More than 80 known viruses exist within the herpes family. Of these, eight are known to cause disease in humans, the most common being herpes simplex virus 1 and 2. HSV-1 and HSV-2 look. Usually, HSV-1 occurs above the waist and HSV-2 below the waist. Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) commonly causes cold sores or fever blisters, which are highly infectious open sores that crust over before healing. Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), on the other hand, is a contagious viral infection primarily causing genital herpes in men and women. Once contracted, herpes is a lifelong disease.
- recurrent painful ulcers are a common symptom of herpes
- most people with herpes have no symptoms and are unaware of their infection
- the telltale signs and symptoms of genital herpes include recurrent clusters of blisters, bumps and rashes in the genital areas
- blister “flares” are unpredictable and have been attributed to everything from stress to certain types of food to exposure to sunlight
Unfortunately, there is no cure for genital herpes – once you have it, you have it for life. Some prescription drugs and various therapeutic methods have been proven effective in reducing the frequency, severity and duration of outbreaks.
If someone has signs of genital herpes, avoid skin-to-skin contact until all of the sores have healed. If someone has cold sores around the mouth (oral herpes), avoid oral sex until the sores have healed. Avoid sharing a drinking cup, cigarette, or lipstick while you have a cold sore. There is some evidence that the virus is still present in saliva and body fluids even when sores have healed, so in general, it is safest to use a condom or dental dam if you or your partner is infected – even if they aren’t in “flare.” Other preventative measures are limiting the number of sex partners, practicing sexual abstinence and avoiding sexual contact if you think you are infected.