symptoms of the herpes virus can fluctuate from one extreme to another. Many herpes carries observe no symptoms at all. According to medical research, almost 1 in 4 Americans carry the HSV2 virus, yet 80% of these people don’t even know they have the virus. This is because the carrier is not showing any noticeable symptoms. However, severe symptoms can the very painful and very distressing.

The early signs of an outbreak may in fact, be some muscular pain. Most people don’t link this to a herpes outbreak, instead putting it down to a pulled muscle or physical exercise. However, it is important at this point to try and think back a little and ask yourself, is there really a reason why my muscles are aching? If not, this is an early warning sign of an outbreak, and will provide you with precious time to help prepare.

The next physical symptom may be sores which typically manifest 1-7 days later. The sores first appear as red bumps which then become watery, red blisters. They can be quite painful, especially due to chafing. The sores eventually open and ooze fluid, and can take anywhere between 10-20 days to heal. Passing water can be painful also. Other symptoms herpes can display include feverish, flu type symptoms and headaches.

Treatment methods for herpes vary dramatically. Simple, small changes such as frequent washing and bathing, meticulous drying and changing your underwear to cotton only will help you to see a difference. Other treatment methods involve anti-viral medications, such as Zovirax, Famvir or Voltrex. These are prescription drugs which you can only obtain through your doctor. While these drugs are effective at clearing away an outbreak, their side effects can be unpleasant, including fatigue, stomach cramps/pains, and even some hair loss. If used long term, these anti-viral medications can begin to damage the liver, and should not be used for more than 12 months.

However, there are natural remedies available which are proven to prevent the risk of future outbreaks. There is no known cure for herpes, and once it has entered our body, the virus will always be with us. What we can do, is take preventative measures to stop further outbreaks occurring. This will involve some lifestyle changes, such as dietary changes and relaxation techniques. However, the benefits are well worth this.

Did you know that stress increases the risk of a new herpes outbreak? Learning to handle stressful situations and avoiding additional stress is something to consider.