There are two distinct types of the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). Under the microscope they appear almost identical and they share many of the same characteristics. The most significant difference being that HSV-1 more commonly occurs above the waist and HSV-2 is generally found to infect below the waist.
HSV-1 is responsible for the cold sores, fever blisters around the mouth, nose and lips. HSV-2 produces sores and blisters on and around the genitals and anus.
If you receive unprotected oral sex from a person who has HSV-1 cold sores you can become infected with HSV-1 on your genitals. If you perform oral sex on someone who has HSV-2 genital sores you can become infected with HSV-2 on your face and mouth.
The symptoms usually occur after a week of infection or may take longer to appear. An outbreak of herpes can cause considerable pain and distress.
Symptoms of the episode may include:
- flu-like symptoms – such as feeling unwell, headaches and pains in the back and legs, with or without enlarged glands in the groin
- small blisters around the genitals – these break open to form shallow, painful ulcers, which scab over and heal after one to two weeks
- mall cracks in the skin with or without an itch or tingling
- redness or a distinct rash that some people also have considerable pain and swelling in the genital area, and may have additional pain and difficulty passing urine
The Herpes virus can infect other parts of the body, including the eyes, liver, lungs, kidneys and the brain. Herpes Encephalitis affects around 2 million people and occurs where the virus infects the brain. This can be extremely dangerous and symptoms may include a sore throat, vomiting, fever, resulting in a coma and death if left untreated. HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also be highly dangerous for pregnant women, the foetus and newborn babies. If the baby becomes infected in the uterus this can cause eye disease and severe brain damage. During delivery there is a significant potential for the mother to unknowingly infect the newborn baby.