Womens Health

Oral Herpes

Oral Herpes vs. Genital Herpes Infections

Did you know that there are more than 80 types of herpes viruses? The type of herpes most commonly known today is herpes simplex virus (HSV), and it comes in the forms of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2)

At one point it was believed that HSV-1 infections caused oral herpes (infections that occur in the mouth) and were not sexually transmitted. HSV-2 infections were thought to be transmitted sexually and to affect the genital areas. Today however, it has been shown that both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be found in all areas and that HSV-1 is in fact the cause of many new cases of genital herpes.

Both viruses are transmitted by way of bodily fluids such as saliva, semen, female genital fluids, and fluid from herpes sores. To infect a person, the virus enters the body via a mucous membrane in the mouth or genital area, or through broken skin.

Oral Herpes and HSV-1

Oral herpes is usually caused by HSV-1. Oral herpes infections are most likely to occur in children during their preschool years. In fact, it is estimated that the first infections of oral herpes take place between ages 6 months and 3 years! Most often, oral herpes is transmitted via kissing, but since infection is commonly through direct contact with saliva, HSV-1 can also be passed on by sharing eating utensils or toothbrushes with an infected individual.

Note that while oral herpes primarily stems from HSV-1, it can also be caused by HSV-2. Interestingly, while genital herpes was once attributed to only the HSV-2, genital infection caused by HSV-1 is on the rise. This is thought to be the result of recent increases in teenage oral sex activity.

Oral Herpes Symptoms

Symptoms of oral herpes occur on the lips and in the mucous membranes of the mouth. "Facial herpes" can also occur, where the infection affects the inside of the nose or cheeks, but this is rare.

The following are some of the specific symptoms of oral herpes.

•- Blisters form on the lips or the tongue

•- Blisters rupture and appear as open sores

•- Initial oral infections are very painful

•- Possibility of increased saliva and foul breath

•- After rupturing, sores develop a yellowish membrane while they heal

•- Sores heal within 14 days

•- In rare cases one may experience chills, muscle pain, or difficulty in swallowing.

•- Oral herpes infections in young adults usually occur in the upper part of the throat (the throat feels sore)

Confusing Oral Herpes with Cold Sores

Certain cold sores, such as canker sores (aphthous ulcers), are sometimes mistakenly associated with herpes simples virus. Canker sores are white or grayish crater sores with a red rim that appear inside the mouth, on the tongue, or under the tongue. They usually heal on their own without any treatment. Thrush is another condition that has been confused with oral herpes. Also called Candidiasis, this is a yeast infection that appears as a whitish overgrowth in the mouth. Finally, don't confuse sore throats caused by strep or other bacteria with oral herpes!

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