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Herpes Infection or Herpes Simplex Virus Infection

herpes treatment

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HERPES INFECTION

Herpes simplex infection is a common viral infection caused by Herpes Simplex Virus  (HSV) that affects millions of people worldwide. Understanding herpes and its treatment options is crucial for managing this condition effectively.

WHAT IS HERPES?

Herpes is a viral infection which is caused by the herpes simplex virus, also known as HSV. This virus is known for causing genital and oral herpes.

Many people do not experience any symptoms of HSV, which means they do have the infection but never have an active outbreak of herpes. People, who do experience symptoms, may have small, fluid-filled blisters or sores on the genitals, mouth or lips. Sometimes, they also appear on hands or fingers or other body parts of the patient.

Herpes can spread through sexual intercourse, but there are other reasons too behind the transmission of this virus. People, generally, feel ashamed talking about this infection but this is a very common condition and there is nothing to be ashamed of.

Currently, there is no cure for herpes but qualified and experienced doctors can help you alleviate its symptoms through various treatment methods.

TYPES OF HERPES

Mainly, there are only two types of herpes that are:
Oral Herpes, also known as HSV 1 or Type 1
Genital Herpes also known as HSV 2 or Type 2

What is Oral Herpes?

In case of oral herpes, you may experience the sores around your mouth or somewhere else on the face. These sores may keep coming and going on their own.

What is Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes usually presents itself with sores around your penis, anus or vagina. Sometimes, they can also appear on your butt or thighs. Some people never experience any symptoms of genital herpes or may only have symptoms appearing to be like a pimple or ingrown hair. Others may experience painful and clearly visible outbreaks, again and again.

HSV-1 vs. HSV-2

HSV-1 is more common as compared to HSV-2. It usually occurs during the early years in your life. Generally, it causes no symptoms or cold sores in and around the mouth. But, HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes, which can be transmitted due to oral sex.

HSV-2 is a less common type of transmission, and is mostly responsible for causing genital herpes.

Both types of viruses, however, spread from person to person through skin-to-skin touching or through exchange of body fluids. Both infections never completely go away, and they can affect you without even knowing. When experiencing an active herpes infection, characterised by either visible sores or shedding of invisible viruses from the skin, transmission to others is possible. Typically, the viruses remain inactive, posing no immediate threat or ability to transmit to others.

SYMPTOMS OF HERPES

As already informed, herpes do not always appear with symptoms. It, however, often presents itself with tingling, burning, itching and proceeds to developing sores or blisters around the mouth or genital area.

Generally, symptoms tend to appear as early as two days or it may take 2 or 3 weeks for symptoms to appear after the exposure to the virus.

Symptoms of Oral Herpes

Oral herpes results in the formation of blisters, often referred to as fever sores or cold sores, in or around the lips and mouth.

Occasionally, these blisters may appear in other facial areas or on the tongue, and less frequently, on different parts of the skin.

Typically, these sores persist for a duration of 2–3 weeks before resolving.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes

These sores typically emerge on the penis, around or within the vagina, on the buttocks, or around the anus, although they may also appear on other skin regions. Herpes may induce discomfort during urination and alterations in vaginal discharge.

During the initial occurrence of these sores, they may persist for 2–6 weeks before resolving.

Following this initial outbreak, recurring symptoms may occur frequently. However, with time, outbreaks tend to diminish in frequency, and the associated symptoms usually decrease in severity.

Initial Symptoms

There are some symptoms too which appear at the beginning of developing the infection. Apart from sores or blisters, herpes may present itself with:

  • Pain and itching
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Feeling of being unwell

In most of the cases, the lesions heal without long-term scarring.

Recurring Symptoms

Studies indicate that approximately 33% of individuals with oral herpes and 50% of those with genital herpes encounter recurring symptoms.

The frequency of outbreaks of herpes is different for everyone and also depends on the type of herpes virus you have.

Typically, if you have HSV-1, you may get multiple outbreaks of cold sores in a year. On the other hand, if you are suffering from HSV-2 or Genital Herpes, you may even get four outbreaks a year on average.

Recurring symptoms closely resemble the initial ones but often manifest with reduced severity and shorter durations.

