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Frequently Asked Questions About Herpes

HSV-1, HSV-2, cold sores & fever blisters. Here's the 411.

Are cold sores/fever blisters herpes?

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Cold sores/fever blisters are in fact, herpes. However, there are two types of herpes, herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 causes cold sores around the mouth but can potentially spread to the genitals through oral contact. HSV-2 causes genital herpes and like HSV-1, can spread to the mouth through oral contact. HSV-1 and HSV-2 are very similar, their main difference is where they are typically found.

By the age of 50, on average, 85% of people in the United States are carriers of either the HSV-1 or the HSV-2 virus. 

How does herpes get treated?

Common oral antiviral treatment medications are valacyclovir, famciclovir, and acyclovir. These are used to reduce and even prevent future outbreaks, while helping to speed the healing of current outbreaks. Your doctor may prescribe taking this medication once daily, as needed if you feel one coming on, or twice daily during an active outbreak. There are also topical treatments available like acyclovir and denavir, but these are specifically used to treat active herpes sores. 
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How do you catch herpes, and can it be cured if you did?

You can catch HSV-1 from contact with oral secretions from a person infected with it, like kissing or sharing objects like toothbrushes and eating utensils. You can get HSV-1 at any age, it is very common for adolescents to contract cold sores from family members who are infected. You can get HSV-2 through sexual contact with a person infected, condoms are not 100% effective. It is important to know that HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be contracted without any present sores.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes. Herpes is difficult to research because the virus hides dormant in your nervous system when you are not experiencing any outbreaks. Drugs and your immune system do not recognize this hidden virus. While there is research being done to look for a cure, for now, we can only treat. Fortunately, we can prescribe medications that reduce and even avoid the occurrence of future outbreaks. 

25% of women over the age of 18, and 20% of men in the United States are carriers of the HSV-2 (Genital Herpes) Virus. Together that makes over 50 million people living with the virus. Most do not know that they are carriers. In some, the virus can be completely asymptomatic. 
 If you have contracted HSV-1, you are far from alone. 

Still have questions?

What are the symptoms of herpes?
Herpes typically appear as painful fluid filled blisters or lesions on the skin. These lesions eventually crust over and scab up like a small cut. Some people are able to recognize if they are getting an outbreak by an itching or tingling feeling in the area. The first outbreak is usually the most severe and can bring flu-like symptoms. For most people, the longer you have the virus in your body, the less severe and less frequent the outbreaks become. However, many people never experience any symptoms or much milder symptoms that are mistaken for insect bites, yeast infections, or pimples. 
How can I stop future outbreaks?
You can prevent future outbreaks by taking antiviral medications like valacyclovir, famciclovir or acyclovir. You may notice certain triggers for you that cause an outbreak like stress, menstrual cycle, sunburns, professional skin treatments, or illness. You can take an antiviral medication before or during those times to stop future outbreaks. In addition, you can take Vitamin C to potentially avoid becoming sick and get plenty of sleep to help lower stress.
How do I know if I am a carrier of HSV-1 or HSV-2?
It is hard to know or tell whether you or someone else is a carrier of HSV-1 or HSV-2. Some people who are carriers have and will always be asymptomatic, meaning they never see an outbreak. Also, testing for either strain of the virus is not always accurate. The good thing is, the medication used for preventing outbreaks is safe to take. If you experience outbreaks and would like to reduce or stop them from happening, taking an oral antiviral like Valtrex (valacyclovir), famciclovir, or acyclovir, is the best chance of accomplishing a breakout free life. 
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