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Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) Infection  

Tampa General Hospital helps patients manage symptoms of herpes simplex virus (HSV) infections.  

Herpes simplex is one of many forms of herpesviruses. Often referred to simply as “herpes,” herpes simplex virus infection is extremely contagious and can cause recurring episodes of blisters, sores and flu-like symptoms.  

There are two main types of herpes simplex viruses:  

  • HSV-1 – The virus responsible for eye sores and cold sores on the lips 
  • HSV-2 – The virus most often responsible for genital herpes   

In some cases, HSV-1 may cause genital herpes. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) estimates that over 12% of Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 have HSV-2, while other organizations believe as many as 80% of American adults have HSV-1.  

Herpes Simplex Causes  

Herpes simplex infections are spread through direct physical contact, such as kissing, oral sex or sexual intercourse, or by sharing items such as utensils, water bottles or lip balm. This viral infection can also be passed from mother to baby during childbirth.  

Anyone can acquire herpes simplex, but certain factors may increase your risk of infection. These factors include having:  

  • Unprotected sex  
  • Another sexually transmitted infection (STI)  
  • More than one sexual partner  
  • A compromised immune system  

Herpes Simplex Symptoms  

Like other viruses, herpes simplex can produce symptoms during the initial infection, lay dormant for months or years and then reactivate to cause symptoms down the road. In other cases, herpes simplex may never cause any noticeable symptoms.  

Herpes simplex is typically associated with symptoms that appear around the genitals. While this infection often affects the genital area, it can also cause symptoms throughout the body.   

Common signs of herpes simplex include:  

  • Sores or blisters around the mouth or genital area    
  • Itching  
  • Painful urination  
  • Eye sores  
  • Blurry vision 
  • Eye discharge  
  • Fever  
  • Fatigue and a general sense of feeling unwell  
  • Swollen lymph nodes   

Rarely, herpes simplex may spread to tissues in brain and cause herpes meningoencephalitis, a serious condition with symptoms that involve:   

  • Headache  
  • Fever 
  • Sensitivity to light  
  • Difficulty concentrating  
  • Neck stiffness  
  • Seizures 
  • Hallucinations 

Seek emergency medical attention if you or someone around you is displaying symptoms of herpes meningoencephalitis.  

Herpes Simplex Diagnosis   

Herpes simplex is often diagnosed through a physical exam, during which a physician will evaluate the patient for sores and gather information about symptoms he or she may be experiencing. Herpes culture and blood antibody tests can also confirm a diagnosis of herpes simplex.  

Herpes Simplex Treatments 

Herpes simplex is a viral infection that cannot be reversed. However, antiviral drugs and medications to address symptoms such as cold sores are effective for many people. As with most other infections, prompt diagnosis and treatment of herpes simplex can lead to better outcomes.