According to the American Sexual Health Association, during each recurrence, symptoms of oral and genital herpes typically persist for 8–10 days, with fewer sores compared to the initial outbreak.

Transmission of genital herpes is possible for 2–5 days during a recurrence.

Differences in Symptom Location

Sores typically emerge at the site where the infection initially enters the body. Transmission can occur through contact with a sore followed by touching or scratching another body part, including the fingers or eyes.

Sores may develop on or within various areas, such as:

  • Mouth
  • Lips
  • Urethra
  • Vulva
  • Vagina
  • Cervix
  • Penis
  • Scrotum
  • Anus
  • Buttocks
  • Thighs
  • Rectum

Are Herpes and Cold Sores The Same?

Yes, oral herpes, commonly known as cold sores or fever blisters, is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). Therefore, cold sores are a form of herpes. However, it’s worth noting that not all herpes infections present as cold sores.

CAUSES OF HERPES

HSV is a contagious virus which transmits from one person to another due to direct contact with sores. As the virus also sheds on a few days, it is also possible to contract this virus from an asymptomatic person. In fact, there are many cases of people contracting HSV through people who do not know if they are infected with the virus.

Causes of Oral Herpes or HSV-1

You can get oral herpes at any time of life because of touching, kissing or sharing personal items like lip balm, razors or sex toys. You can also contract HSV-1 during oral sex.

Even babies and toddlers can contract HSV-1. The virus is transmitted when an infected adult, who may not be showing any symptoms, kisses or touches the small children.

Causes of Genital Herpes or HSV-2

The highest probability of contracting HSV-2 is through vaginal or anal sex with the infected person. The virus can be present on the skin or genital fluids of the infected person, even if there are no sores. In some cases, HSV-2 transmits due to having oral sex with the infected person. Sometimes, babies too get HSV-2 during their birth, which is known as congenital herpes.

Prevalence/ Incidence of Herpes

As of 2016 (the most recent data available), an estimated 3.7 billion individuals under the age of 50, constituting 67% of the global population, were affected by HSV-1 infection, either orally or genitally. The majority of HSV-1 infections are acquired during childhood.

It is estimated that over 500 million (0.5 billion)  people aged 15–49 worldwide have a genital infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).

Genital herpes caused by HSV-2 impacts approximately 491 million people aged 15–49 worldwide, accounting for 13% of this demographic (data from 2016). HSV-2 disproportionately affects women, with nearly double the infection rate compared to men, as transmission from men to women during sexual contact is more efficient. While prevalence increases with age, adolescents experience the highest number of new infections.

Who is at Risk of Developing Herpes?

Anyone, regardless of age, can acquire HSV. Exposure to the virus increases the likelihood of contraction.

It’s important to note that HSV is highly prevalent, often asymptomatic, and many individuals infected with the virus may never experience symptoms or be aware of their infection.

Factors that may elevate the risk of contracting HSV include:

  • Having a sexual partner who is HSV-positive.
  • Being a female. Studies suggest a higher incidence of HSV among women as compared to males. Although this may also imply a greater likelihood of symptomatic expression.
  • Being immunocompromised (like having AIDS or Anti cancer drugs).

Older research indicates that HSV-1 antibodies may potentially provide some protection against HSV-2 among AFAB individuals. However, it’s common for individuals with one type of the virus to contract the other type later on. Once acquired, the virus remains dormant in the body, reducing the risk of reinfection with the same type.

Engaging in unprotected sex or lacking barrier methods like wearing condoms may slightly increase the risk of contracting genital HSV. However, it’s essential to recognize that condoms and other barrier methods may not always cover the entire infection site, as sores can also appear on areas such as the buttocks or inner thighs.

How is Herpes Diagnosed

To diagnose herpes, your doctor will begin with asking questions about your symptoms like flu-like symptoms, tingling or burning. They may also examine your blisters. They may also request a culture to confirm the diagnosis. To do a culture, the doctor takes a swab of fluid from your sore and sends it to the laboratory for testing.

If you feel that you have been exposed to HSV but are not experiencing any symptoms, your doctor may ask you to undergo a blood test to detect if your blood has HSV antibodies or HIV virus (measuring HIV Viral Load). Your body starts producing two specific types of antibodies for HSV-1 or HSV-2 approximately 18 to 21 days after the initial infection. These antibodies are known as IgG and IgM.

