Herpes Simplex – Symptoms and Diagnosis

Learn how to recognize the symptoms of herpes simplex virus

The herpes simplex virus is usually just referred to as herpes. It can appear in two different strains, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Herpes simplex 1, sometimes called oral herpes, usually appears on or around the mouth. This is because it is most commonly transmitted by oral-to-oral contact, such as kissing, sharing someone's drinking container, or using an infected person's toothbrush. The HSV-1 virus can also cause a genital form of herpes.

HSV-2 is usually transmitted through sexual contact. Because of this, herpes simplex 2 generally shows symptoms around the genitals, the upper thigh areas, and the buttocks. HSV-2 causes genital herpes, and along with oral herpes, it is an infection that lasts a lifetime. As far as symptoms go, sometimes there are no signs that you have contracted herpes, either the first or second strain. When symptoms do occur, there are both common and infrequent signs to look for.

Common Signs You Have Developed the Herpes Virus

Oral herpes is extremely common. In many cases it is not very painful, and slightly noticeable if it is noticed at all. Small blisters or ulcers will develop around the mouth area, and when physical symptoms are present, this is when herpes is highly contagious. Bear in mind that someone has to come in direct physical contact with herpes blisters or sores for the virus to be transmitted.

Signs of oral herpes, almost always HSV- 1, are generally referred to as fever blisters or cold sores. HSV- 2 can also be present in and around the mouth, and in this case, was usually transmitted through oral/genital contact during sex. Common herpes simplex 1 symptoms include itching and tingling sensations around the infected site. In 2012, there were as many as 3.7 billion people with some form of oral herpes infection. Common symptoms for HSV-2 mimic the sores and blisters of HSV-1, and these blisters around the anal or genital regions are called ulcers. Genital herpes often causes an irregular discharge from the penis or vagina.

Uncommon Herpes Symptoms

In addition to the mild to medium pain around the infection site due to blisters and sores, herpes simplex 1 and simplex 2 can cause the following uncommon problems. When left untreated and a weakened immune system is also present, due to some chronic illness, side-effect of medication or another reason, herpes can cause high fever and headaches.

Swollen lymph nodes may also appear, along with body aches, and pain in the hips, buttocks and legs with genital herpes. These symptoms usually come and go as the herpes becomes dormant and recurs, which is typical with the herpes virus. Difficulty urinating may also be experienced, and in rare cases, a herpes infection can cause the spinal cord to become inflamed to the point where pain is experienced in the eyes, and a stiff, painful neck may also be present.

Is It Herpes or Something Else?
Herpes can sometimes mask itself as another virus. Learn how to tell the difference.

Diagnosis Herpes – What About Sex and Your Partner?

As noted earlier, when cold sores or fever blisters appear around the mouth, this is usually a situation where herpes has been passed through oral/oral transmission. Two people kiss, and an infected person passes herpes, usually herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1). This can lead to no symptoms at all, or the aforementioned fevers and blisters which come and go as herpes flares up and goes dormant. This can be an obvious problem if you are in relationship, and you or your partner develops oral herpes.

The good news is that oral herpes often shows no physical symptoms. When these cold sores are present because of herpes, they may pop up only once or twice a year. Additionally, milder forms of oral herpes appear, show symptoms, and then disappear for good. Keeping your immune system strong, eating healthy foods, staying active and making other healthy lifestyle choices is important for keeping the herpes infection dormant rather than active, when it is highly contagious.

Genital Herpes and Sex

The biggest sex-related concern of this common infection regards the possibility of having healthy sexual relations. If you contract either the herpes simplex 1 or simplex 2 infections in or around your genitals or anus, are your days of enjoying sex over? There are several ways someone infected with genital herpes can enjoy safe and responsible sex. You just have to swallow a few sensible practices.

First off, don't let the blisters and sores created by herpes negatively affect you mentally and emotionally. You may believe that contracting herpes has made you physically unattractive to your partner. This is something you must discuss with your partner as soon as you receive a herpes diagnosis.

Secondly, understand that herpes generally is a condition which has alternating periods of flaring up and going dormant. This means that during times when you experience a herpes outbreak, you should refrain from sex. You have to be very careful about when you enjoy sexual relations. If you don't have a regular partner and you are playing the dating game, you have to be responsible and honest, and consciously avoid sexual situations when you experience a flare-up.

In other words, when sores or blisters appear on your genitals during an outbreak, or you experience the tingling and burning sensations which often predict an outbreak, you need to refrain from having sex. The good news is, between outbreaks it is okay to enjoy sex, as long as you and your partner understand that one of you has genital herpes. Anyone with genital herpes must responsibly alert his or her partners to the condition, so they can knowingly understand and accept the risks involved.

The third situation to consider is that your partner can be infected with herpes if you have the infection yourself, even when symptoms are not present. To prevent this from happening during sex, always practice safe sex by using a latex condom if oral, anal or vaginal sex is practiced. Condoms by no means guarantee 100% protection from herpes infection, but studies show they dramatically reduce the risk.

Be Creative

There are plenty of ways to express yourself sexually with your partner without oral-to-genital or genital-to-genital contact. Having a creative mind can lead to the discovery of new sexual encounters which are not only safe for both parties involved, but can also add variety and spice to an otherwise normal and boring sexual relationship.

Is It Herpes or Something Else?
Herpes can sometimes mask itself as another virus. Learn how to tell the difference.

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