Stages Of Herpes

Understanding The Stages Of Herpes

Understanding the stages of herpes is important. It helps to know what symptoms to anticipate to better deal with them. Also, by recognizing the symptoms as they develop, one can tell a friend or partner about the condition and hopefully in that way avoid spreading what is a very contagious disease. There are several types of herpes virus, herpes zoster, which causes chickenpox and shingles, and herpes simplex, which causes oral and genital herpes, the conditions under discussion here.

Simplex herpes can be further broken down into type 1 herpes and type 2 herpes, but the symptoms and stages are very similar for both types, so for the purpose of this discussion, they will be treated as a single type. A breakdown of the stages of herpes is rather straightforward, but a complicating factor is that those affected do not all suffer the symptoms equally, some do not exhibit the more visible symptoms, and others are unaware that they have the disease at all. Also the stages of herpes often go by different names, with one set of names tied to changes in visible symptoms, and another set tied to what is going on in the body pathologically. We'll stick with the stages defined by the symptoms, but mention the others as well.

The Initial Stage - Symptoms can be felt or visibly appear anywhere from 2 days to 3 weeks after being initially infected. The symptoms can be evident on any part of the body, but most often appear around the mouth (oral herpes) or in the genital region or the buttocks (genital herpes). The first stage may be preceded by flu-like feelings or symptoms, though not all those affected will experience these symptoms. The initial symptom is a general reddening of the skin in the infected area. This redness often persists for a number of days, with the skin eventually becoming itchy, and in some cases painful to the touch.

The Second Stage - During the second stage, the reddish skin becomes more inflamed and is often accompanied by swelling. These symptoms can sometimes be avoided if proper treatment is provided during the preceding stage. Swelling can vary from being barely noticeable or visible, to quite severe.

Blisters And Wet Ulcers - The symptoms in the next stage are a somewhat reminiscent of chickenpox or shingles, although the herpes virus responsible for those conditions is unrelated to the herpes we are discussing here. During this stage, small bumps appear in the inflamed area, eventually becoming tiny fluid-filled blisters. Blisters may form individually or in groups. The blisters soon erupt, forming what are called wet ulcers. This is the most painful stage of the herpes outbreak and also the stage at which the disease is at its most contagious. The wet ulcers are sensitive to the touch, but in any event should not be touched with the fingers. Not only may that inhibit the healing process, but could result in the virus being spread to another part of the body, or to another person, as it spreads by contact.

The Final Stage, Scabs - During the final stage, the wet ulcers heal over, forming scabs. After several days, the scabs will flake off and fall away. It is best to let this process happen naturally, and not pick or pull at the scabs. Doing so interrupts the healing process, and could also result in scarring. It's important to recognize this, as it is very difficult for most of us to avoid picking at a scab, especially one that appears ready to be picked off. Don't do it.

The Clinical Stages of Herpes - From a clinical perspective, the stages of herpes are often defined as primary, latent, and shedding. It is during the primary stage that the bulk of the symptoms appear, the redness, swelling, blisters, and so forth. During the latent stage, the virus travels from the skin towards the nervous system, in the neighborhood of the spine. This is followed by the shedding stage, where the virus multiplies and spreads throughout the body by way of the bodily fluids. This helps to explain that while herpes can be treated, it is generally considered to be incurable. The symptoms can recur for some individuals, though when that is the case, the symptoms are generally less severe with each recurring outbreak. The initial outbreak is almost always the most severe.

If you find yourself infected by the herpes virus, you are not alone. It's estimated that over 80 million Americans have the disease, though most experience few if any symptoms. Our immune system plays a role here. A healthy immune system can keep severe symptoms at bay, and lessen the chance of recurrence as well.