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The Different Types of Herpes

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types of herpes

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  • Two of the most common types of herpes are oral and genital herpes, and they can affect multiple body parts
  • Both types can cause the appearance of sores in multiple body parts
  • Herpes zoster, also known as shingles, can fall under the umbrella of herpes conditions because of the pathogen that triggers it

The herpes simplex viruses (HSV-1 and HSV-2) can trigger two types of herpes that can target multiple areas of your body.1 However, you may also be prone to another condition that may not affect your body like a typical herpes infection, but cause similar health issues because of the pathogen responsible for it.

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is commonly triggered by the HSV-2 virus, although the HSV-1 virus may also be the culprit.2 This infection can appear in both men and women, and affect their genitals’ skin and mucous membranes.3

Women are said to be more prone to genital herpes compared to men, because transmission of the virus is more “efficient” from men to women than from women to men. Data provided by the World Health Organization showed that 267 million women had genital herpes in 2012, compared to 150 million men.4,5

If you have genital herpes, you may feel pain, burning, tingling or itching in a particular area. Afterward, blisters may form, which are a common symptom of genital herpes.6,7 Blisters may appear inside or outside the vagina, on or around the penis, or in and around the anus.8 They can appear within two days to two weeks after initial exposure to the virus,9 and can heal after they break and scab in one to two weeks or more. Other symptoms of genital herpes include fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes and reduced appetite.10

However, you may be unaware of a possible genital herpes case because the disease has a tendency to be asymptomatic or show mild symptoms only.11 The herpes virus may be dormant in your body after an initial infection, but it can be “reactivated” and cause outbreaks.12 Recurrent genital herpes outbreaks may happen four to five times in a year,13 though they usually are less painful and last for a shorter period of time compared to the initial infection.14

Oral Herpes

Also called herpes labialis, oral herpes can manifest on your lips, mouth or gums. This is usually caused by the HSV-1 virus, but in some cases, the HSV-2 virus can transfer to the mouth through oral sexual intercourse.15

The most common indicators of oral herpes are small, painful and fluid-filled blisters, known as cold sores or fever blisters.16 In some cases, however, you may notice small blisters banding together to develop into a larger blister. Cold sores may last for at least one to two weeks.17 Once they heal, they become yellow and crusty, and return to a pinkish color.18 You’ll also notice other symptoms of oral herpes one to three weeks after initial exposure to the virus, such as:19

  • Burning and tingling near your lips or mouth
  • Itchiness of your lips or area around the mouth
  • Fever
  • Sore throat
  • Swollen glands
  • Swallowing pain

After your initial infection, the HSV-1 virus can become dormant in your face’s nerves, but can be reactivated and cause the reappearance of cold sores. Factors that can play a role in this recurrence include:20,21

  • Fever
  • Menstruation
  • Fatigue
  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Sunlight and wind exposure
  • Immune system changes
  • Surgery

Just like those with genital herpes, people with oral herpes are prone to recurrent outbreaks.22 If you’re dealing with oral herpes, you may experience another outbreak, although it may be less severe and occur less frequently.23,24

At least 50% to 80% of people in the U.S. have already been affected by HSV-1-caused by oral herpes.25 On a global scale, 3.7 billion HSV-1 infections were recorded in 2012, according to the WHO.26,27

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Shingles or Herpes Zoster

Although it’s not caused by either the HSV-1 or HSV-2 virus, shingles, or herpes zoster, falls under the umbrella of herpes diseases since it’s caused by the varicella-zoster virus.28 You may have shingles if you notice red rashes on one side of your face or body29 or see fluid-filled blisters that may open.30

One to five days before the rashes or blisters are visible, you may feel some of the other early symptoms of shingles, such as pain, itching or tingling on the affected area. Once the rashes or blisters finally appear, they may scab within a seven- to 10-day period, and heal within two to four weeks.31 Other symptoms of shingles include fever, chills, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, nausea and an upset stomach.32

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveals that “about 1 in 3 people in the U.S. will develop shingles in their lifetime.”33 However, anyone from any age group may be diagnosed with shingles if they have any of these risk factors:34

  • Being 50 years old and above
  • Undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment
  • Having an immune system weakened by different diseases or medications35


Herpes: Introduction

What Is Herpes?

Herpes Types

Herpes Causes

Herpes Stages

Herpes Symptoms

Herpes Prevention

Herpes Diagnosis

Herpes Treatment

Living With Herpes

Herpes FAQ

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