Herpes simplex is a disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. The virus may affect different parts of the body, and this lends itself to each name: oral herpes, genital herpes, etc. Symptoms, therefore, depend on which part of the body is affected, but it usually results in blistering and inflammation at some point. Currently, there are no medications to cure herpes simplex, but drugs do exist that control the rate of viral reproduction.
Herpes Simplex Drugs
Herpes Simplex Symptoms
Symptoms depend on whether the patient has oral or genital herpes. The following list of symptoms is, with this in mind, not intended to be exhaustive:
- Itching and Burning
- Painful Sores
- Flu-like Symptoms
Flu-like symptoms – such as fever and chills – typically emerge on first exposure to the virus. In oral herpes, painful sores tend to erupt around the mouth and sometimes within the oral cavity and back of the throat. These sores render it difficult to eat and drink without discomfort. The sores also ooze after 3-5 days, which may spread the infection further. Tingling, itching and burning around these sores is also expected.
Herpes Simplex Causes
The herpes simplex infection may be caused through one, or a combination of, the following means:
- Unprotected sex
- Latent infection with HSV
The herpes simplex virus has two main strains: HSV-1 and HSV-2. The former, HSV-1, is typically implicated in oral herpes, whereas HSV-2 is predominantly implicated in anogenital herpes. Unprotected sex is one of the most common modes of transmission from one person to another, and remains one of the leading causes of infection.
Individuals may also have herpes simplex virus latent within their body. When the body undergoes stress in some form – such as dehydration – it may bring out this latent infection. Finally, the infection may be passed from mother to baby. This is particularly true if the mother has become infected close to birth.
Herpes Simplex Diagnosis
There are numerous ways to diagnose herpes simplex infection, some of which include:
- Clinical examination
- Presence of sores
- Serological tests
For oral herpes, clinical examination is often sufficient. This involves examining the nature and distribution of sores around, or inside, the mouth. Serological tests are slowly becoming more and more popular as a way of determining which strain of herpes simplex is involved. This may be necessary for genital herpes, which is more difficult to diagnose as its symptoms often mimic other dermatological ailments in that part of the body.
Herpes Simplex Treatment
Currently, there are no medications to eliminate the virus from the body. However, medicines do exist that control the rate of viral load – meaning the body can eliminate the infection slightly quicker than normal. Treatment options with herpes simplex include:
- Use of antiviral medications
- Use of analgesics
- Use of dietary supplements
- Supportive management
If the infection is severe enough, antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, may be prescribed. These may be prescribed for the first presentation of the infection, such as with herpetic gingivostomatitis when symptoms are most severe. Subsequent exposure to the virus tends to only produce mild to moderate symptoms. Analgesics may assist with pain while the use of dietary supplements – such as Echinacea and zinc – may reduce symptoms.