What is herpes and how is it treated?
Herpes virus is not a single virus but a group of pathogens with similar properties that cause different diseases. Some of the illnesses are triggered by the same type of virus. For instance, genital and lip herpes are provoked by the same virus type – it could be herpes simplex type 1 or type 2.
The viruses from this group are widely widespread. It is estimated that almost 90% of the total world population are carriers of the virus even though some people are unsuspecting it. The thing is that herpes can be inactive for many years and then manifest in one of the forms when a carrier’s immunity is weakened. Interestingly, most people first contract the virus in childhood.
Short information about herpes
What diseases herpes causes?
Most commonly the virus affects:
- Skin, eyes (conjunctivitis, keratitis);
- Lips (cold sores);
- External part of the genitalia.
In severe herpes infection, central nervous system can be affected and meningitis or encephalitis can develop.
The flare-up of the virus occurs in the weakening of the immune system that can be caused by overcooling, common cold and excessive exposure to the sun, and others.
There are 8 types of herpes that can be found in the human body:
- Herpes simplex type 1: it causes lip herpes or cold sores on the lips or other parts of the skin.
- Herpes simplex type 2: it induces genital herpes that is similar to cold sores but affects genitalia.
- Chickenpox virus: it induces chickenpox and shingles in around 30% of individuals who had chickenpox.
- Epstein–Barr virus: it causes infectious mononucleosis.
- Cytomegalovirus: it causes a cytomegalovirus infection.
The viruses of the types 6,7, and 8 aren’t fully understood yet. It is assumed that they may be causing chronic fatigue syndrome and spontaneous rash occurrence.
Symptoms of different types of herpes
- Herpes simplex starts from the slight tingling, tightness of the skin, itching, and burning sensation. After some time (usually, from a couple of hours to several days), a group of crowded liquid-filled bubbles occurs on the affected area. The symptoms are the same for lip, eye, and genital herpes.
- Chickenpox develops mainly in kids. It is characterized by fever, intoxication, a rash in the form of vesicles with transparent contents all over the body.
- Herpes zoster or shingles caused by the same type of virus as chickenpox occurs only in people who had already had chickenpox. It is characterized by intense nerve pain, usually on the back, chest, or face. In several days after the pain occurrence, the painful area becomes covered in crowded liquid-filled bubbles. The pain and subsequent rash are usually unilateral, i.e. are limited to one side of the body.
The disease can also cause the enlargement of the lymph nodes, fever, and general malaise. Nerve pains can be present for many months after the first symptom occurrence. The virus commonly turns active in the cold season, in common cold, flu, and vitamin deficiency. The reproduction of the virus in the skin and mucosa causes the dystrophy and death of the cells.
Based on various studies it is considered that herpes is a stimulating factor for Alzheimer’s disease development. The virus was detected in the brain of 70% of individuals with the disease who were studied.
How is herpes transmitted?
Any type of herpes can be transmitted through direct contact and through household items.
It is considered that lip herpes, i.e. herpes of type 1, is mainly transmitted through kissing or using the same dishes as an infected person. Besides, it can cause genital herpes in oral-genital contact.
It is considered that infection is also airborne. The virus penetrates through the mucosa of the mouth, nose, eyes, and genitals. Crossing the tissue barriers, the virus penetrates the blood and lymph and then various internal organs.
Herpes penetrates into the nerve endings and inserts into the genetic apparatus of the nervous cells which is why it can never be completely eliminated from the body.
The immune system reacts to herpes with the production of antibodies that block virus particles circulating in the blood.
Although there are different types of herpes, the same antiviral medicines are effective for all of them. The antiviral drugs that are used both for prophylaxis and treatment are Acyclovir and Valacyclovir.
Basically, Valacyclovir is a slightly improved version of acyclovir. In the body it also transforms into acyclovir but the number of intakes is lower in the case of Valacyclovir which makes it more convenient. You can buy generic Valacyclovir from our online drugstore not to overpay for the known brand.
The recommendations for Valacyclovir use are:
- Shingles or zoster is treated by 1000 mg taken thrice a day for 7 days;
- Lip herpes is treated by 500 mg twice a day for 3-5 days. Alternative treatment scheme is 2000 mg twice a day for one day. The second dosage should be taken 12 hours after the first one.
- Genital herpes is treated by 500 mg twice a day for 5-10 days in the first occurrence and 3-5 days in recurrent cases.
- For prophylaxis of cytomegalovirus infection after an organ transplant, the drug is used in the dosage of 2000 mg four times a day starting from the first day after surgery.
For relapsing lip or genital herpes it is recommended to use the medication as prophylaxis or with the occurrence of the first symptom. The prophylactic dosage is 500 mg once a day for as long as needed. In patients with factors that make them immunocompromised, the dosage is 500 mg twice a day. The treatment can be done for years.