Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery
104 Erford Road
Camp Hill, PA 17011
Phone 717-763-7685

 

A group of viral infections that cause sores on the mouth (oral herpes) or genitals (genital herpes). There are two types of Herpes Simplex Virus:

Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 or "oral herpes" is the most common form of herpes virus, and affects most people at least once during childhood. It is passed from person-to-person through contact with saliva. It is responsible for the formation of cold sores (fever blisters) or canker sores around the mouth and lips. It may also cause an enlargement of lymph nodes in the neck. Generally, this type of herpes does not need any treatment, but topical and oral antiviral medications are available to treat it when necessary. An uncomplicated cold sore will typically disappear on its own in seven to ten days, even without treatment.

Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 or "genital herpes" is a sexually transmitted herpes virus, often occurring either in the anogenital area or the mouth. About one in five adults in the U.S. has this form of the herpes virus, although many people don’t realize they have it. The infection is characterized by sores that look like small pimples or blisters, which may break open and ooze fluid. This is followed by a period of crusting over and scabbing until the lesions finally heal, which can take up to four weeks. The infection can spread to other areas of the skin that may come into contact with secretions from the blisters. The areas most commonly affected include the vagina, vulva, penis, scrotum, testicles, thighs, and buttocks. Genital herpes may be accompanied by a fever, swollen glands, headache or painful urination. Many people with genital herpes experience sensations of itching, tingling, burning or pain in areas where lesions will develop.

Genital herpes can be diagnosed through a viral culture test of the blister fluid from a lesion, and from blood tests. There is no known cure. Treatment is designed to reduce pain and hasten healing and includes topical and oral antiviral medications. For people with more severe, prolonged or frequent outbreaks, your dermatologist may prescribe a daily antiviral drug.

On average, adults with genital herpes have about four or five outbreaks a year. The first outbreak is usually the most severe and more outbreaks may occur in the first year than in subsequent years. Generally, symptoms begin to appear about two weeks after infection. After an outbreak heals, the virus becomes dormant in nerve cells, until it re-emerges later to cause another outbreak. Outbreaks are known to be triggered by stress, illness or excessive sunlight. It is important for people with genital herpes to avoid sexual contact during an active outbreak to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to a sex partner. However, herpes simplex virus type 2 can be transmitted even when there is no herpes lesion visible on the skin. For this reason, people with herpes simplex type 2 infection are encouraged to practice safe sex and use condoms at all times.