What Is Herpes Simplex?
Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2) are common viruses that infect the skin. HSV-1 usually causes small blisters around the mouth and is also known as fever blisters or cold sores. HSV-2 mainly causes genital herpes.
What Causes Herpes Simplex and Cold Sores?
HSV-1 is transmitted from person to person through direct contact with contaminated saliva or other infected secretions. HSV-2 is primarily transmitted by sexual contact.
The virus infects the skin and grows at the site of infection. It will then travel backward along nerve fibers where it can remain dormant (inactive) in nerves until reactivation.
Signs and Symptoms of Herpes Simplex
Some people may have no symptoms of herpes virus infection. Others may notice the following symptoms, either during the initial outbreak or recurrences:
- Flu-like symptoms such as fever and feeling run down
- Swollen and tender lymph nodes
- Decreased appetite
- Small grouped blisters on the lips and mouth that enlarge, burst then crust over
- Tingling, itching and irritation of the lips and mouth
- Soreness of the lips and mouth that may last from three to seven days
- Painful blisters or open sores in the genital area, which may be preceded by a tingling or burning sensation in the legs, buttocks or genital region
Treatment for Herpes Simplex
The sores caused by HSV-1 and HSV-2 usually disappear within a few weeks. But, the virus remains in the body, and the lesions may recur from time to time.
Although there is no cure for HSV-1 or HSV-2, antiviral agents can shorten an outbreak and relieve some symptoms. Specialists at UCLA Dermatology may recommend one or more of the following medications:
- Oral antiviral medications, either episodic (during an outbreak) or suppressive (to prevent an outbreak)
- Topical (skin-based) medications
For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (310) 825-6911.