What is Herpes?

Herpes is a virus that is spread by skin to skin contact with an actively infected partner with an existing herpes outbreak.  This particular virus is responsible for herpes, cold sores, genital herpes, all are types of the  herpes simplex virus (HSV).

There are two types of the Herpes Simplex Virus:

Type 1 (HSV-1)
Type 2 (HSV-2)

HSV-1 or Cold Sores is commonly found in or around the mouth, lips, nose, between the nose and lips, face or surrounding areas. HSV type 1 most commonly causes sores on the lips, commonly called cold sores. Type 1 herpes can also be anywhere on the body, above the waist. Herpes on the back is called Shingles (Herpes Zoster), another nice word for herpes. Shingles effects usually older people above 60 years old, but not always.

HSV-2 or Genital Herpes is a more intense strand of the Herpes Simplex Virus. Commonly found below the waist, on the genitals, buttocks, and the anus. However, both of these viruses can cause herpes infections on the face, genitals, or other body areas, depending on the type of HSV that caused the original infection.

The virus will not change into a different strand (for example HSV type 1 will not turn into HSV type 2). However, a person can contract HSV type 1 on the genitals through contact with an open cold sore during oral sex, causing a genital herpes infection.

To determine which strand of the Herpes Simplex Virus you may have been infected with, and is causing an infection, a proper testing is recommended, such as a “type specific” blood test or culture swab test should be done. Just ask your doctor for this specific testing.

What is Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes is a contagious viral infection that affects an estimated 1 out of 4 adult Americans. Each year, as many as 500,000 new cases are believed to occur. The infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV type 2 most often causes genital sores on the vagina, and penis, but it also can infect the mouth through oral sex.

A genital herpes infection usually is acquired by sexual contact with someone who has the active herpes virus in their system HSV-1 (transmitted through oral sex) or HSV-2 (transmitted through sexual contact). It can be active and contagious even when sores are not present in the genital area (this is called viral shedding).

What are the Symptoms and Stages of  Herpes and Cold Sores?

Phase 1 – Prodrome: area gets warm and painful; tingling is associated with this first stage.
Phase 2 – Macule: Area becomes red (erythema); a type of hypersensitivity or allergic reaction that occurs in response to the virus.
Phase 3 – Papule: Small red bumps form, often accompanied by a throbbing pain.
Phase 4 – Vesicle: Colorless, fluid-filled blisters start to develop.
Phase 5 – Postule: At this stage a clear liquid becomes yellow and pus forms.
Phase 6 – Crust: A yellowish crust forms on the affected area.
Phase 7 – Scab: Area becomes reddish and dry; area itches.
Phase 8 – Healing: Pain disappears; the scab falls off.

Within a few days, sores (also called lesions) appear at the site of infection. Lesions also can occur on the cervix in the women or in the urinary passage in men. These small red bumps may develop into blisters or painful open sores. Over a period of days, the sores become crusted and then heal. Other symptoms that may accompany a primary episode of genital herpes can include fever, headache, muscle aches, painful or difficult urination, vaginal discharge and swollen glands in the groin area.

Typical Male Herpes pictureTypical Female Herpes Picture