What Is Herpes? Know Its Types, Causes, Signs And Treatment From A Dermatologist

Updated at: Jan 15, 2021
 What Is Herpes? Know Its Types, Causes, Signs And Treatment From A Dermatologist

Herpes is a virus that causes blisters on mouth or genitals. Check out the types, causes, signs, diagnosis and treatment of this infection. Read on.

Navya Kharbanda
Other DiseasesWritten by: Navya KharbandaPublished at: Jan 15, 2021

Herpes is an infection that is caused by a herpes simplex virus which is also known as HSV. It causes blisters or sores on different parts of your body, mostly your mouth or genitals. Anyone can get infected by HSV, regardless of age or sex. A person is at risk from any exposure to this infection. In cases of sexually transmitted HSV, people are more at risk when they have unprotected sex. However, one has to know that sometimes, a patient may not have visible sores or any other signs and still be infected by the virus. And, then also there is a huge risk of transferring the virus to others. Herpes can be irritating and painful, but does not lead to any serious health problem. It is a common infection that might happen to children as well as adults and may even stay in your body for life, but some medicines are given to prevent the spread. Onlymyhealth editorial team spoke to Dr. Navya Handa, Consultant Dermatologist, Max Shalimar Bagh, about the types, causes, signs, diagnosis and treatment of herpes.

Types of herpes

There are 8 types of herpes, called HHV-1, HSV-2, HSV-3, HSV-4, HSV-5, HSV-6, HSV-7 and HHV-8. The first two types don't even have any cures but can be prescribed with anti viral drugs. Oral herpes mostly cause genital heroes. ccording to Dr. Navya, the 3 most common types of herpes are:

1. HSV-1


Most of the people have this common type of virus. It can affect the mouth, lips or even genitals. Many people are asymptomatic even after catching the infection. Usually, herpes on the lips are the ones visible and are the most common type. Then, there is genital herpes which can spread through sexual contact. So, one has to be very careful in making any kind of contact with anyone.

2. HSV-2

HSV-2 is the second most common type of herpes. Like HSV-1, it is also contagious and can spread through direct skin to skin contact. Many people may won't even experience any symptoms with this virus. HSV-2 usually causes genital herpes. It  spreads through sexual intercourse and is more common in women that men. In very rare cases, HSV-2 can spread from the genitals to the mouth and may cause oral herpes.

Also read: 4 Types of Viral Skin Infections And Their Characteristics For Timely Diagnosis And Treatment

3. HSV-3

Apart from this there is known as herpes zoster, the chickenpox virus is the one that causes it. They are very painful and they occur only on one side. For example, if they happen on the left side of my face it will not cross my right side. And, usually herpes regions are small blisters that occur in groups. It is very common in elderly and immuno suppressive patients. Moreover, cancer patients and diabetics are also at a greater risk. Chicken pox virus stays in our nerves. So, almost anybody who had chickenpox, in any stressful situation, people can tend to get the herpes zoster infection. It spreads easily from one person to another person but it is not communicable through sexual contact. The only major problem with this virus is that it is very painful and even if the person is cured, even after 15-20 days, the pain may persist.

Herpes virus causes

As mentioned above, herpes is an infection that is caused by a herpes simplex virus. Dr. Navya said, "A person can get infected if they come in contact with a person who is suffering from herpes. A lot of times, people have fluid filled blisters around their lips, so if we are using a glass shared by a person having active herpes infection, then we can also get infected." Glass used by a person with active herpes infection, and the other person uses it without washing it or direct contact through kissing or using the same cosmetics like lipstick of a person with active herpes, so it can also transfer from one person to another. A triggering factor is stress, because herpes virus or any viruses tend to stay in the body.

So, if you are a person who already got an infection,  recurrence will happen when they are in stress. So, herpes can spread through skin to skin contact, especially through kissing and vaginal sex. There are no particular root causes of herpes. Herpes is caused by a virus so it is transmitted from an infected person to another person. Somebody who is already having herpes, then stress may trigger the virus. Secondly, people infected with herpes, the regions tend to come back again and again like due to stress, fever, cold, etc. Herpes is highly contagious when the blisters are open or wet.

Also read: Useful Home Remedies To Get Rid Of Fever Blisters Or Cold Sores


Herpes symptoms

As per Dr. Handa, herpes results from infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It causes sores or blisters to form in or around the mouth or genitals, as well as other symptoms. You may have itchy and painful blisters that come and go from time to time. Firstly, It can happen many times and  generally when it starts, people get mild fever and blisters will occur like over lips, inside mouth and throat. So, it might cause irritation, pain and burning sensation as well. This all usually happens when you get herpes for the first time, next time the infection is milder and with medication the infection will go away on its own. Moreover, it is not as painful as the first time but recurrence of the infection can happen due to any triggers. One may also have a feeling of fatigue or being unwell. During a recurrence, the days of actual herpes symptoms reduce.

Herpes diagnosis

According to Dr. Navya, mostly, it is a clinical diagnosis and 99 percent times tests are not needed as it has a classical appearance (blisters clustered in a group). The infection's span of time depends if it is a primary infection, then it can take up to 7- 12 days. But, post that healing, it also takes 1-2 weeks to heal fully. In fact, it also depends on the site, as if it happens in the eyes, throat or genital area, then it takes a long time to recover.

Also read: Protect Your Eyes from Eye Herpes

Herpes treatment

antiviral drugs

Anti-viral drugs like valacyclovis are given. However, antibiotics mostly don't work in this infection. The anti-viral drugs prevent the spread and sometimes anti-viral ointments are also prescribed by the doctor. People who don’t maintain good hygiene should also start doing otherwise. There is no absolute herpes treatment but the signs can be reduced through medication. One should avoid certain recurrence triggers like stress and too much sun exposure. If a person uses antiviral medicine, then the symptoms may reduce 1-2 days more quickly than getting not treated at all. Medication may also reduce the severity of symptoms. For pain and sore irritation relief, you can apply petroleum jelly or take a warm water bath. In fact, some people also say that ice packs make them feel better. However, don't forget to wrap a cloth around it before applying.

So, these were the types, symptoms, causes, diagnosis and treatment for herpes by Dr. Navya Handa. If you experience any of the above mentioned symptoms, then you should definitely visit a dermatologist for further diagnosis and treatment. You can prevent herpes by simple tips like having protected sexual intercourse, avoiding sex while having any symptoms, avoiding kissing with a sore mouth or lip and washing the hands regularly.

Read more articles on Other diseases


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