Herpes is a term given to a group of conditions that are caused by the Herpes Virus. The most common types of herpes viruses include Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) and Herpes Zoster virus. There are different conditions that are caused by these herpes viruses. Some of the most common health conditions that are associated with herpes include chicken pox, shingles, cold sores around the mouth and genital herpes. The severity of each of these conditions could vary from one person to the other. The symptoms seen in each of the herpes condition are also varied in nature.

Unfortunately there is no cure for herpes, even though there are several medical treatments that can help alleviate the conditions caused. Once you are infected with the herpes virus, it stays in your body for the rest of your life. In most cases, the virus remains dormant, but there are quite a few conditions or circumstances that could cause it to become active again, leading to recurrent herpes.

Once a person gets infected with herpes, there are four stages that are usually seen, while the infection is manifested. These include the primary stage, the latent stage, the shedding stage and recurrences. The primary stage generally begins anywhere between 2 and 8 days after you get infected. In a few instances, the first stage could take a little longer to begin. In the first stage, the infection is usually characterized by the appearance of small, red, painful and fluid-filled blisters. In some, these symptoms are quite painful and turn into open sores quite soon, but others may not even notice the blisters. People suffering from genital herpes may find it difficult to urinate in this stage too. Unfortunately, there are a lot of individuals who do not even realize that they been infected by the herpes virus at this stage. As the second stage or the latent stage develops, there are no blisters, sores or other similar symptoms that are evident. This could be due to the fact that the virus is travelling from the skin to the nerves located near the spine. In the third stage, which is the shedding stage, the virus begins to multiply within the nerve endings. In case these nerve endings are close to body fluids in any way, the virus could get into the saliva, semen or vaginal fluid. While none of the symptoms of herpes are evident at this stage, the virus is spreading. The fourth stage does not necessarily affect everyone. However, most people experience a recurrence of blisters and sores, once the initial herpes attack goes away.

Contrary to what many people believe, the herpes virus is not only prevalent in adults. Many children and teens have been known to suffer from conditions like chicken pox and shingles, both of which are caused by the herpes zoster virus. However, genital herpes is only passed on from one person to the other because of sexual contact.

Symptoms of Herpes

What is worrying about the herpes infection is that many of those who are infected with the virus remain blissfully unaware of it, mainly because the symptoms are fairly mild and go unnoticed. Moreover, the symptoms that are associated with different conditions caused by the herpes simplex virus are bound to vary.

Genital Herpes Symptoms

  • Pain and itchiness in the genital area
  • Appearance of small red bumps or white blisters, which could rupture or turn into bleeding ulcers
  • Formation of scabs on the affected area of the skin
  • Sores that erupt mainly on the vaginal area, anus, cervix or buttock in women and in case of men, on the penis, buttocks, scrotum, anus and thighs
  • Burning sensation while urinating
  • Swollen nymph nodes in the groin area

Cold Sores Symptoms

  • Blisters on the lips or around the mouth
  • Difficulty in speaking, eating and swallowing because of the sores
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the throat and neck
  • Drooling (in case of children)

It is more common for cold sores to appear on or around the lips, but in some cases, they can also be seen on the chin, nostrils and fingers. It is also likely for cold sores to appear on the inside of the mouth, mainly on the gums, the underside of the tongue, the inside of the cheek and the roof of the mouth.

Chicken Pox Symptoms

  • Presence of a red and itchy rash, which looks like insect bites, mainly on the back, chest, scalp and face
  • Appearance of liquid-filled blisters, which may break open and then crust over
  • Feeling of unease, irritability, restlessness, malaise and general discomfort
  • Severe loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Pain in the abdominal area
  • Headaches, ranging from mild to severe
  • Dry cough

Shingles Symptoms

  • Itchiness
  • Headaches
  • Appearance of a reddish rash
  • Chills and a fever
  • Blisters that are filled with fluid, which may break open and crust over
  • Fatigue
  • Numbness, pain, tingling and burning
  • General body ache

The signs and symptoms of shingles usually affect only a small part of the skin on one side of the body.

Causes of Herpes

The cause for the herpes condition is because of a viral infection that is picked up through personal or very often through sexual contact. The virus usually enters your body through a break in your skin, like a cut or a wound. However, it is also possible for the virus to gain entry into a person’s body through the skin of the mouth, vagina, penis, anus and cervix. Herpes can easily spread from one part of your body to another. Unfortunately, a woman who is infected with herpes can also pass the virus on to her baby, during the delivery process.

