Scientifically Proven Ways To Identify And Treat Herpes
Herpes is a viral infection caused by herpes simplex viruses, divided into Herpes Simplex Virus 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV-2).
The World Health Organization estimates that 3.7 billion people below 50 years have HSV-1 infection while 439 million people aged between 15–49 years have HSV-2 disease globally. Both viruses are prominent in infected individuals’ body fluids such as saliva, semen, and vagina secretions.
HSV-1 is primarily transmitted via the oral route like kissing an infected and it is mostly responsible for oral herpes, which manifests commonly as cold sores. Also, HSV- 1 causes genital herpes when the virus is contracted through oral to genital transmission during oral sex.
HSV-2 is the major cause of genital herpes which is a sexually transmitted disease.
Infection with HSV-1 is associated with psychosocial stress due to stigma and HSV-2 infection carries a higher risk of neonatal herpes due to mother-to-child transmission during childbirth.
Herpes infection is often asymptomatic in infected individuals who are simply carriers and transmitters of the virus. The herpes simplex virus remains dormant in nerve cells surrounding the point of entry into the body.
The appearance of blisters or sores is called an outbreak. An outbreak may be preceded by tingling, itching or burning sensations around the mouth or genitals.
Outbreaks are often precipitated any of the following conditions:
Physical or psychological stress
Physical trauma to the affected part.
The initial outbreak varies in terms of duration and severity. Individuals may be prone to recurrent episodes if they are continuously exposed to the trigger factors above.
Here are general and specific symptoms of herpes infection:
Painful blisters or sores appear in the mouth or genitals: Common areas where these blisters appear are the lips, face, vagina, penis, and around the anus.
These blisters are fluid-filled swellings that can be single or multiple and may burst open to release the contained fluid laden with the herpes simplex virus. Consequently, the open sores evolve into ulcers in the mouth or genitals. You can take pain-relieving drugs like acetaminophen to reduce the pain.
Infected areas in the mouth must be kept dry to prevent bacterial infection and put on cotton underwear to absorb moisture thereby keeping the genital area dry. These sores are also called fever blisters and may recur frequently depending on the person’s immunological status.
Headaches and body aches also can be relieved by pain killers.
Fever can be managed using Ibuprofen. However, fever is not so common.
Genital ulcers cause a burning sensation while urinating in some infected people.
Genital herpes is caused by HSV-2 majorly which is transmitted during unprotected sexual exposure with an infected person. Genital herpes symptoms in infected males appear as blisters on the penis and around the scrotum while in females, it manifests as sores in the vagina or around the anus.
Genital herpes affects infected partners’ sexual life because sexual activity may be reduced due to the fear of transmitting the virus. A study done in Indiana revealed that 80% of HSV-infected women who participated in the study abstained from sex when they were initially diagnosed with HSV infection.
Also, some infected individuals may develop psychological feelings of depression, guilt or isolation and will benefit from counseling.
In addition to the clinical signs and symptoms enumerated earlier, laboratory tests are carried out to confirm herpes simplex virus infection.
Laboratory diagnosis of herpes simplex virus is divided into 2:
Blood tests: This detects antibodies specific for HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Fluids from sores are taken for analysis to identify the presence of HSV-1 or HSV-2 which are shed from sores.
Herpes simplex virus infection is a protracted illness with no absolute remedy.
Herpes simplex virus treatment requires multiple approaches to be effective: use of antiviral medications and lifestyle changes.
Antiviral drugs such as acyclovir are commonly prescribed to reduce the duration of the outbreaks and the amount of virus shed in open sores. The daily intake of acyclovir is also called suppressive therapy because it reduces the amount of herpes simplex viruses in an affected part. Researches are in progress to develop other therapeutic interventions for herpes simplex virus infection.
According to a study, virus shedding from the skin of infected participants was reduced by approximately 50% for 12-months after they were administered a therapeutic vaccine for herpes simplex.
Similarly, molecular interventions like the suppression of HSV-1 replication by gene editing have been shown to be effective in treating HSV-1 infection.
Lifestyle changes in the management of herpes simplex virus infection include:
Avoiding unprotected sex with your partner when you have been diagnosed. Open communication with your partner about having herpes is recommended so that your partner can carry out a herpes blood test for screening.
Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands with antiseptic solution whenever you contact fluids from the sores. Hand washing reduces your risk
of re-infecting another region of your body and transmitting the virus o your partner.
Be sensitive and aware when you notice symptoms like tingling or burning sensations in your genitals because they signal imminent outbreaks either for initial or recurrent infection.
Wear loose clothes and use a specific towel to clean your body after your bath during outbreaks to prevent infection spread to other areas of your body.
Herpes simplex virus causes oral and genital herpes. HSV-1 causes oral herpes and genital herpes in some cases while HSV-2 causes genital herpes.
Oral herpes appears as cold sores around the lips while genital herpes shows as painful blisters or ulcers in the genitals. A combination of antiviral medications like acyclovir and lifestyle modifications such as avoiding unprotected sex can decrease the virus’s duration and transmission respectively.
Infected sexual partners should communicate openly and sexual hygiene is highly encouraged as well as blood test screening if one of them is infected. Psychological counseling is advised for infected people who are depressed.