Is herpes a life sentence?

Herpes simplex is a virus causing contagious sores, most often around the mouth or on the genitals. It is a long term condition that can be managed by medication but has no cure. Once you are infected, you have the virus for the rest of your life.

How it is spread

  • Sexual contact. The virus can be spread from one person to another during vaginal, oral, or anal sex.
  • From one part of the body to another. If you touch sores on your genitals, you can carry the virus on your fingers. Then you can pass it onto other parts of your body, including your mouth or eyes.
  • From mother to child during child birth. When the baby passes through the birth canal, it may come in contact with sores and become infected with the virus. This can cause brain damage, blindness, or even death in newborns.

Primary symptoms

  • blisters and ulceration on external genitalia, in the vagina, or on the cervix
  • vaginal discharge
  • pain and itching
  • tender, enlarged lymph nodes
  • pain when urinating
  • high temperature (fever)
  • malaise (feeling unwell)
  • cold sores around the mouth
  • red blisters on the skin

Types of herpes

HSV-1 or type 1 herpes (oral herpes)

It is most often responsible for herpes infections that result in lesions in or around the mouth, otherwise known as cold sores, although it can also cause genital sores

  • Most often affects lips and mouth area
  • Often spreads by kissing or sharing cups
  • Pain, burning, itching may occur before sores appear
  • Lesions range from slightly raised, reddish areas to crusted blisters
  • Now causes more than half of all cases of genital herpes (spread by oral sex)

HSV-2 or type 2 herpes (genital herpes)

  • Affects genital area
  • Spreads by sexual contact and also from mothers to babies during childbirth
  • Sometimes has no symptoms prior to breakout
  • Lesions are red, fluid-filled, or crusty
  • Outbreaks generally become less frequent over time


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