Genital herpes can be caused by two types of Herpes Simplex Viruses. HSV-1 is the kind of virus that usually affects the mouth area, but can also spread to the genitals during oral sex. The most common virus that leads to genital herpes is HSV-2. This virus is very easily transmitted and can move from one person to another, even if there is no open sore present anywhere. The HSV-2 virus dies quite quickly if it is outside the body. Therefore, genital herpes is unlikely to occur after mere contact with an infected person’s clothes, towels, linens and so on. On the other hand HSV-1 can spread from one person to another if utensils, toiletries and towels are shared. Kissing too, can cause HSV-1 to spread.

Chickenpox, which is caused by the Herpes Zoster Virus is a very contagious condition and spreads quickly from one person to another. This condition occurs because of direct contact with a person who is already infected, or from inhaling any infected droplets that have been dispersed into the air.

The same virus that causes chickenpox can also lead to shingles. In fact, people who suffer from chickenpox are prone to shingles, which is nothing but a relapse of the condition. The most common factor that triggers off this relapse is a weakened immune system.

Remedies for Herpes

Unfortunately there is no cure for herpes; antibiotics are useless in herpes treatment, as they have no effect on a virus. However, your health care provider may advise you to take some antiviral medication, in order to treat the condition faster. Nevertheless, once you have been infected with the herpes virus, it always remains within your system. Fortunately, there are some medicines and topical ointments that can help alleviate the symptoms caused by this condition. In some cases, a doctor may also advise you to use simple and natural home remedies for herpes. Given below are some of the most common remedies for herpes:

  • Ice: This is one of the best remedies to soothe most skin problems, including the itchiness, pain and discomfort caused by herpes. Apply an ice pack directly on to the affected area for at least 10 to 15 minutes at a time. This remedy should be used at least 3 or 4 times a day.
  • Tea Bags: Black tea leaves contain a high amount of tannins, which are believed to have antiviral as well as antibacterial properties. Use a tea bag to make some tea like you normally would and then cool it in a refrigerator for a while. Apply the cold tea bags directly on to the affected skin and hold it there for around five minutes or so. This exercise should be repeated around 3 or 4 times a day, each time with a fresh tea bag
  • Baking Soda: There are innumerable benefits associated with this old remedy, as it relieves itching and helps dry the sores. Take a damp piece of cotton and coat it with some baking soda, before applying it directly to the affected area. Corn starch can also be used in the same way
  • Aloe Vera: This remedy is excellent for soothing an itch and for healing the skin after a herpes outbreak. However, using products that contain Aloe Vera is not half as effective as using natural gel that has been extracted directly from the leaf.
  • Essential Oils: In order to prevent the sores from leaving a permanent mark on your skin, you could use Vitamin E oil on them. A combination of other essential oils can also be used for the same purpose. You could add a drop or two of essential oils like olive leaf, calendula, rose hip, golden camellia and jojoba to other oils or water and apply it on to your skin.

It is important to note that these remedies help relieve the discomfort caused by the condition. Herpes cannot be treated by any of them. Moreover, it is best to check with a doctor before using any home remedies for herpes.

Diet for Herpes

There is no real clear link between the occurrence of herpes outbreaks and your food consumption, but many individuals claim that there are some foods that seem to trigger such outbreaks in them. While there is no specific diet or preventive diet that is recommended for herpes, in case you do notice that the consumption of certain foods causes you to feel itchy or a bit more uncomfortable, it is best for you to avoid such items. Many individuals state that common foods to aggravate herpes include chocolate, coffee, tea, refined food items, spicy foods, aerated beverages and so on. However, there are no clinical studies to prove that such foods can indeed act as catalysts to herpes outbreaks.

It is fairly common knowledge that a well-balanced and nutritious diet keeps your body, especially your immune system healthy and resistant against infection. Therefore, in order to prevent repeated outbreaks of herpes, it is best to follow a diet that is high in Vitamin B, Vitamin C and other essential nutrients. Make sure you eat plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, cereals, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes.

Suggestion for Herpes

In order to deal with herpes, it is important for the patient to seek help from family members, close relatives and friends as well as caregivers if necessary. It is also essential to ensure that the condition is closely monitored by a health care provider at all times. In case you are on any medication or undergoing any treatment for a preexisting medical condition, it is important to keep your doctor informed about it. 
Herpes Treatments - more information
Herpes - Frequently asked questions