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What do you know about the herpes simplex virus? Learn the answers to these frequently asked questions to discover how herpes might be affecting you.

What is herpes?

Herpes is a recurrent skin condition caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV – herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). The majority of oral herpes – commonly called cold sores or fever blisters – are caused by HSV-1. Most cases of genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease (STD), are caused by HSV-2.

How many people have HSV-1 and HSV-2?

Believe it or not, more than half of American adults have oral herpes. Then, about one in eight people in the US ages 14 to 49 have genital herpes. In most cases, people don’t know they have the HSV infection because their symptoms are very mild or mistaken for something else.

What are the symptoms of oral and genital herpes?

Most of the time, HSV is asymptomatic, though outbreaks do occur. The virus can cause uncomfortable symptoms, but it’s usually not a dangerous infection for healthy adults.

  • Symptoms of oral herpes include painful, fluid-filled blisters or sores in and around the mouth. These may cause tingling, itching or burning sensations. The frequency of outbreaks varies by person.
  • Symptoms of genital herpes include one or more ulcers in the genital or anal region. The first outbreak is usually the worst, followed by progressively less frequent and less severe symptoms as time goes by. In addition to ulcers, an infected individual may experience a fever, body aches and lymph node swelling.

How is herpes transmitted?

Both types of herpes can spread while the virus is active and sores are present. There are also a few days before and after an outbreak, when no symptoms are visible, that herpes can pass between people.

  • HSV-1 is transmitted by mouth-to-mouth contact, including kissing, sharing utensils or using the same facial towels.
  • HSV-2 is spread through sexual contact. It’s also possible for an infected mother with an active virus to pass genital herpes to her infant during delivery.

What is the treatment for herpes?

HSV has no cure. However, you can treat symptoms with antiviral medications. These reduce the virus’s ability to replicate, which helps sores heal faster, reduces the frequency of outbreaks and minimizes the chance of spreading the virus to other people. Some medications are only taken when you experience symptoms, while others are taken daily as a preventative measure.

If you think you have herpes type 1 or type 2, or you have been recently diagnosed, you can find relief from your symptoms at Arlington Dermatology in Rolling Meadows, IL. To schedule an appointment, please contact us today at (847) 725-0824.