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Herpes - Rightangled

What is Herpes?

Herpes is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It is a common and contagious condition that can affect various parts of the body, most commonly the mouth (oral herpes) and genital area (genital herpes). Herpes infections can cause painful sores, blisters, and other uncomfortable symptoms. While there is no cure for herpes, treatments are available to manage symptoms and reduce the frequency of outbreaks.

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Herpes is primarily caused by two types of the herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is often associated with oral herpes, causing cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth. HSV-2 is typically linked to genital herpes, resulting in sores on or around the genital and anal areas. The virus is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact, kissing, and touching areas with active outbreaks. It can also be transmitted from a mother to her baby during childbirth.


Diagnosing herpes involves a combination of clinical examination, medical history assessment, and laboratory tests. Healthcare professionals can often identify herpes sores based on their appearance and location. To confirm the diagnosis and determine the specific type of herpes virus, laboratory tests such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and viral cultures may be conducted on samples taken from the affected area.


While there is no cure for herpes, antiviral medications can help manage symptoms and reduce the frequency of outbreaks:

- Antiviral Creams and Ointments: Over-the-counter or prescription topical creams containing antiviral agents can help alleviate pain and discomfort during outbreaks.

- Antiviral Pills: Prescription antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir, can help reduce the severity and duration of outbreaks and may be prescribed for both initial and recurrent episodes.

- Suppressive Therapy: For individuals with frequent or severe outbreaks, doctors may recommend long-term antiviral therapy to suppress symptoms and reduce the risk of transmission to partners.

- Pain Relief Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers can help manage discomfort and pain associated with herpes outbreaks.

- Good Hygiene: Keeping the affected area clean and dry can aid in preventing bacterial infections and promote healing.


Preventing herpes transmission and reducing the risk of outbreaks involves several strategies:

- Safe Sexual Practices: Using condoms consistently and correctly during sexual activity can reduce the risk of transmitting herpes to partners. However, condoms do not provide complete protection, as the virus can be spread through skin-to-skin contact in areas not covered by condoms.

- Avoiding Contact During Outbreaks: Refraining from sexual activity and avoiding direct contact with the affected area during outbreaks can help prevent transmitting the virus to others.

- Oral Herpes Precautions: Avoid kissing or sharing utensils, towels, or other personal items during oral herpes outbreaks to prevent the spreading of the virus.

- Herpes and Pregnancy: Pregnant women with herpes should discuss the condition with their healthcare provider, as certain precautions may be necessary to prevent transmission to the baby during childbirth.

- Early Detection and Treatment: Recognizing the symptoms of an impending outbreak and seeking prompt medical attention can help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms.

In conclusion, herpes is a common viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. While there is no cure, various treatments are available to manage symptoms and reduce the frequency of outbreaks. Safe sexual practices, avoiding direct contact during outbreaks, and good hygiene are essential for preventing transmission. Early diagnosis and timely treatment can help individuals effectively manage herpes and improve their overall quality of life. If you suspect you have herpes or are experiencing symptoms, consult a healthcare professional for accurate diagnosis and appropriate management.

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Can herpes be transmitted through non-sexual contact?

Yes, herpes can be transmitted through non-sexual contact, including kissing, sharing personal items like towels and utensils, and touching areas with active outbreaks. Herpes is highly contagious and can spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected area.

Can herpes be cured with natural remedies or supplements?

While some natural remedies and supplements may offer temporary relief from symptoms, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that they can cure herpes. Antiviral medications prescribed by a healthcare professional are the primary treatment for managing herpes outbreaks and reducing their frequency.

Is it possible to have herpes without experiencing noticeable symptoms?

Yes, it is possible to have herpes without experiencing noticeable symptoms. Some individuals may carry the virus without displaying typical sores or blisters. This is known as asymptomatic shedding, during which the virus can still be transmitted to others through direct skin contact.

Can stress or a weakened immune system trigger herpes outbreaks?

Yes, stress and a weakened immune system can contribute to the reactivation of the herpes virus and trigger outbreaks. Managing stress through relaxation techniques and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the frequency of outbreaks. Additionally, a strong immune system plays a role in controlling the virus and preventing recurrent episodes.

Medically reviewed & approved

This page was medically reviewed by Dr Sohaib Imtiaz (clinical lead) |


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