The herpes simplex virus (HSV) is the virus that causes cold sores and genital warts. An infection by HSV is marked by watery blisters on the skin or mucous membranes of the mouth, lips or genitals. These lesions weep initially, then heal and scab before disappearing.
The infection is persistent and symptoms may recur periodically as outbreaks of sores near the site of original infection. This is because, after the initial infection, the HSV lies dormant in the nerves underlying the area of the outbreak. Factors that can trigger an outbreak include stress, illness such as a cold, fever, fatigue, sunburn, menstruation or sexual intercourse.
The HSV is contagious if the carrier is producing and shedding the virus. This is especially likely during an outbreak, but possible at other times too. Most people with genital herpes have five to eight outbreaks per year, but not everyone has recurrent symptoms. As time goes on, the number of outbreaks usually decreases. Oral herpes can recur as often as monthly or only one or two times each year. Unfortunately there is no cure as yet but there are a number of steps which can be taken to help reduce viral shedding and outbreaks.
Herpes symptoms can vary. Many infected individuals have few, if any, noticeable symptoms. In people who do have symptoms, the symptoms start 2 to 20 days after the person was exposed to someone with a HSV infection. Symptoms may last for several weeks.
During outbreaks, a sufferer generally experiences
- Painful, itching blisters filled with fluid on and around the affected area.
- Flu like symptoms may also accompany these outbreaks, including fever, headache, muscle aches and fatigue.
- With genital herpes:
- Females may have a vaginal discharge.
- There may be pain on urination.
- Sufferers may experience swollen and tender lymph nodes in the groin.
Many patients are able to anticipate an outbreak when they notice a tingling sensation. It is when you feel signs that an outbreak is about to start that you are particularly contagious, even though the skin still appears normal.
Diet – A diet high in the amino acid lysine and low in the amino acid arginine can help to inhibit replication of the HSV. Foods high in lysine include meats, whilst chocolate is a source of arginine. Getting the correct balance of these amino acids in the diet can help to prevent a HSV outbreak and reduce viral shedding.
Poor immune function – Whilst the immune system cannot completely eradicate the HSV, a compromised immune system often precedes an outbreak. Keeping the immune system functioning optimally is key to preventing outbreaks and viral shedding. If you would like to find out more about how diet and supplements could help to boost your immunity, please Book a Consultation.
Stress – Stress is another common outbreak trigger. A demanding lifestyle can mean that the body is in a constant state of alert. This is valuable in times of true danger but long term the hormones that put the body in this state can suppress the immune system. This allows the opportunistic HSV to re-emerge, creating an outbreak. If you have a stressful lifestyle and feel this may be a factor in your condition, an adrenal stress test can help pinpoint precise imbalances that can then be targeted with the help of Smart Nutrition. Adrenal Stress Test.