Genital herpes simply known as herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by type 2 herpes simplex virus (HSV2). There are eight different types of viruses that cause herpes but there are only two types that are widely transmitted through sexual contact and these include HSV1 and HSV2. HSV1 is responsible for causing oral herpes that develops into cold sore or fever blister in the mouth or on the lips. HSV2 mainly infect the genital areas that develop into blister on infected skin regions.
Genital herpes is mainly transmitted through sexual contact such as oral sex, vaginal sex or anal sex. Genital herpes can also be transmitted through viral shedding even when there is no sign of symptoms. Viral shedding is when viable HSV is emitted onto the skin surface of infected individual and transmitted to the partner during sexual contact.
Viral shedding is less common when there is no sign of symptoms and the risk of transmission can be reduced by consistently using condoms. However the risk of transmitting the virus increases when symptoms are present and it is best to avoid sexual activity when this happen.
The virus can also be spread from one part of the body to another when you touch the infected site and scratch another part of the body surface. Self-infection can occur only during the initial appearance of the infection because the body react quickly producing antibodies that fights off the infection. Infected mother can also transmit the virus to unborn infant and cause serious damage if left untreated.
An outbreak usually begins within 1 to 14 days after initial infection but some people may not experience any symptoms. Symptoms of HSV2 consist of small red bumps known as papules that appear in the genital area. The papules soon developed into painful blisters and attacked rapidly by the body immune system causing the blisters to rupture and form open sores that are highly contagious. The blisters may last 14 to 28 days before completely healed.
In women the papules most commonly appear on the labia and sometime on the clitoris, mons veneris, vaginal opening, inner vaginal wall, cervix, in the rectum and around anal regions. In men the symptoms mostly appear on the glans or penile shaft and sometime on the scrotum, in the rectum and around anal regions.
Other symptoms of HSV2 may also include itching in the genital or anal regions, fever, swollen lymph nodes in the groin, muscle aches, headaches, painful urination, and some women may experience vaginal discharge.
Symptoms of HSV1 also consist of the papules that may appear on the lips or the inside of the mouth and sometime on the tongue and on the throat. The open sores from oral herpes may last for 10 to 16 days before completely healed. Other symptoms of HSV1 may also include fever, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, flulike symptoms, increased salivation, and bleeding in the mouth.
Even though the symptoms have healed completely, the HSV2 and HSV1 virus does not go away but finds a resting place in nerve cells near the spinal cord and remains in the body for life. Some people may or may not experience recurrence of genital herpes and when they do, the subsequent outbreaks do not last as long as the first outbreak. People who have recurrence herpes tend to first experience early symptoms that may include itching or burning sensation on infected site, pain in the legs, thighs, groin, or buttocks.
Reactivation of the virus are triggered by variety of factors and these may include anxiety, depression, stress, fever, cold, infection, menstruation, changes in hormone level, poor nutrition, and fatigue.
Women infected with genital herpes experience more serious complication than men. Women with genital herpes have increase risk of developing cervical cancer. Infected women are recommended to take pap smear every six months to detect precancerous changes of cells taken from the cervix.
Infected mother increases the risk of newborn getting infected with the virus when passing through the birth canal. The transmission of the virus is caused by viral shedding from the cervix, vagina, or vulva in which the virus is transmitted from mother to infant.
Infected mother can be treated with acyclovir drug to reduce viral shedding in order to minimize the risk of transmitting the virus during childbirth. Infected newborn can also be treated with acyclovir drug to suppress the outbreak of the virus. If left untreated the newborn can be severely damage and may result in death.
Eye infection can occur when you touch the infected site and rubbing your eyes promptly. This can result in severe eye infection known as ocular herpes that causes the eye to become inflamed. Ocular herpes must be treated rapidly with proper antibacterial medication to avoid any damage to the eyes.
At the time of this writing, there is no medical cure for genital herpes. The herpes virus can be treated with acyclovir drug that is used to suppress the outbreak and to speed up the healing process of infected individual.
There are three different ways in which acyclovir drug can be administered. The drug can be taken as an ointment, orally or injected into the body. Ointment treatment is less effective in treating the HSV virus. The most effective way is by taking the drug orally or injected into the body which help to reduces viral shedding and suppressing the infection.
The herpes virus can also be treated with famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex). These drugs are more expensive and neither one are more superior to acyclovir. Famciclovir and valacyclovir cannot be used safely during pregnancy. Acyclovir drug remains the only choice for treating herpes.
drug is also use as the long-term suppressive therapy to treat
individuals who experience recurrence six or more times per year.
However, the use of acyclovir does not reduce the transmission of HSV
virus between sexual partners. The risk of transmission can be reduced
by wearing condoms and avoiding sexual contact with partners infected
with the virus.
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