Herpes affects 1 in five people in American. Approximately 80,000 people are thought to have active cases and 50 to 80 percent of all adults have had oral herpes at some time in their life. Herpes is causes by a virus. Herpes simples one causes oral herpes and genital herpes is generally caused by herpes simplex two.
Herpes is transmitted by skin contact. Contact such as kissing and sexual intercourse can spread the disease. Herpes simplex one which causes oral herpes, more commonly known as a cold sore, can also be passed by oral sexual contact when an active lesion is present on the mouth.
The initial herpes infection develops two to twenty days after exposure. It may be so mild as to go unnoticed especially in people who have some immunity due to previous facial herpes or cold sores. In some suffers the initial outbreak causes fever, chills, malaise, swollen glands and headaches. It may present as an almost flu like illness but the sufferer will also have painful genital lesions. Generally subsequent outbreaks are not as debilitating though the genital lesions can be very painful. People with mild herpes outbreaks may mistake herpes for urinary tract infections, jock itch, insect bites or some other mild condition.
Diagnosis is made by visual inspection by your doctor and a culture of an open lesion. Symptoms of herpes can occur randomly with no particular pattern. Stress, poor diet, illness, steroid usage and surgical procedure can increase risk of outbreaks. Exposure to excessive ultraviolet light increases out breaks of oral herpes lesions. Warning symptoms which indicate the virus is becoming active include itching, tingling numbness, burning general fatigue, flu-like symptoms, fever, and swelling of the lymph nodes in the area of outbreak. Painful urination may also occur.
Herpes can be transmitted by infected persons even when they are showing no obvious symptoms of an outbreak. The HSV 1 and HSV 2 have been found to be released from skin that has no obvious open lesions or sores. Such asymptomatic viral shedding makes risk of spreading the herpes infection possible at any time. It’s possible for a person to even be unaware they have the disease in cases with mild or absent symptoms. Herpes can also be spread from mother to infant during vaginal delivery or in cases of early amniotic fluid rupture. If a mother to be is aware she has herpes she should relay that information to her doctor so appropriate precautions can be taken to protect her baby. The use of condoms decreases the possibility of transmission but doesn’t totally eradicate it. The only sure way to prevent transmission is to be in a monogamous relationship with a partner that has been tested and is free f the disease. There is no treatment that can cure herpes, but antiviral medications can shorten and prevent outbreaks.
Treatment regimens include episodic therapy and suppressive therapy. Acyclovir ointment (brand name Zovirax) and Penciclovir cream (brand name Denavir) are often prescribed. Oral acyclovir is used daily as a suppressive therapy. Improving overall health through good diet, rest and exercise can decrease episodes. Some studies have found increasing lysine and zinc in the diet may decrease outbreaks. Propolis a waxy substance honeybees make, lemon balm, tea tree oil and the herb prunella vulgaris are alternative medicine treatments that have shown some effectiveness in decreasing outbreaks.
Herpes is an emotionally trying disorder for which there is no known cure. Treatment is aimed at decreasing outbreaks and discomfort. If you think you have herpes you should abstain from sexual contact and see your doctor.