Herpes simplex is a form of virus, which can affect certain areas of the body, including the mouth, eyes and the genital areas. Herpes is spread through contact with affected individuals; as genital herpes is spread through sexual contact
, it is classified as a sexually transmitted infection.
Herpes simplex is a very common virus, which affects a large proportion of the population; many people have the virus without knowing it because they do not experience symptoms. Genital herpes
usually causes sores to develop in the genital areas and once you have the virus, it is common to experience episodes of symptoms, although they are usually sporadic and tend to become rarer as time goes by.
Genital warts is a long-term condition, which cannot be cured but there are treatments available to ease symptoms; symptoms tend to become apparent when the virus is triggered after laying dormant in the body and nobody really understands what causes the virus to become active. If you have symptoms for the first time, treatment usually involves taking a form of medicine called acyclovir; the course is usually around 5 days long. If you have recurrent infections on a regular basis (at least six times per year) you may be advised to take acyclovir on a long-term basis. In some cases, when symptoms are very mild, no treatment may be required, but it is avoidable to avoid sexual contact while you have sores to prevent spreading the infection.
The herpes simplex virus can also affect the mouth; the sores that develop around the corners of the mouth are commonly known as cold sores. Cold sores can be treated with over the counter topical anti-viral medication, but most sores heal within 7 days without any treatment. Anti-viral creams, which are available from pharmacies without prescription, contain either acyclovir or penciclovir. It is important to apply the cream as soon as the symptoms of a cold sore start to develop, as the creams are only effective at this stage when the virus is still spreading.
In mild cases, there may be no need for treatment, but there are things you can do to help ease symptoms, including taking over the counter painkillers (such as paracetamol), applying Vaseline to the sores, drinking plenty of fluids and adopting good hygiene; while you have symptoms it is advisable to avoid sharing towels and bed linen and having sexual intercourse to reduce the risk of spreading the infection.