Herpes: A Well-Known But Highly Misunderstood Sexually Transmitted Disease

Herpes: A Well-Known But Highly Misunderstood Sexually Transmitted Disease

Medical science advancements are being made every day, easing the concerns people have about catching certain diseases because now there are treatments available to alleviate the dangers associated with them.

Of course, some diseases, such as STDs, are particularly concerning and are getting some much-needed attention. For example, herpes is one of the more manageable STDs out there, but difficult to diagnose because its virus can stay dormant in the body. Blisters may appear like cold sores and ulcers may show up from time to time.

The most at-risk group for herpes is adolescents and young adults – ages 15 to 24.

A Look At Herpes

Herpes is a highly-recognized STD, but despite all the literature about it, people still don’t have the knowledge they need about the disease. Most people know that herpes can show up on the genitals and the mouth because the Herpes virus comes from the same family. However, herpes has more than 70 kinds of viruses and eight types.


For instance, the simplex virus can lead to eight kinds of herpes that affect both children and adults. These kinds of herpes are known as HSV-1 and HSV-2. If you suffer from a cold sore, this is known as HSV-1. Fever blisters are common in children. This herpes virus is caught in childhood and stays dormant until the immune system is weak. The virus can appear (symptoms) and lead to other possible health problems.

If you notice any possible symptoms of a herpes outbreak, this is the time to get checked out.


This is the second common kind of herpes but is well-known by genital herpes. Why? This herpes virus causes cold sores and blisters to appear around the genitalia. HSV-2 is the number one reason people experience genital ulcers. That’s the word from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency said one in three people have genital herpes but don’t know they have it.

The only time a doctor will be able to accurately diagnose a person with herpes is when the symptoms are active. Another problem with the herpes virus is that it’s extremely contagious and can be spread easily from one person to another.

What Symptoms Should You Watch Out For?

A doctor will get a swab of an active herpes sign such as ulcers or cold sores to determine what type of HSV a person has. Of course, the swab needs to be taken from a large ulcer or cold sore. For a person with inactive herpes, a blood test will be necessary to learn if the body has any herpes antibodies. What are some of the symptoms of herpes to watch out for?

  • A single cold sore or many cold sores around the lips, inside the mouth, upper thighs, buttocks and genitals
  • Painful sorest that burst open and leak fluid
  • Swelling, tenderness or redness around the sore
  • White lining that burns when touched (usually from herpes canker sores)
  • Fever, tiredness and headaches are also common
  • Itchy sensation around the sore

How Does A Person Catch The Herpes Virus

It’s important to understand that herpes can spread even without sexual contact, despite what you most people assume. For example, both types of HSVs can be caught via any kind of direct contact with an infected person. Any kind of skin-to-skin contact can cause a person to become infected with the herpes virus. If a person touches another person’s cold sore, they are likely to have herpes themselves.

HSV-1 is not seen as an STD but a mouth-to-mouth disease. HSV-2, however, is typically transmitted sexually. With that in mind, how can you avoid catching any type of infection?

  • Don’t engage in unprotected sex (oral included)
  • Don’t kiss a person with active herpes symptoms (kissing, for example)
  • Don’t have sex with more than one person at a time
  • Don’t consume a lot of alcohol, which lowers your inhibition
  • Avoid using drugs
  • Eat a nutrient-rich diet to build up your immune system.

Avoid coming into contact with a person who has active herpes if you have an autoimmune disorder, HIV/AIDS or hepatitis.

Mark Riegel, MD

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