What is herpes?
A sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. Herpes is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact with infectious blisters, or when the virus is being shed from the site of previous infections, even though there are no symptoms present. There is no cure for herpes.
Herpes can infect the eyes and can destroy vision if untreated. Herpes can also cause complications during pregnancy. Newborns may acquire herpes at birth when they pass through an infected cervix or vagina. This can be fatal and may be avoided by delivering the infant by Caesarean section.
How do I know if I have herpes?
Symptoms usually appear two to 14 days after contact with the virus, and typically include flu-like symptoms and clusters of tender, painful blisters or sores on or around the lips, mouth, genitals, or anus. However, herpes can occur elsewhere on the body. Sores last between one and three weeks during initial outbreaks; the lesions heal, but a person still has herpes. People can have very mild, or no, symptoms but still be infected and contagious.
Outbreaks recur without reexposure to the virus. Common triggers for outbreaks include menstruation, fever, illness, stress, sunburn and poor nutrition.
How is herpes diagnosed?
Diagnosis includes a physical exam, cultures, smears or blood tests.
How is herpes treated?
There is no cure for herpes. Application of a prescription topical ointment to the lesions may be helpful. Prescription oral medications may reduce the frequency and severity of recurrent outbreaks.