HEALTH & WELLNESS
Herpes: Types, Symptoms and Treatments
In some cultures, glitter is referred to as the herpes of the arts and crafts world. After all, when exposed to only a little bit of it, glitter is notoriously tricky to get rid of. After days of extensive washing, drying, and checking your body, glitter often gets everywhere and is nearly impossible to get rid of.
Unfortunately, getting rid of herpes itself is far more difficult to protect yourself, treat once you have it and get rid of. Consequently, herpes is one of the most common STIs. In fact, nearly four billion people have some form of herpes worldwide.
However, with the proper education and protection, avoiding contracting herpes can be easier than you might think.
What Types of Herpes Are There and What are the Symptoms?
There are two forms of the herpes simplex virus – HSV-1 commonly called oral herpes or cold sores, and HSV-2 also known as genital herpes. The former infects neural cells and produces blisters which erupt into sores in and around the mouth and typically dissipates within a matter of days. Before a blister’s eruption, an infected individual may experience a tingly, burning sensation.
Typically, this virus goes into remission and may manifest again under certain conditions such as stress or sickness. However, most individuals build up antibodies to the virus by their twenties.
Though not as common, HSV-1 infections can also produce blisters on the fingers, too.
Moving on, like cold sores, HSV-2 infects the nervous system and produces painful sores all around the genitals and other areas below the waist including around or in the anus. In some cases, individuals may experience discharge from the penis or vagina, as well as a burning sensation during and difficulty while urinating.
Just like HSV-1, genital herpes will go into periods of remission and outbreaks cyclically, though the symptoms can be more intense and regular.
Further, additional symptoms of HSV-2 may include additional symptoms such as headaches, chills, a fever, fatigue and swelling glands in your pelvic area, on the throat and under the arms.
How Do You Get Herpes
Both forms of herpes are commonly transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Typically, cold sores are spread through kissing, though sharing items which obstruct infected sores with another person such as cutlery or a toothbrush can also transmit the virus.
As the name would suggest, genital herpes is commonly spread through sexual intercourse. Unlike other STIs, since herpes can cover such a large area of the body, and thus bypass prophylactics, you can still become infected when having vaginal or anal sex with someone who is experiencing a herpes outbreak. While less common, it is possible, particularly those with a weakened immune system to transmit HSV-2 through oral sex as well.
Keep in mind, in some people HSV-2 either doesn’t manifest symptoms or may lay dormant for years. That said, those who carry the virus may spread it without realizing it.
However, when proper protection, medication and timing is used, it is still possible to have an enjoyable sex life with someone who does have HSV-2 or if indeed you have it yourself.
Treatment for Herpes
Cold sores symptoms are fairly easy to treat, and myriad home remedies and over-the-counter treatments are available. With respect to genital herpes, upon first being detected your healthcare provider may prescribe anti-retroviral medications to prevent the infection from getting worse. Following that, you should investigate taking one of several available treatment options to suppress the virus and prevent outbreaks or make outbreaks shorter and less painful.
While herpes can be managed, at present there is no complete cure for it, nor is there a vaccine against it.
Can Herpes Ever Be Cured?
In the past several decades, numerous remedies for and vaccinations against viral infections have been developed. Examples include painful and deadly afflictions like the shingles, chickenpox, whooping cough and a couple forms of hepatitis, among others.
So surely, a means of immunizing against and a way to cure herpes must be around the corner.
However, addressing the issue of curing herpes may seem straightforward, it has and will likely continue to be difficult to permanently cure or completely protect an individual against. And no, this has not been due to a lack of funding or interest in the subject. In fact, since billions of people are infected with at least one form of the herpes virus, and several multinational corporations have applied research in this area, it would seem likely that this would be an area of ongoing, progressive research.
Unfortunately, between the middle of 2017 through 2018, three corporations – after already investing millions of dollars into herpes immunizations – abandoned further development into that area. In total, attempts to develop a vaccine for herpes have been attempted for decades, but limited progress has been made.
Part of this was because these companies saw more lucrative opportunities in other areas of medicine such as cancer treatment, but also because of how challenging the herpes virus is to tackle.
Challenge of the Herpes Virus
First, herpes evolves quite differently than related viruses, like HPV, so developing a modified version of an existing vaccine isn’t an option.
Second, the fact that HSV can hide within the body without manifesting symptoms for years at a stretch frustrates attempts at identifying and attacking this infection.
Third, since a single strain of herpes can adapt rapidly to treatment, developing a holistic vaccine which shields against all forms of the virus are virtually impossible.
These challenges, coupled with the enormous amount of capital to invest into a complete research trial, makes many pharmaceutical companies hesitant to throw away more money.
However, there are some ambitious developers who are making progress in this area. For instance, one some scientists are developing topically applied antimicrobials which kill herpes and other sexually transmitted pathogens before they can infect the genitals.
Regardless, while future research may yield other curative treatments or a vaccine, we recommend following proven methods to prevent infection or the spread of herpes, know the status of yourself and your sexual partner(s), get tested regularly and practice safe sex.