Herpes is a group of viral diseases affecting the skin (often with blisters) or the nervous system. Many people who are infected do not show any symptoms or their symptoms are very mild, so they often don’t know they have the virus.
The most common viruses are;
- Herpes zoster (shingles) – It is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus in the body, causing a painful rash. It is characterized by a red skin rash that can cause pain and burning.
- Herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 and type 2 – causes cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth and sores on the genitals (sexual organs).
Stages of infection
Once you have been infected with the virus, you’ll go through different stages of infection.
1. Primary stage
This stage usually starts 2 to 8 days after you’re infected. Usually, the infection causes groups of small, painful blisters. The fluid in the blisters may be clear or cloudy. The area under the blisters will be red. The blisters break open and become open sores. You may not ever notice the blisters, or they may be painful. It may hurt to urinate during this stage. You may run a fever, feel achy, and have other flu-like symptoms.
While most people have a painful primary stage of infection, some don’t have any symptoms at all. They may not even know they’re infected.
2. Latent stage
During this stage, there are no blisters, sores, or other symptoms. The virus is traveling from your skin into the nerves near your spine.
3. Shedding stage
In the shedding stage, the virus starts multiplying in the nerve endings. If these nerve endings are in areas of the body that make or are in contact with body fluids, the virus can get into those body fluids. This could include saliva, semen, or vaginal fluids. There are no symptoms during this stage, but the virus can be spread during this time.
Many people have blisters and sores that come back after the first herpes attack goes away. This is called a recurrence. Usually, the symptoms aren’t as bad as they were during the first attack.
Stress, being sick, or being tired may start a recurrence. Being in the sun or having your menstrual period may also cause a recurrence. You may know when a recurrence is about to happen because you may feel itching, tingling, or pain in the places where you were first infected.
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