Herpes is a very common infection caused by a virus that can cause recurrent skin infections that appear in the form of small blisters generally on the genital area; or as cold sores in the mouth. Herpes may also appear on other parts of the body like on the thighs, buttocks or the anal region. Herpes has been given a very bad reputation; especially due to the media which has stigmatized this disease. Further, it is also poorly understood by the masses. Here in this article we will discuss about the 8 different types of herpes virus and herpes infection.
Type-1 and Type-2 Herpes
Herpes simplex is absolute, but it can be preliminarily divided into two categories. First is type-1 herpes, which is a kind of herpes simplex that causes herpes in the oral region, the mouth and in the face. The other kind of herpes simplex or the type-2 herpes causes herpes in the genital region. Type-1 and type-2 herpes are very different from one another. They differ a lot with regards to the frequency of recurrence, as well as methods of transmission.
The 8 Types of Herpes Infection
There are 8 diverse kinds of herpes virus that can potentially harm humans. These viruses cause different kind of infections. The list for this is given below:
- Human Herpes Virus-1: Abbreviated to HHV1, this is simply called as herpes simplex virus-1. This virus generally causes infections characterized cold sores around the mouth region or even inside the mouth. It also can cause genital herpes if there was any direct contact between the mouth and the genital organs during sexual intercourse. This leads to genital herpes. HHV1 is generally spread through direct skin contact with an infected individual and are hence called communicable diseases. The virus can infiltrate the body through breaks or cuts in the skin or through mucous membranes. The virus can also be transmitted from an infected individual by sharing items like utensils, towels, shaving razors, or toothbrush.
- Human Herpes Type-2: Abbreviated as HHV2, this infection is named as herpes simplex virus-2. Genital herpes is the most common infection caused by this virus and thus is termed as a sexually transmitted disease. Like HHV1, this infection also causes cold sores around or within the mouth region. This virus is extremely contagious and spreads through direct skin contact. Since this virus cannot survive outside the body, it is thus spread mainly through sexual contact.
- Human Herpes Virus 3: Abbreviated as HHV3, this virus is also known as varicella-zoster virus. It normally causes chicken pox. This can be distinguished as a case of recurrent skin infection known as herpes zoster or shingles. It has been found that shingles occur after an inactive varicella zoster virus from a previous chickenpox bout is re activated. HHV1 is a close relative of the HHV3, which is the reason HHV3 also affects the nerve cells and the skin cells. Thee recurrence of infection can also happen along nerve pathways or at the end of nerve fiber or on cells of the skin. This virus can even affect a group of nerve cells, which is the reason HHV3 is way simper than the previously mentioned forms of herpes simplex. The lesion typically occur along the belts of skin or in a path-like pattern, which generally occurs on solitary side of the body and may also cause itching, severe pain or tingling sensations. It takes almost 2 or 4 weeks to heal, but the scars from the infection remains. Postherpetic neuralgia may even persist for a few months to year. Most people who have had this infection once do not get it again.
- Human Herpes Virus 4: This virus is also known by the name of Epstein-Barr virus. Abbreviated as HHV4, this virus is the primary cause of infectious mononucleosis also known as “Kissing Disease.” It is extremely contagious and spreads through saliva and coughing. It can also spread through sneezing or sharing clothe, towel, or utensils of an infected individual.
- Human Herpes Virus 5: Abbreviated as HHV5 or Human herpes virus 5 is commonly known as cytomegalovirus or CMV. This virus is also believed to cause mononucleosis. This virus is rendered ineffective in individuals with strong immunity. The disease is spread sexually and may have effects in the newborn. Besides, this herpes infection can later cause inflammation of the liver. CMV also spreads through sexual intercourse, breast feeding the baby, blood transfusion as well as organ transplant from an infected individual to a healthy one. CMV infection is believed to be perhaps the most serious complication of AIDS and causes diarrhea, vision problems, or may even cause blindness along with severe stomach infections. CMV infections in extreme cases may even result in death. This herpes virus has almost no effects on a person with a healthy immune system, but is disruptive for those having lower immunity.
- Human Herpes Virus 6: Abbreviated as HHV6, the Human herpes virus 6 has been studied quite recently and is believed to be present in individuals with a variety of medical conditions. It normally causes roseola. It is a kind of a viral illness which causes high grade fever and skin rashes in children. Roseola may also include a host of other medical conditions that arise as a result of high grade fever. This herpes virus is responsible for a numerous cases of seizures that are associated with high fever in children. This condition is called febrile seizures.
- Human Herpes Virus 7: Abbreviated as HHV7, the Human Herpes Virus 7 has also been recently discovered to be present in humans and is quite similar to HHV6. This virus like many others are quite common and almost everyone has been affected by it at some point in their lives, normally in early childhood or infancy. Like HHV6, HHV7 also causes roseola. The other effects that this virus has on the body are still being studied.