It is worth noting that blood tests will not necessarily detect HSV accurately up to 12 weeks after acquiring the infection.

Additionally, general STI screenings do not include testing for HSV. Hence, you need to especially ask your doctor or clinician to get the test for herpes if you suspect that you have contracted the virus.

Also advanced testing options like Viral Load measurements are available which your treating physician may order according to your health conditions.

HERPES TREATMENT

There still is no permanent cure for herpes, but your doctor can help you alleviate its symptoms and provide you relief to lead a normal life. Treatment for HSV includes the following:

Herpes Medication

Blisters usually heal on their own in some time, but some people suffer from these outbreaks of painful and discomforting blisters very frequently. In such a situation, your doctor can prescribe some antiviral medications.

These medications help in reducing the frequency and severity of your episodes of outbreaks.

Antiviral medications are also known to reduce the possibility of transmitting the virus when the virus is shedding and you do not have any symptoms.

These medications generally come in the form of pills and creams, but sometimes, your doctor may find it necessary to administer you an injection of medication when the symptoms are very severe.

It is worth noting that there is no proof that antiviral medications help in reducing the chances of contracting the herpes virus.

Herpes Home Remedies

There are several home remedies which can help you temporarily subside the symptoms of herpes blisters. Such remedies include:

  • Cold or warm compress
  • Mixture of baking soda or cornstarch and water
  • Mixture of crushed garlic and olive oil
  • Aloe vera
  • Tea tree, eucalyptus, or peppermint oil, but only after diluting it with a carrier oil

There are several other home remedies available but these can only help you get relief for a very brief period of time. It is advised to consult a doctor immediately if you experience any symptoms or have the fear of being exposed to herpes.

Integrated Treatment for Herpes

Ayurveda has few of the best ways to help you get rid of the symptoms of herpes for a longer period of time. The Ayurvedic experts at Dr Monga’s in Delhi NCR are very experienced and qualified in treating patients suffering from herpes.

Doctors at Dr Monga’s use a combination of the most modern methods of ayurveda and allopathy, known as Integrated Medicine. Our doctors provide you with two separate prescriptions – one of modern medicines required to treat the infection, while the second of Shastrokta Ayurvedic prescription medicines to balance your doshas and improve your immunity – to treat you as quickly as possible.

Our treatment begins with accurately diagnosing the actual cause of the problem and then understanding the particular needs of a patient before opting a treatment plan.

So, if you are also experiencing any of the symptoms of herpes or suffering from recurrent episodes, book an appointment with Dr Monga’s today and embark on your healing journey.

Potential Complications

Once you get infected with HSV, the virus finds a permanent home in your nerve cells. Mostly, it remains dormant, but keeps getting activated from time to time to cause symptoms. In some people, certain conditions trigger an episode, which include:

  • Stress
  • Fever or any chronic illness
  • Weakened immune system
  • Menstrual periods
  • Sun exposure

Complications related to genital herpes may include:

  • Other sexually transmitted infections (STIs): The presence of genital sores increases the likelihood of transmitting or contracting other STIs, including HIV/AIDS.
  • Newborn infection: An infant can acquire HSV during childbirth, though less commonly during pregnancy or through close contact after birth. This type of infection is also known as Congenital herpes simplex. HSV in newborns often leads to infections in internal organs or the nervous system. Despite treatment, these infants face a significant risk of developmental or physical issues and mortality.
  • Internal inflammatory disease: HSV can cause inflammation and swelling in organs associated with sexual activity and urination, such as the ureter, rectum, vagina, cervix, and uterus.
  • Finger infection (herpetic whitlow): The virus can infect a finger through a break in the skin, leading to discoloration, swelling, and sores.
  • Eye infection: HSV can infect the eye, resulting in pain, sores, blurred vision, and potential blindness.
  • Brain inflammation (encephalitis): In rare instances, HSV infection can cause swelling and inflammation of the brain.
  • Infection of internal organs: On rare occasions, HSV can enter the bloodstream and cause infections in internal organs.
  • Meningitis: Meningitis is an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, typically resulting from an infection like herpes. This condition can be life-threatening and requires urgent medical attention. Various types of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites can cause meningitis.

