The low down on herpes (it’s not as scary as you might think)

The truth be known “herpes” is really, really common. About 1 out of every 5 adults in the US has genital herpes, and heaps more (estimated over 70%) have had a cold sore at some point in their life.  And yes, cold sores are herpes too.

This means that if you are at a dinner party, taking the bus or going to work in an office where there is 20 or so people, statistically 4 people hanging out there with you have genital herpes – and the majority get cold sores (even if they can’t remember, possibly because they were too young).

Put very simply, Genital Herpes is a skin infection that is usually sexually transmitted. It is caused by a virus called Herpes simplex virus (HSV).  Its the same virus which causes cold sores, just a slightly different strand that prefers to reside in the boxer short area rather than on lips or face.

Herpes symptoms are really not as big a deal as a lot of people (who don’t know anything about herpes!) make out.  Agreed, for some people it can be occassionally painful – but usually this is only during the first few times the symptoms happen, before the immune system has had a chance to mount its defence.  If outbreaks of symptoms do happen a lot or are particularly painful check out the options in the Herpes Treatments section.

Most people don’t talk openly about having herpes, not even with their closest family or friends. Which is why if you get diagnosed you might think that no-one else in your circle has genital herpes. But more than likely they do!

Genital herpes for most of us is a skin condition that sometimes comes back, which is usually breif but occasionally painful or uncomfortable. Generally, it is not life-threatening and does not have any long term effect on a person’s health, or one’s ability to have healthy children.

The genital herpes and cold sore connection

Herpes blisters usually form in a cluster

Cold sores and genital herpes are both caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV) but they are usually caused by different strands of this virus.  Type 1 and Type 2.

 

Cold sores are generally caused by Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1).  Genital herpes on the other hand is usually caused by a different strand of the virus called Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2)

Even so, it is possible to transfer the different virus types to either part of the body.

A cold sore infection can be transferred from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex. In this way a person could contract HSV-1 genital herpes.

And vice-versa. Genital herpes can be spread from the genitals to the mouth through oral sex, if the genital infection is active at the time of contact. However, this type of transmission is less common and does not often reoccur.