Herpes is a viral infection that is contagious and caused by the HSV (herpes simplex virus). Once you have been infected by this virus, your skin will experience sores and blisters more so around the mouth, buttocks, genitals and nose. Although it is a generally mild infection, it is irritating because those blisters are painful, itchy and periodically recur.
There are 2 types of herpes namely:
- Type 1 (oral herpes) causes blisters on your face or mouth and referred to as fever blisters or cold sores.
- Type 2 (genital herpes) affects your anal area and genitals and is commonly referred to as genital herpes; it is also sexually transmitted (STI).
This viral infections cause painful genital areas or mouth blisters. It has no cure and permanently remains in your body once you have been infected. Herpes is also potentially fatal and can cause a serious condition especially if you have a weak immune system (for example in pregnant women and newborns). Fortunately, there are antiviral medications available that reduce outbreaks and alleviate symptoms. You can tell whether you have herpes or not by checking whether the symptoms you have match those of herpes.
Symptoms of Herpes
Please first note that your healthcare provider is the only one who can diagnose herpes. They will do so by performing tests on you and by taking you through a physical exam. A blood test will tell whether you have been infected by herpes and which type it is (if it is type 1 or type 2 herpes) even with the absence of symptoms. The healthcare provider can also use the fluid in the sores to confirm the herpes infection.
If you have sores and think they might be herpes, you need to visit a hospital soonest possible. It is vital that you confirm that they are as a result of herpes because there are other infections that are sexually transmitted that tend to imitate herpes sores. A good example is syphilis. Below are the symptoms of two types of herpes:
Oral Herpes Symptoms
It is a contagious disease that spreads through any form of oral contact; be it smooching, kissing or sharing drinking glasses. The blisters or cold sores often burst leading to scarring even if a person is undergoing treatment for herpes. Oral herpes can be painful.
Other symptoms are:
- white tongue coating
- red & swollen gums
- muscle aches
- swollen neck glands
Note: the symptoms do not appear soon after infection. It may take days, weeks or years after infection for them to appear.
Genital Herpes Symptoms
People with genital herpes normally get it as a result of having unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person. Expectant mothers who have genital herpes can pass it on to the unborn children thereby causing seizures, meningitis, mental retardation or blindness. This type of herpes affects the scrotum, penis, anus and buttocks.
Symptoms of genital herpes are
- ulceration & blisters on the cervix
- pain when urinating
- vaginal discharge
- sores that ooze blood or liquid
- lymph nodes that are swollen
- A painful or itchy sensation on the private parts
Treatments and Preventions for Oral Herpes
Even though herpes has no cure, treatments can relieve the symptoms. Medication can decrease the pain related to an outbreak and can shorten healing time.
- Use ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, and Excedrin) or acetaminophen (Panadol, Tylenol) for muscle aches and fever. For children, parents should consult their pediatrician before using any un-prescribed drugs especially those that contain acetaminophen.
- Prevent dehydration by drinking lots of fluids.
- Avoid making contact with lesions and their secretion.
- Use Aloe Vera gel, mint leaves and cornstarch paste to hasten or ease recovery.
- Use topical anesthetics like viscous lidocaine (Zilactin-L, Nervocaine, Dilocaine, and Xylocaine) for pain relief.
- For those with weak immune systems, IV or oral medication can be recommended by a doctor.
- Apply topical acyclovir/penciclovr creams when early detection has been made.
Treatments and Preventions for Genital Herpes
To reduce chances of infection, you should always use protection during sexual intercourse. However, using condoms does not fully guarantee you that your partner will not be infected. This is because the condom only covers one area. Therefore, if you have blisters or sores in other areas like the anus, chances of infecting your partner are still high. Also, those who have been using antiviral medications for a prolonged duration have reduced risks of infecting others with the herpes virus.
Recurrence of herpes is less frequent as time goes by. Below are some treatments and Preventions for Genital Herpes:
- Antiviral medications such as Valacyclovir (Valtrex), Acyclovir (Zovirax) and Famciclovir (Famvir) are used to help fast healing of sores, lessen the duration and severity of symptoms, reduce recurrence frequency and also minimize chances of herpes virus transmitting to another.
- Painkillers like paracetamol ease pain.
- Anesthetic ointment like lidocaine 5% relieves pain and itching. Vaseline is also an alternative to those applying ointment before passing urine.
- An ice pack wrapped in tea towels can be placed on the sores to soothe them. Do this for about ten to fifteen minutes.
- Drinking lots of water will make the urine more dilute and hence lessen the pain of passing urine.
- Proper hygiene can also relieve the symptom. Make sure your genitals are properly cleaned and dried. You should avoid bubble baths, scented soaps etc to avoid irritation. Clean the sores using cotton wool with salty or plain water.
- Avoiding passing the infection is also very important. Avoid sexual contact until the blisters and sores have cleared and until you've gotten the go ahead from your doctor.
- Wearing cotton garments that are loose-fitting can also help prevent the condition from becoming worse. DO NOT wear synthetic or nylon pantyhose, pants or underwear.