What causes Herpes Simplex?

Herpes simplex, commonly called cold sores or fever blisters, may occur once or return again and again. It’s caused by the herpes hominis virus. Herpes Simplex is treated by Dr. DeEtta Gray in her Bellveue office for patients from Bellevue, Redmond, Kirkland, Seattle and throughout the Northwest.

Herpes Simplex begins as a group of small red bumps that blisters. You may have noticed itching or discomfort before the rash appeared. The blisters begin to dry up after a few days and form yellow crusts. The crusts gradually fall off and leave slowly fading red areas. The whole process takes about 10 – 14 days. No scars form.

These mild symptoms are typical of recurring Herpes Simplex. The very first infection with the herpes virus usually happens in childhood. It may go unrecognized, but often it causes fever, general illness, and much local soreness. Once you’ve had a Herpes Simplex infection, the virus becomes permanently established in your nerve tissue. Recurring herpes lesions result from activation of this virus. In between attacks it lives quietly in nerve tissue.

Fever and sun exposure are the most common factors triggering Herpes Simplex virus. That’s when cold sores or fever blisters break out. Often no triggering factor can be found; the virus becomes activated without any apparent reason. Herpes Simplex is treated by our doctor for patients in our region.

Is Herpes Simplex contagious?

Like most other viruses, Herpes Simplex virus is contagious to people who have never had the infection before. Close contact such as kissing is necessary to transmit the infection.

Genital herpes is usually spread through sexual intercourse and is essentially a disease of adults. It’s also contagious when in the active stages. Recurring herpes is not a re-infection, but activation of a virus present in a quiet form in nerve tissue.

How is Herpes Simplex treated?

Herpes Simplex infections are treated with antiviral medicine. This helps speed up the healing process in addition to possibly preventing recurrences. Our physician will prescribe a cream to make you more comfortable while you’re getting over herpes.

Recurring herpes is usually only an uncomfortable nuisance. One exception is herpes of the eye. Since it may lead to eye damage, you should see an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) immediately. Fortunately, eye involvement is rare with Herpes Simplex. Herpes Simplex around the eye is not dangerous unless it involves the eye.

Can I prevent Herpes Simplex?

Herpes Simplex is unpredictable. It may attack every few weeks or months, then not come back for years. Vitamins, repeated smallpox vaccinations, herpes vaccines, dye and light treatments, and antiviral drugs applied to the skin have all been tried. Some of these remedies may have unpleasant side effects: all are worthless. Recurring herpes can be very distressing. Fortunately, attacks of genital herpes gradually becomes less frequent. We have to face the fact that as yet there’s no way to absolutely prevent recurring Herpes Simplex – with one exception.

Prevention of recurring Herpes Simplex is sometimes possible when attacks are triggered by sunlight. If sunlight acts as an activator for your Herpes Simplex, you should use a sunscreen on and around your lips when you go outdoors.

Summary:

Fever blisters or cold sores are a harmless infection caused by herpes hominis virus. There is no effective treatment for the rash. Fortunately, it heals itself without leaving scars. Sometimes repeated attacks can be prevented if a triggering factor, such as sunlight, can be found and avoided. Herpes Simplex is moderately contagious to people who have never had the infection.