The herpes simplex viruses cause blisters and sores around the mouth, nose, genitals and buttocks, but these viruses can occur almost anywhere on the skin. Classified separately as herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2, these viruses remain in the body after the initial outbreak and can resurface throughout one’s lifetime. Herpes simplex 1 causes cold sores and fever blisters, while herpes simplex 2 is a sexually transmitted disease characterized by sores on the buttocks, penis, vagina or cervix.
- Herpes Simplex 1
With herpes simplex 1, you generally have small, fluid-filled, clear blisters that most often occur on the face but can occur in other locations. Usually people catch this virus during childhood by coming in close contact with an infected family member or friend. An estimated 50 to 80 percent of the adult population has herpes simplex 1.
- Herpes Simplex 2
Lesions that appear on the genitalia and buttocks are often caused by herpes simplex 2. Approximately one out of five people in the U.S. have genital herpes and many do not realize it. The primary symptoms of genital herpes are sores, vesicles or ulcers that look like small pimples. These sores may crust over and develop a scab. Because the herpes lesions can be mild, people may mistake genital herpes for insect bites, jock itch or a vaginal yeast infection.
With both herpes simplex 1 and herpes simplex 2, small, painful, fluid-filled blister clusters generally appear on the skin, mouth, lips, eyes or genitals. Fever and fatigue may also accompany these viruses.
Because these viruses remain in the body and periodically reactivate, there is no cure for herpes simplex 1 or herpes simplex 2. Creams and ointments can shorten the healing time and duration of cold sores.
Doctors often prescribe anti-viral medications during re-occurrences of herpes simplex 2 which make patients more comfortable and lessen the length of the outbreak. People who suffer from frequent outbreaks may need suppression therapy with antiviral medications.
The best prevention from the herpes simple viruses is to avoid contact such as kissing, sharing drinks and any type of sex including oral sex, with someone who has an active infection. Anyone with genital herpes should always use a condom. Because a pregnant mother can transfer herpes to her child through the birth canal, doctors usually recommend a Caesarean birth.
Several different factors can contribute to a flare up, but the exact causes are unknown. Stress, exposure to the sun, trauma, and hormones may trigger an outbreak.