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Herpes Simplex by Nick Ferrugia

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Herpes simplex is a viral disease that infects the mouth region (including the lips and gums, and sometimes even the eyes), as well as the genital region (which may also include the rectum). When activated during an “outbreak” painful red blisters appear, that later break open and leak. They eventually get yellow and crusty and turn into pink skin. They generally go away in one to two weeks, depending on the severity of the outbreak.

The virus is caused by both HSV-1 (herpes simplex virus type 1) and HSV-2 (herpes simplex virus type 2). HSV-1 is what’s known as oral herpes, and is extremely prevalent in the United States. In fact, most people in the U.S. are infected with HSV-1, or “cold sores,” by age 20. HSV-2 is what is known as genital herpes and is generally more painful causing aches and pains in the genital area, as well as burning and difficulty urinating. Though these sores are usually found below the waist, they sometimes occur in other areas. Females are more likely to contract HSV-2 than males. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 cause painful fluid filled blisters and unfortunately, with both oral and genital herpes, there is no long-term cure.

For those that carry the virus, prevention is key to successfully living an outbreak free life. This is because once the blisters have formed it is usually too late to take care of the problem. Medications such as Acyclovir, Abreva, or Valtrex have been known to be most effective when used right before the onset of an outbreak. They work by slowing down the replication of the virus, giving the human body more time to fight off the infection. If individuals are prescribed Valtrex for cold sores they take 2 grams twice a day for one day, 12 hours apart. This medication is known to be the most effective antiviral medication due to its ability to get into the blood quickly and efficiently.

Many sufferers are vigilant of the potential triggers such as general illness or fatigue, physical or emotional stress, being out in the sun, hormone changes, immunosuppression due to AIDS or steroids, menstruation, or trauma to the affected area, which may include shaving or sexual activity. Many of these symptoms result in a lowered immune system, which makes it easier for the herpes virus to attack, since the human immune system is known to be linear, fighting off one thing at a time. Many herpes sufferers are also carefully observant of internal warning signs right before an outbreak. These may include a burning or tingling sensation in the area where the sores are about to form.

The herpes simplex virus is worse for some than for others. For example, many people carry the virus without even knowing they have it and without experiencing any symptoms. Others may have an initial outbreak, which is usually the worst, and never experience another again. Others may have many outbreaks at a certain point in their life, but never experience an outbreak again after that time period. Individuals that are riddled with outbreaks often choose to go on “suppressive therapy,” taking antiviral medication daily to prevent painful and embarrassing outbreaks. Many also avoid specific triggers which may include spicy or salty foods, citrus, or even nitrites.

Although herpes is incurable, this doesn’t mean there aren’t solutions to minimizing or all together preventing outbreaks. I think that before letting doctors put them on antiviral medications, infected individuals should take measures that may potentially allow them to become proactive and avoid outbreaks without medication. Those infected with the virus can keep food diaries to pinpoint which kinds of foods are triggers. As mentioned above, many find out that citrus or preservatives such as nitrites, are often the culprits. They can also do their own research on the herpes virus to learn how to better manage the problem. Finally, if one is infected with the virus, I think it is his/her responsibility to tell sexual partners about the risk of transmission. This is because most people contract herpes simplex from an individual who is experiencing “asymptomatic viral shedding,” which means the person who spread the virus had no symptoms (or sores).

“American Academy of Dermatology”. Who gets and causes

“U.S. National Library of Medicine”. Herpes-Oral

“WebMD”. Herpes Simplex: Herpes Type 1 and 2

“Drugs.Com”. Valtrex Dosage

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