- Human Herpes Virus 8: Abbreviated as HHV8, human herpes virus 8 has also been a recent discovery recently, especially in people with a condition called Kaposi Sarcoma. This disease is seen mostly in individuals who have AIDS and is very rarely found n other people. KS forms a tumor that is purplish in color and is formed on the skin or tissues of the body in people with AIDS. Treating this virus with medication is almost impossible. HHV8 may cause other cancer or cancerous symptoms including lymphomas, which is the cancer in lymph nodes quite closely related to AIDS. Since these forms of cancers affect people only with AIDS it is quite clear that they are caused by this virus. This is more so because people with AIDS already have a compromised immune system. Specific treatments targeting these viruses are being worked on.
Symptoms of Herpes Infection
It is very difficult to pinpoint a general list of symptoms that can be universalized for all humans. The symptoms of herpes infection depend more on the site or location of the infection than on the severity of the herpes infection. Generally, when herpes simplex occurs, it occurs on the mucous membrane, where the skin is not too thick. These areas include the labia minora and the labia majora, which are the lips around the vagina. However, it has been recently found that herpes can actually occur on any site of the body. When these genital sores first erupt, they usually do on the place where the virus had originally taken hold on, which are usually the external genitals.
Sores look like a cluster of small blisters which are filled with transparent or a whitish fluid. These herpes sores or blisters are not even properly visible when they first occur. The first signs of the herpes infection are small erosive spots on the skin, which are known as ulcers. Ulcers also occur in clusters, and produce a feeling similar to chaffing or general irritation. The sores or the chaffing may neither be irritable or may not even ever itch. Common sites of genital herpes in women is generally on the labia or lips around the vagina and may even occur in the area covered by the pubic hair. In men, herpes sores occur along the foreskin or on the pubic hair along the penis. The tip of the penis is also a probable territory.
If you think you might have caught herpes, you should visit your doctor or trained personnel who can professionally diagnose you and help you with your problems. A virus test is taken of the affected area to confirm the presence of herpes virus. A culture test is done, where the doctor collects samples from herpes sore and puts it under incubation in order to find out if it grows at all. This is the most common technique. Herpes infection if diagnosed early and followed by early treatment is of great benefit.
Decreasing the Chances of Transmission of Herpes
Herpes is a communicable disease and chances are such that the virus may be active and transmitted even when the symptoms are hardly visible. Herpes may only spread from one person to another, if one person is infected with the herpes virus and the other person is susceptible to the herpes virus. When these individuals indulge in some sort of sexual contact when the virus is active and functioning they will transmit the herpes virus. It is important to take precautions against herpes virus. The most common precautions are given below:
- If you suffer from herpes, it is important that you communicate this with your partner. You should provide full disclaimer to your partner about the risks involved as well as make him aware of the precautions that both of you should abide by.
- Avoid having sex when the herpes sores are present and active.
- Have safe sex, you should use condoms at all times. Condoms should be worn during oral, anal and genital sex. You can also use dental dams which is a flat piece of latex or latex condom too can be used during oral sex.
- You may be recommended by your doctor to use an antiviral medication called valacyclovir that also reduces the risk of transmission.
- Avoid contact with any place where herpes is active. If it is in the mouth, avoid kissing or indulging in oral sex. If the herpes is on the fingers, you should avoid any contact of your fingers with other people.
- In general, active herpes is a time when you should avoid contact of this area with the skin of other person.
Herpes can be transmitted from an affected area of your body to an unaffected area of your own body. Avoid contact of this affected area with other parts of the body.
Treatment of Herpes
It is impossible to cure genital herpes; however, it is possible to treat them. There are certain antiviral medications that are available to lessen the symptoms of genital herpes and also decrease the number of recurrences. Some of these antiviral medicines involve acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir. Valacyclovir can also be used to reduce the risks of transmission to your sexual partner. This medicine should be used along with practicing safe sex.
If you ever feel that you may have herpes, you should visit your doctor immediately, who will be able to diagnose your condition. The doctor may also perform a blood test of HIV, syphilis and hepatitis B. If the pain from herpes infection is severe, then prescription pain relief medicine will be given. You may also need to take warm showers 3 to 4 times in a day, as they are said to be helpful. Make sure that you blow dry your genital region after shower using a blow dryer set at a low or cool temperature. Make sure that you pass urine without any difficulty and also drink lots of water.
If you have herpes, fret not. The modern advances in science and technology will make it possible to live your life normally. In case of any doubts, make sure to visit your doctor.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – Genital Herpes: https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/
- Mayo Clinic – Genital Herpes: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/genital-herpes/symptoms-causes/syc-20356161
- MedlinePlus – Herpes Simplex: https://medlineplus.gov/herpessimplex.html
- American American Sexual Health Association – Herpes: https://www.ashasexualhealth.org/stdsstis/herpes/
- Cold Sores or Oral Herpes: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
- Genital Herpes: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention, Pregnancy
- How Does Acyclovir Work, Know its Safety & Effectiveness in Reducing the Symptoms of Herpes
- 10 Ways To Reduce The Risk For Genital Herpes
- What are the Common Types of Herpes & What Triggers Herpes Infection?
- Dos & Don’ts For Herpes Zoster
- How Long Does Herpes Take To Appear & What are the Home Remedies to Manage Herpes?