Prevention of Herpes

Preventing genital herpes involves similar strategies to those used for other sexually transmitted infections.

  • Maintain a long-term monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for STIs and is uninfected.
  • Use condoms or dental dams during sexual activity to lower the risk of infection, though they cannot eliminate all skin-to-skin contact.
  • Avoid sexual contact when a partner with genital herpes is exhibiting symptoms.

Pregnancy precautions

If you are pregnant and aware that you have genital herpes, inform your healthcare provider. If you suspect you might have genital herpes, ask your provider about getting tested.

Your provider might suggest taking antiviral medication for herpes in the later stages of pregnancy to help prevent an outbreak near the time of delivery. If you experience an outbreak when you go into labor, your provider may recommend a cesarean section, a surgical procedure to deliver the baby. This reduces the risk of transmitting the virus to your newborn.

Living With Herpes

Overall, HSV is typically not considered a severe health issue but rather a lifelong condition. While herpes blisters may cause discomfort, home remedies along with proper treatment from a qualified doctor can expedite the healing process.

Antiviral medications are also available to reduce the likelihood of recurrent episodes and minimise the risk of transmitting the virus to others. Although HSV cannot be cured, many individuals living with the virus may go extended periods without experiencing any symptoms, minimising its impact on daily life.

However, it is crucial to discuss HSV openly with sexual partners before engaging in any sexual activity.

Although herpes has no cure, it can be managed effectively, allowing you to lead a normal life. Here are some tips for living with herpes:

  • Take antiviral medications: These can help reduce the frequency and duration of outbreaks, especially if taken promptly.
  • Use pain relief medication: Over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol can alleviate discomfort.
  • Use barrier protection: Utilize condoms, dental dams, or other barrier methods during sexual activity.
  • Avoid sex and kissing: Refrain from sexual activity and kissing if you or your partner has herpes symptoms, particularly when sores are present.
  • Don’t touch sores: Avoid contact with herpes sores to prevent spreading the infection.
  • Treat symptoms early: Begin treatment within 24 hours of noticing symptoms.
  • Try other remedies: Consider using salt baths, ice packs, or petroleum jelly on irritated areas for relief.
  • Wear loose clothing: Opt for loose-fitting clothes to reduce irritation.
  • Protect yourself from the weather: Use sunscreen, especially on your lips, and avoid exposure to extreme weather conditions.
  • Don’t share personal care items: Keep personal care items, like towels and razors, to yourself.
  • Seek support: Confide in a trusted person who respects your privacy and can offer support.
  • Consult with your healthcare provider: Regularly discuss your condition and management strategies with your healthcare provider, even during symptom-free periods.

Takeaway

It may be impossible to cure it, but herpes treatment can help you lead a comfortable and stress-free life. Hence, it is advised to talk about your symptoms with a qualified doctor without any hesitation and explain everything you are experiencing in detail. Doctors at Dr Monga’s in Delhi /NCR are very experienced and qualified to provide you the best treatment available in the market.

So, book a consultation with one of our doctors today and say goodbye to your woes forever.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

 Although the exact cause of herpes is still unknown, it is associated with various other factors like extreme exposure to sunlight, illness, stress, fatigue, menstruation, and some underlying chronic / immunocompromised illnesses. It is very common to trigger herpes simplex.

The virus’ nature itself is challenging, making it difficult to cure. The HSV infection can easily hide into the nerve cells for a long time before reactivating or reappearing. This is one of the primary reasons behind it being incurable, and the doctors are still trying to find a permanent herpes cure.

Herpes can be transmitted when a person has unprotected sex, including oral and anal sex. It can also spread through kissing and skin-to-skin contact. Your herpes treatment doctor in Delhi NCR will put you on antiviral medicines to prevent the virus’s spread. Until the virus doesn’t crust over, an infected person can be contagious.

The best way to prevent herpes is by using dental dams or condoms during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You also need to ensure that you and your partner take his/her medicines daily so that they can lower the chances of spreading the virus. Moreover, you should avoid having sex even if you use protection during a herpes outbreak.

If a person develops herpes, the doctor will treat it with an antiviral medicine given intravenously or orally to shorten the outbreak. The antiviral medications may help in treating both types of herpes simplex, including famciclovir and acyclovir.

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