Herpes infection is indeed a debilitating problem, not just for the painful sores, but because of the fact that there is no cure for it as such. Therapeutic intervention is concentrated on soothing the pain, quick healing, and reducing recurrent outbreaks. Here’s more…
Herpes is used to represent the viral strains of the Herpesviridae family, or the viral disease caused by herpes. It is characterized by the eruption of skin blisters and sores on specific areas of the body. An outbreak is self-limiting, meaning that the painful sores will heal on their own after completion of successive stages. But, the virus retains in the body and reactivates under certain conditions. Do not confuse herpes simplex virus with herpes zoster virus, which is responsible for causing chickenpox and shingles.
What is Herpes?
Herpes infection is classified into two types depending upon the site of blister eruption. Oral herpes is named so, because painful cold sores are present in and around the mouth, while similar looking sores are developed in the genital region in genital herpes. The two virulent strains are herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). For most cases, the former is the causal pathogen behind oral herpes, while the latter results in genital herpes. However, both strains are virulent for causing oral and genital herpes.
What Does it Look Like?
The symptoms of herpes resemble other skin symptoms, which often leads to confusion at the time of diagnosis. The outbreak is more painful and severe the first time around. The condition begins with a tingling sensation and rash-like signs. The affected area becomes red and swells slightly, which further worsens with outbreaks of fluid-filled, transparent, cream or yellowish colored blisters. While oral herpes can be identified from the cluster of sores developed on the lips and other facial parts, genital herpes is very difficult to diagnose. Genital herpes is rarely manifested as sore outbreaks, hence many people stay ignorant of the infection and do not seek immediate treatment.
Is There a Cure?
A major concern with herpes is that the causal pathogen remains in the nerve cells of infected people for the rest of their life. It enters the latent phase, wherein, there are no infection signs. Under favorable conditions, the virus reactivates and spreads to parts of the body, resulting in recurrent sore outbreaks. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition. The vaccines for HSV infections are still underway.
The worst part is that the pathogen is transmittable from one infected person to another healthy individual. In short, herpes is contagious, and transmission takes place via direct contact with open sores and bodily fluid. HSV is most contagious, when the blisters are open and fluid oozes out from them. Of the two cases, the occurrence statistics of oral herpes are more than the genital herpes. This is mainly because of the increased risks of passing virulent pathogen through touching of the sores, kissing, and sharing personal belongings.
Genital herpes, on the other hand, is spread from an infected sexual partner to the other. Also, a pregnant mother having genital sores during delivery can spread herpes virus to her baby. With timely treatment, the painful symptoms of herpes simplex virus infection can be managed effectively. Therapeutic intervention is also proceeded to quicken the healing process. When left for natural healing, complete recovery may take somewhere from 14 – 21 days for primary outbreaks. Incidences of recurrent herpes flare-ups are less serious, and they also heal quickly.
The antiviral drugs that are popularly used for treatment include acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir. Actual treatment options are decided with respect to the type of sore outbreak. Like for instance, treatment for a primary outbreak requires antiviral therapy for one week or more, according to the severity of the infection. In case of reactivation, the purported therapeutic approaches are episodic treatment (taking antiviral pill during flare-ups only) and suppressive treatment (taking antiviral pill everyday).
Since there is no cure for this viral disease, prevention is the only practical solution to avoid painful sore eruptions. Also, infected persons must adopt precautionary measures during and after the sore outbreaks to minimize the risks of transmitting the virus to others.