What Does Herpes Look Like? Types and Treatment

Herpes is a skin infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).

Herpes is a skin infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). It results in the formation of painful blisters or sores on the skin, typically around the mouth or genitals.

Signs and symptoms of herpes are as follows:

  • Herpes (herpes rash) looks like one or more fluid-filled blisters or sores that ooze and later crust before healing.
  • The infected skin may tingle, pain, itch, or burn for a day before the sores show up.
  • Sores usually take between 2 and 20 days to appear after a person comes in contact with an infected person.
  • Sores can take anywhere between 7 and 10 days to clear up.
  • Fever, muscle aches, swollen nodes in the neck, or groin may be present.
  • Difficulty in passing urine (in genital herpes) can be observed.
  • Herpes keratitis (an eye infection in which the eyes become painful, sensitive to light, discharge fluid, and get gritty sensation) can be observed.

Around 8 of 10 people who get HSV infection do not develop any signs or symptoms. 

What are the two types of herpes?

Herpes (HSV)
There are two types of herpes: Oral herpes (HSV-1) and Genital herpes (HSV-2)

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is of two types depending upon where it commonly occurs on the body:

Oral herpes (HSV-1): Blisters most commonly appear

  • On the lips.
  • Around the mouth.
  • On face.
  • On the tongue.

These usually last for two to three weeks.

Genital herpes (HSV-2): The most typical sites of sores are as follows:

  • Penis
  • Vagina
  • Buttocks
  • Anus

The first outbreak takes two to six weeks to go away.

What is the best treatment for herpes?

There is no cure for herpes simplex virus (HSV). More often, herpes sores clear on their own, without taking any treatment. However, people who wish to reduce the severity of the symptoms and get treated fast usually opt for medicines. Medicines may also reduce the risk of the spread of the infection.

Most people are treated with an antiviral medication that can be given in the form of

  • A cream/ointment to relieve pain, burning, itching, or tingling.
  • Oral pills or intravenous (shot) to shorten the outbreak.

The best choice of treatment for herpes (to date) is the antiviral medication that is available on a doctor’s prescription. Apart from treating the infected person, it also helps in preventing the spread of the virus to others.

The major antiviral medications are as follows:


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How can herpes be prevented?

To stop the spread of the virus from the affected part (oral or genital) to other parts of the body, the following options can be helpful:

  • Cleaning the hands: Washing the hands upon contact with the sore
  • No-touch method: Using a cotton-tip swab to apply an antiviral cream to the cold sore

When a person has oral herpes, they can prevent the virus from spreading to others by following a few precautionary tips:

  • The person should avoid kissing anyone.
  • The person should refrain from oral sex.
  • The person should not share personal items such as cups, towels, and lip balms.
  • If there is tingling, burning, itching, or pain in the area of the body where the person had a herpes sore, they should keep that area from coming in contact with others directly or through articles such as towels or cosmetics.

If a person has genital herpes and they want to prevent the spread of the virus, what they can do is:

  • Not to have sex with healthy (uninfected) partners until the sores clear up
  • Use a latex condom to reduce the risk of spreading the virus
  • If a woman is pregnant and she or her partner is having genital herpes, they need to inform the doctor. The pregnant lady might need to take medicines so that she does not pass the virus to her baby.
Herpes Simplex. Available at: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/herpes-simplex-symptoms

Herpes Simplex. Available at: https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/218580-overview