Complications of herpes

Even though herpes simplex is one of the commonest infections worldwide, it can be dangerous for individuals who are immune-compromised or suffering from a concomitant chronic illness. In high risk individuals, healthcare professionals like best medical specialist in islamabad, warn of systemic complications; read on to know more about these complications:

What is herpes simplex?

Herpes simplex is caused by the herpes virus, and predominantly there are two disease-causing strains: herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1 and herpes simplex virus (HSV)-2. Herpetic lesions include the appearance of sores or blisters at the site of infection—mostly including the oral area and the genital region. 

Of the two serotypes, HSV-1 is mostly associated with oral infections, while the genital lesions are mostly due to HSV-2. According to research data, 85 percent of people around the world are already infected with HSV-1, while one in six people carry HSV-2. 

Herpes is the type of virus that resides in the body for life, and manifests itself whenever the defenses of the body are down. This can happen during:

  • Stressful situations 
  • Pregnancy 
  • Menstruation
  • Chronic disease 
  • Intake of immunosuppressants medication
  • Patients undergoing chemotherapy
  • Patients taking steroids 

Like other viruses, herpes is also a highly transmissible virus. In fact, even sharing items of daily use like drinking utensils, forks, razors and toothbrushes can transmit the virus from one individual infected with oral herpes to the other. For spread of genital herpes, sexual contact is key.  

The risk of herpes is higher in:

  • Individuals who have multiple sexual partners. With each additional partner, the risk of being infected gets higher. 
  • Women are more likely than men to get infected with genital herpes. The sexual transmission of this virus is easier from man-to-woman, than from woman-to-man. 

What are the symptoms of herpes simplex?

The immune system plays a key role in determining the symptoms of herpes virus. If the immune system is strong, then the patient can be asymptomatic, despite testing positive for the virus. In such individuals, the transmissibility of the virus is ongoing, as they are shedding the virus. 

If the immune system of the body is affected, the virus can manifest through blisters and sores. These blisters are usually accompanied by pain, irritation and itching. Herpes simplex appears at the time of infection, and later on the lesions recur after some time. During recurrence, the symptoms are often felt before the sores appear. Generally, these recurrences are less painful than the initial infection. As time passes, the recurrences become less often. 

What are the complications of herpes simplex?

There are many complications associated with herpes virus. These include:

  • Bladder problems: genital herpes can cause bladder problems through inflammation around the urethra, as well as, through inflammation around the lower spine that may cause nerve damage. Consequently, the is inability to urinate, loss in the sensations around the genitalia and loss in muscle strength. This condition may require emptying of the bladder through catheterization. 
  • Rectal inflammation: if the virus invades the mucosa of the rectum, prostatitis can occur. This is more common in men who have sex with men. Herpes prostatitis is often more severe than genital herpes. 
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs): genital blisters of herpes increase the odds of acquiring other sexually transmitted infections as well, including HIV. 
  • Vertical transmission: in a pregnant woman infected with herpes, the virus can transmit to the baby during the birthing process, as the baby passes from the birth canal. In case of c-section, the chances of vertical transmission are reduced. Neonatal herpes can result in brain damage, eye damage and even death of the baby. 
  • Meningitis: herpes virus can cause inflammation of the brain meninges and cause meningitis.
  • Encephalitis: when the brain tissue gets inflamed, it is known as encephalitis, and it is usually the result of an ascending viral infection. 

The complications associated with herpes can only be managed with timely diagnosis and treatment by experienced healthcare providers available at Khatoon Hospital

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