Herpes Simplex Virus

Herpes simplex virus is a viral infection that may infect many different areas of the body, such as the genitalia and mouth. There are two different strains of the virus: herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 is typically associated with infections of the mouth and lips. HSV-2 is associated with infections of the genitals. However, either strain of the virus may infect any area. HSV may be spread through saliva particles or sexual contact. One unusual form of HSV-1, known as herpes gladiatorum, is passed from skin-to-skin contact, such as in wrestling.

SYMPTOMS

  • Sometimes, no symptoms.

  • Fever.

  • Headache.

  • Muscle aches.

  • Tingling.

  • Itching.

  • Tenderness.

  • Genital burning feeling.

  • Genital pain.

  • Pain with urination.

  • Pain with sexual intercourse.

  • Small blisters in the affected areas.

RISK FACTORS

  • Kissing an infected person.

  • Sharing eating utensils with an infected person.

  • Unprotected sexual activity.

  • Multiple sexual partners.

  • Direct contact sports without protective clothing.

  • Contact with an exposed herpes sore.

  • Stress, illness, and cold increase the risk of recurrence.

PROGNOSIS

The primary outbreak of an HSV infection usually lasts 2 to 3 weeks. However, it has been known to last up to 6 weeks. After the primary outbreak subsides, the virus goes into a stage known as latency. During this time, there may be no physical symptoms of infection. After a period of time, some event, such as stress, cold, or illness will trigger another outbreak. This cycle of latency and outbreak may continue indefinitely. The outbreaks usually become milder over time. The body cannot rid itself of HSV.

RELATED COMPLICATIONS

  • Recurrence.

  • Infection in other areas of the body, such as the eye (ocular herpetic infection, keratitis) and rarely the brain (herpetic encephalitis).

TREATMENT

Many HSV infections can be treated without medicine. During an outbreak, avoid touching the sores. Ice may be used to dull the pain and suppress the virus. Exposure to the sun is a common trigger for an outbreak, so the use of sunscreen may help in such cases. Avoid sexual contact during outbreaks. During the latent periods, it is advised that you use latex condoms, which will reduce the likelihood of spreading the virus to another person. Condoms made from animal products do not protect against HSV. Female condoms cover a larger area than male condoms, and may offer the most protection from the transmission of HSV. The presence of HSV will not affect a condom's ability to protect against pregnancy.

Only take medicines for pain and discomfort if directed to do so by your caregiver. Many claims exist that certain dietary changes will prevent an outbreak, but these claims have not been proven. These claims include eating foods that are high in L-lysine and low in arginine (i.e. yogurt, beets, apples, pears, mangoes, oily fish (such as salmon, haddock, snapper, and swordfish), soybean sprouts, chicken, and tomatoes).

Athletes may return to play once they are showing no symptoms, and they have been treated.