Genital or oral herpes can be distressing, especially if you suffer from frequent outbreaks. While it may me difficult to kill the herpes virus, the disease can be managed by understanding its nature and causes.
Herpes is caused by two kinds of herpes simplex virus; the HSV-1 that usually causes cold sores and facial sores, and HSV-2 that causes sores on the buttocks, genitals or rectum. One out of every three adults carries this virus. Most of the times, the carrier is not even aware of the presence of the herpes virus within his body.
The virus usually enters our body through an opening in the skin, or the virus may become dormant, but it lives there forever. The carrier may become aware of its presence only after an outbreak, which may not come for years in some people.
Causes of herpes infection:
One way to be infected with herpes virus is by skin-to-skin contact with an infected person, who is having an outbreak of sores or blisters at the time of contact. The virus is also transmitted by contact with body fluids including blood, saliva and semen of an infected person. This kind of contamination can occur even if the infected individual is not suffering from an outbreak, (or has no physical symptoms of the virus) because the dormant virus is present in his body fluids.
Viral shedding: From time to time the herpes virus travels via the nerves to the surface of the skin. This is called viral shedding and the individual is highly infectious at such times. The infected person may or may not show symptoms during episodes of viral shedding.
By birth: Women infected with herpes can pass the virus to their child during pregnancy.
While the exact reason for outbreaks is not known, scientists believe that it can be due to physical or psychological factors. Physical factors include run-down immunity due to another infection, STD’s, hormonal imbalance, common cold and other genital infection. Stress and anxiety can also precipitate a reoccurrence.
• Antiviral therapy is most commonly prescribed for the management of herpes virus. While the medication does not kill the herpes virus, it is quite effective in providing long-term relief. Besides relieving the pain, antiviral medication can help in cutting down the duration of the outbreak, prevent frequent reoccurrences, reduce the severity of symptoms and minimise the chances of passing on the infection to your sexual partner. Antiviral medication may be prescribed as and when you develop sores or suspect an outbreak.
• If you suffer from frequent reoccurrences, your doctor may prescribe suppressive therapy. You would be required to continue medication for weeks or months depending on the nature of reoccurrences.