What are Herpes?

Also known as Herpes Simplex or HSV, herpes is a virus causing contagious sores, most often around the mouth or on the genitals. HSV-1 and HSV-2 are the common types of herpes simplex. This strain of the herpes virus   is diagnosed with the help of a physical exam. The main way in which herpes blisters from HSV-1 or HSV-2 are treated is through antiviral medication taken orally. These include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir which have been shown to be the most effective remedies available for those infected with HSV. Even with all these available treatments, herpes cannot be completely cured. Find out the detailed remedies to curing herpes here..

Herpes Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Herpes Blisters - Causes, Symptoms & Home Treatment

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HSV, otherwise known as the herpes simplex virus, is an infection that results in herpes blisters. Herpes simplex or HSV can appear across various parts of the body and is most commonly seen on the genitals or the mouth. Herpes simplex can be of two types.

  • HSV-1: primarily results in oral herpes, and is typically responsible for fever blisters and cold sores around the mouth as well as on the face.
  • HSV-2: primarily results in genital herpes, and is typically responsible for outbreaks of genital herpes.

Herpes Blisters

Herpes Blisters

Image Source: Health Line

Causes of Herpes Blisters

There are two strains of herpes blister viruses: HSV-1 and HSV-2.

  • Person to person contact:

The herpes simplex virus can be transmitted through direct contact from person to person. It is contagious and children will contract this virus often from early contact with an adult that is infected. Children then carry the virus on them for the rest of their lives.

  • General interactions enable the spread of HSV-1:

Things like eating from the same utensils without washing them thoroughly in between, sharing a lip product like lipstick/chapstick, or any other form of mouth-to-mouth contact can also spread the virus.

  • Sexual contact can enable the spread of HSV-2:

Around 20% of adults that are sexually active in the United States are likely to be infected with HSV-2, as per the American Academy of Dermatology. In fact, HSV-2 infections are spread through contact with a herpes sore. Typically, most people are able to contract HSV-1 from an infected person who does not have sores or is asymptomatic.

When the infected person is experiencing an outbreak, the virus spreads a lot quicker. An estimated 67% of people who are under age 49 are seropositive of HSV-1, although they may never see an outbreak of it within their bodies. It is also possible to contract genital herpes from an HSV-1 stain, especially if someone had cold sores at the time of performing oral sex.

Risk factors for herpes blisters

Regardless of their age, anyone can be infected with HSV and thereby develop herpes blisters. In the case of HSV that is sexually transmitted, people are more at risk when they have sex that is unprotected in nature. Risk factors for HSV-2 include:

  • having sex from a young age

  • having sex with multiple partners

  • having an immune system that is weakened

  • being female

  • having an STI or sexually transmitted infection

At the time of childbirth, if a pregnant woman experiences an outbreak of genital herpes, it can expose the fetus to both HSV-1 and HSV-2, and it might put the baby at risk of serious medical difficulties.

Herpes Symptoms

Whether we look at herpes symptoms in men or herpes symptoms in women, the following signs present themselves. It is crucial to understand that a person will not have any visible symptoms like cold sores, and others, but they can still be infected by either strain of the virus. It is also possible for a person who does not present their symptoms obviously to transmit the virus to other individuals. The following symptoms are observed as part of the infection:

  • blistering sores in the genitals or mouth.

  • in the case of genital herpes, one will experience pain during urination

  • itching

Similar symptoms like those experienced during the flu may also present themselves in many cases. These are:

  • swollen lymph nodes that made swallowing painful

  • fever

  • tiredness

  • headaches

  • a general lack of appetite

HSV can be spread to the eyes, which is a condition that is known as ‘ herpes keratitis. Herpes keratitis results in symptoms like discharge, a gritty feeling in the eye, eye pain.

Herpes in Men

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that affects an estimated 8.2% of males between the ages of 14 and 49. It can be the result of either virus: HSV-1 or HSV-2. Herpes sores appear as tiny, red bumps, or white blisters. Symptoms of genital herpes start out mild, where one could easily mistake it for an ingrown hair or a pimple. Men observe swollen lymph nodes in their groin area, flu-like symptoms like aches and pains, and itching and pain in their genitals.

Herpes in Women

Women experience genital herpes with similar symptoms as men. There are cold or flu-like symptoms, in addition to itching, painful ulcers in the genital area, and a tingling or burning sensation in the skin on the affected area. In most cases, the infection spreads to involve the cervix, leading to a condition where it becomes inflamed known as cervicitis. In some women, cervicitis can potentially become the only sign of genital herpes infection. The infection and inflammation of the urethra accompanies infection in certain women, leading to pain when one urinates.

How to diagnose herpes blisters?

This strain of the herpes virus — herpes simplex — is diagnosed with the help of a physical exam. Your doctor will check your body for sores as well as asking you about some of your symptoms. Your doctor may also request HSV testing, which is known as a herpes culture. This will confirm whether or not you have herpes blisters on your genitals by testing a fluid sample from the sore in a laboratory. Alternatively, one can also take a blood test to look for samples of HSV-1 and HSV-2 to aid in diagnosing these infections. This is particularly helpful when no sores are present.

Herpes Blisters Treatment

The main way in which herpes blisters from HSV-1 or HSV-2 are treated is through antiviral medication taken orally. These include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir which have been shown to be the most effective remedies available for those infected with HSV. Keep in mind that each of these medications can help to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms, but cannot cure the infection.

Herpes Blisters Home Remedies

The following home remedies can help in soothing the pain and swelling of an HSV infection.

  • Warm compress: As soon as you feel a sore forming, it may be useful to apply heat to it. Heat can help in minimizing the pain and swelling.

  • Cool Compress: Another way to reduce swelling is to apply a cool compress. Apply a clean soft washcloth or an ice pack to the affected area, and repeat every four hours.

  • Baking soda/Cornstarch paste: Applying a paste of water made of baking soda or cornstarch can also aid in drying out lesions and relieving itching.

  • Topical Garlic: Garlic is known to be anti-inflammatory. Dilute garlic cloves in olive oil overnight, and apply this mixture to sores to aid in reducing the inflammation.

Herpes Blisters Prevention

  • People who already have HSV-1 infection are not at risk of getting it again, but they are still at risk of acquiring herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) genital infection.

  • Those with any active symptoms of oral herpes should ensure they avoid oral contact with others, including sharing objects that have contact with saliva.

  • They should also abstain from oral sex, to avoid transmitting herpes to the genitals of a sexual partner.

  • Individuals with symptoms of genital herpes should abstain from sexual activity whilst experiencing any of the symptoms.

  • Pregnant women with symptoms of genital herpes should inform their health care providers.

The Bottom Line

Although there isn’t a herpes cure yet, herpes treatment focuses on getting rid of the sores and the infection. And, while you take care of your health by closely monitoring the signs and symptoms, ensure you cover yourself financially by getting health insurance

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