Basics Overview of the Herpes Virus
Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.
Here is a condensed summary of some standard basic herpes facts that everyone can benefit from reviewing.
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What is herpes and why do the symptoms tend to reoccur?
Herpes is caused by a microscopic virus which most people are exposed to at some point in their lives. There are many conditions that are caused by the herpes virus family including genital herpes, cold sores, shingles and whitlow. Herpes symptoms tend to appear when the body’s immune system is run down or when there is some sort of injury to that skin area. For example being sick, under stress, not getting enough sleep, eating poorly or getting sunburn in the area can aggravate and bring on an outbreak for some people.
Who is prone to getting the herpes simplex virus?
Regardless of how we live our lives any person who has sex is at risk of contracting herpes. A lot of people think that you need to be promiscuous or unclean to become affected by genital herpes, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Just as anyone can catch the flu or any other virus, if you are sexually active then you can catch genital herpes too. You can also contract genital herpes from a cold sore during oral sex, without ever having intercourse.
Herpes is extremely common and affects people from all cultures and demographics. Most adults will have to deal with some form of herpes at one time or another during their life, whether it is oral or genital herpes.
In fact, it is estimated that over 75% of the adult population contain antibodies to the Herpes simplex virus (HSV). This means that 3 out of 4 adults are infected with herpes and may experience recurring symptoms at some stage in their life.
What does herpes usually look like?
Before herpes appears the area will sometimes tingle, feel slightly raised and may appear red and inflamed. This pain or tingling feeling can often be felt a couple of days before any sore or lesion appears.
A herpes lesion typically starts off as a small fluid-filled blister, or cluster of blisters, which goes through a series of phases. The blister will usually weep and form a scab or crusting before healing and disappearing completely. In moist or wet body areas, such as the genitals, the skin will usually close over and heal without forming a scab.
A typical herpes episode will disappear in 1 to 2 weeks if no treatment is used.
Where can the herpes symptoms appear?
Herpes infections are usually confined to the one small area where the infection first began, or very nearby to that area. A significant impact on the immune system may occasionally cause outbreaks to surface in multiple or other genital locations, such as an illness, intense stress or a vaccination.
Genital herpes symptoms are commonly found on or around the boxer short area which can include the vagina, vulva, penis, underneath the foreskin, scrotum, anus, groin area, buttocks, base of the spine (coccyx) and thigh areas. which expresses as blisters, pimples and outbreaks in the genital region, including the sacral of the lower back and the anal area.
Herpes Simplex Type 1, also known as cold sores, is commonly experienced on and around the mouth and face area, including on the lips, nostrils and chin. This strain of the virus is slightly less aggressive than the genital strain, yet a larger majority of people suffer from it. Approximately 8 out of 10 Americans have HSV1.
This is a herpes infection that has been transmitted to the fingers, thumbs or nail cuticles. Outbreaks and treatment are the same for Herpes Whitlow to that of HSV1 and HSV2. The main difference with this herpes is the location and body part that is affected.
This condition occurs when the infection is located in the eye region and is typically caused by the herpes simplex type 1 strand of the virus. Treatment can be more difficult in this region as the delicate structure and membranes of the eye are involved.
This form of herpes is common among wrestlers and usually refers to a herpes simplex outbreak on the back or shoulders.
Herpes Zoster is a different strain to that of the Herpes Simplex types. This condition is caused by the Herpes varicella-zoster virus, the same virus which causes Chickenpox. Anyone who has had Chickenpox can have a reactivation of this virus later on in life which is referred to as ‘Shingles’. One of the biggest concerns of this condition is nerve pain called Post Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN) that can sometimes linger on after the active infection has cleared. More:
Autoinnoculation (spreading the virus to other parts of one’s own body) is very rare after the first primary outbreak because after the first exposure to herpes the body builds up antibodies which help guard against multiple infection sites.
However, if the immune system is compromised (such as in the case of AIDS or other immune debilitating conditions) or if there is a break or tear in the skin at the point where it comes into contact with the virus (such as a paper cut on the finger) this could increase the chance of transmission to a new area. Occasionally the infection can be transferred to the eyes, lips or fingers in this way, or from touching the infection and then touching a non-infected area during an episode.
Care should be taken to avoid touching any sores or symptoms. If contact is made, wash your hands and any affected skin areas with soap and water as soon as possible to help prevent spreading the infection.