What Is Oral Herpes?
HSV-1 is also commonly called oral herpes, or herpes simplex-1. The virus is very similar to the HSV-2 variant that causes genital herpes. The sores and blisters that are a result of the infection are also nearly the same. The difference is that a man or woman who suffers from HSV-1 will exhibit symptoms of the illness around the mouth and possibly throat. HSV-2 victims will have outbreaks of the sores and blisters on and around their genitalia and anus.
Oral Herpes Symptoms for Men
Men who have been infected by the HSV-1 virus may or may not exhibit overt symptoms of the disease. If they do, the oral herpes virus wastes little time in making its presence felt. Within one week, some men exposed to HSV-1 can feel feverish, and exhibit flu like symptoms. Other men may go for years never showing any signs that they have been exposed to a herpes simplex-1 carrier.
Those who suffer from HSV-1 episodes often say they can feel a tingling sensation around their mouth and lips where the blisters begin to form. Soon after, clusters of small blisters may erupt into sores, and begin to discharge fluid as they burst. Eventually, they dry up and disappear. It is important to remember that a man (or woman) is much more likely to pass the virus onto to someone else while they are having an HSV-1 outbreak.
Oral Herpes Symptoms for Women
As with men, women who pick up the HSV-1 virus may or may not be aware of it. If they do develop the sores associated with illness, it will usually be fairly quickly after their first exposure to an infected person. The first outbreak is usually the worst, and can be accompanied with flu-like symptoms for women as well. Fever, muscle aches, and fatigue can last for one to four weeks when a woman experiences her first attack of HSV-1.
It is believed that the reason the body reacts so strongly after initial exposure to a herpes virus is that the immune system is doing its best to fight the infection. Over time however, a person adapts to the presence of HSV-1 (and HSV-2) thus the outbreaks become less severe, and sometimes more infrequent.
The blisters and sores around, (and sometimes inside) the mouth are identical to those found in a male carrier. There also may be a tingling sensation and itchiness on the lips that precludes the onset of an outbreak.
How Do You Get Oral Herpes?
Oral herpes can be spread by having unprotected heterosexual or homosexual sex. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex. HSV-1 can also be transmitted by kissing, or using an infected person's toothbrush or other personal care items. This is especially risky if your partner is experiencing an outbreak. Sharing eating utensils and drinking from the same glass as an HSV-1 carrier when they are showing open sores is also a bad idea.
Try not to get any of the discharge from the sores on any part of your own body, particularly your own mouth, nose, genitals, or eyes. Like most viruses and bacteria, HSV-1 loves mucous membranes that are warm and moist. This is a near perfect environment for them to infect a new host.
Risks and Effects of Oral Herpes
There is always the risk that a person who is infected with HSV-1 can pass the virus on to other people. This is especially true when having close contact with someone who already has a weak or compromised immune system. Most women and men who pick up oral herpes see the frequency and severity of their outbreaks decline over time. They may even disappear altogether. In a few cases, the sores can spread, and even form inside the mouth, on the tongue, and in the throat of the carrier.
This can make eating and drinking difficult, and even painful during an attack. Fortunately, these cases are the exception, not the norm. Most people carrying HSV-1 can control their symptoms with medicine and creams that help dry out the sores, and reduce any discomfort that they cause.
Oral Herpes Treatment
There is no present cure for oral herpes. Most doctors and patients find a routine that may or may not include prescription medicine to deal with the symptoms of HSV-1. Management is usually highly effective, and male and female carriers of the virus can lead full and productive lives. It is possible for one person in a relationship to be a host for the virus, yet never infect his or her partner. This is achieved by carefully managing contact during an outbreak, and using condoms during sex.
Oral Herpes Testing
Your doctor will usually be able to diagnose oral herpes when he or she sees you have an outbreak. In order to be sure, tissue samples and blood tests are used as confirmation of a herpes infection.
Complications from Untreated Oral Herpes
There are rarely severe complications for most people with herpes simplex-1. Cases vary between infected patients, and your own doctor will work with you to minimize the effects and risks associated with the HSV-1 virus.
Can We Prevent Oral Herpes?
By taking appropriate caution, we can avoid becoming infected by the herpes simplex-1 virus. Always practice safe sex, and avoid intimate contact with a carrier while they are having an attack of the sickness. As a person can carry the virus and show no signs, it is a good idea that even partners in a monogamous, long-term relationship be tested for herpes, before engaging in unprotected sex.