What Causes Herpes?

Feb 23, 2012 No Comments by

One of the most misunderstood conditions out there seems to be herpes.  Maybe it is the fact that it is a disease no one likes to talk about because of its link with sexually transmitted diseases, also known as STD’s, or maybe it is simply because the herpes simplex virus I is so common, but few people really know the facts about herpes. Especially in regards to what actually causes it.

Herpes is a common virus striking millions of people worldwide every year.  With many different types of herpes virus’ circulating the population (including the STD known as genital herpes), it is no wonder that so many misconceptions are circulating about the disease.

What is Herpes?

Genital herpes is an STD that causes severe blistering and sores in the genital area for weeks at a time. Caused by the herpes Simplex II strain of the virus, it is highly contagious and is only transmitted by intimate skin to skin contact, bodily fluids nad saliva.

Herpes Simplex I, other wise known as oral herpes, is a similar condition, but usually only affects the mouth, face and tongue.  It is most known for its characteristic cold sores around the lips.  It too is highly contagious, but is not considered an STD like the genital variety.

Other types of herpes can affect the eyes and skin and can be caused by the Epstein Barr virus, chicken pox and shingles.

In short, herpes is a type of virus containing multiple strains that causes blistering and cold sore outbreaks in all areas of the body.  The area of the body affected is determined by the type or strain of herpes which is contracted.

Very contagious , especially right before blisters appear on the skin and during an actual outbreak, the herpes virus is extremely contagious and can be passed from one person to another through skin to skin and/or intimate contact like kissing, sexual intercourse and oral sex.

The Causes of Herpes

While sexual contact may be one way that the herpes virus is spread from one person to another, sex itself does not cause the disease. Like other virus’, the immune system response by the body actually is a major culprit.  Whne unable to protect the body sufficiently from attack, a weakened immune system will allow the herpes virus to invade the body’s skin cells, causing the outbreak of cold sores and blisters.

Found on the surface of the skin, herpes simplex virus tends to harbor around moist areas in and around the lips and genitals.  It is most easily spread through personal contact and saliva, but in some rare cases can be passed to another though contact with an infected toothbrush or even washcloth – although this is quite rare and should not be a concern among most people.

Genital herpes is caused when the virus is introduced to the skin via viral shedding (the time in which the virus itself begins to multiply), or liquid from an oozing or bleeding blister.  Although it is possible to contract herpes even when there are no visible signs in its victim, most cases are reported after contact with an active outbreak.

The Immune System Response to Herpes

Like most other viruses found in nature, coming in contact with herpes does not guarantee that you will contract the disease. As a matter of fact, most people come in some contact with the virus on a regular basis and still remain herpes free. Most of the time, the body is able to fight off or even kill the virus before it has a chance to multiply and infect the skin and other tissues.  A strong immune system is imperative to fighting off herpes.  Those with a weakened immune system from other illnesses or diseases are much more likely to contract the disease than those with a strong healthy immune response.

Eating a well balanced diet (including plenty of antioxidant rich foods); avoiding ongoing stress and staying fit and active can all go a long way to ensuring that you do not contract herpes simples I or II if you come in contact with the virus.  Still, proper precautions should be taken to remain herpes free.  Some common things you can do to avoid contracting herpes is to:

  • avoid physical contact (even kissing) with anyone with active cold sores anywhere on their body
  • always using condoms during intercourse
  • avoiding oral sex with a herpes patient
  • avoiding sharing sex toys

To find out more about the causes of each of the different strains of herpes simplex virus, be sure to contact  the Center for Disease Control at  their government website www.cdc.org for detailed information about the disease and any current research underway or new treatment options being offered to the general public.


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