One of the most common STDs is herpes. Most people with genital herpes, are not aware of it. Genital herpes, can be caused by both HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses. According to the CDC, more than one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes.
There are about 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 suffer from herpes worldwide. That translates to about two thirds of the human population. Although it is common herpes doesn’t often lead to any severe problems. Most carriers don’t know they have the virus. A herpes infection can infect with or without a visual symptoms.
A herpes infection can cause sores on your genitals or mouth, and you can acquire the virus through the skin to skin contact such as sexual intercourse or just by merely kissing (skin contact with sores or via saliva). There is no cure for herpes, but there is some medication that can reduce or ease the symptoms. Herpes has two types; HSV-1 and HSV-2.
What is HSV-1?
HSV-1 or herpes simplex virus one are commonly found in the face, mouth and at some rare cases also in your eye. HSV-1 usually causes a cold sore or fever blister. The infection of herpes simplex virus one can occur at any age, and you can acquire your first infection even from early childhood.
The symptoms of HSV-1 can vary from mild or absent symptoms up to large cold sores covering your chin or the area around your lips. The virus, (as with HSV-2) never leaves, and once reactivated HSV-1 can cause cold sores on the lips or face.
Some factors that can trigger the reactivation of HSV-1 are physical stress or emotional stress, sunlight and hormonal change, that can cause tingling, itching, and pain in your face, lips or ears. There is research that also suggests THC, a cannabinoid, can also trigger cold sores.
What is HSV-2?
Herpes simplex virus 2 or HSV-2 is the most common form of herpes infecting the genital regions like vaginal, penis and rectal area. HSV-2 can cause cracked, red areas, and small blisters that can cause painful sores around your genitals or rectum. HSV-2 causes your genital to experience itching or burning, especially while urinating. You can acquire HSV-2 through sexual intercourse if your partner has an HSV-2.
If seen under a microscope, the HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses look nearly identical to each other. Both viruses infect the mucous membranes of our body in the genitals and oral areas. Mucous membranes are epithelial tissue that secretes mucus like saliva and other bodily liquids. HSV-1 and HSV-2 lie dormant in our nervous system and only replicates after reactivation by physical, chemical or emotional stimuli.
Once reactivated they both can cause another outbreak. These can be accompanied by nausea, muscle aches, and fever or flu-like symptoms. The physical symptoms that can be caused by both viruses are still unclear. They both can happen with or without symptoms.
The HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses have their own preferences for site of infection. The HSV-1 virus is common in the area near the ear and can recur from the lower lip, these areas are around the Trigeminal ganglion region. While HSV-2 is more common in the sacral ganglion or the area from the base of the spine and reoccurs in the genital regions.
HSV-1 is usually mild but can recur spontaneously in the eye, causing severe ocular herpes. HSV-1 can also spread to your brain that can cause herpes encephalitis. Herpes encephalitis is a deadly infection that can lead to death.
On the other hand, HSV-2 rarely causes other complications, but some victims suffer from emotional trauma. In some rare cases, HSV-2 can cause neonatal herpes, which is a severe infection for newborn babies.
Although having their own sites of preference, both viruses can infected in your oral or genital area. Having oral sex during an outbreak of HSV-2 results in the oral area getting infected by HSV-2 virus, and in vice-versa.
Herpes infections can start from your childhood. If your parents or a sibling is infected, you are more likely to get infected. Infection can spread by eating or drinking from the same utensils with someone that is affected. There are many cases when a relative is infected, and they kissed you because of how cute you were, or as a greeting, and spread the virus.
If infected with HSV-2, and pregnant, your offspring is vulnerable to being infected when giving birth. A baby is more susceptible to herpes and it can be dangerous if the baby is under six months due to their immune systems not being well-developed. To prevent infecting a child, thoroughly wash your hands and avoid kissing the baby no matter how cute and innocent they look. Resist the urge to dote and snuggle the little baby until the outbreak has passed.
In conclusion, HSV-1 and HSV-2 are both lifetime illnesses. There is no curative medicines yet for herpes, but there are treatments that can ease your symptoms. Although having similarities and differences, both viruses can be found in either genital or oral areas. They are not really life-threatening, but it is always best to tell your partner if you suffer from herpes.