Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a common, chronic viral infection. In fact, more than 80% of adults will acquire HSV by the age of 50 years old. Specifically, more than 50% of adults in the United States have oral herpes, while about 1-in-6 individuals from 14-49 years of age have genital herpes.
Individuals affected with HSV may be unaware of the infection since some patients do not experience any symptoms. Others do not even notice the very mild symptoms they are experiencing. However, many patients experience moderate to severe outbreaks up to several times a year. The most common symptom is a painful, fluid filled sore or cluster of sores. They can last from 7-10 days or even longer in some extreme cases. Additionally, the individual may experience itching or burning at the site even before the blisters appear. Sores most often appear on the lips, around the mouth, or on the genitalia. However, these sores may appear anywhere else on the body as well.
Herpes symptoms are triggered by both internal and external stressors. These stressors include, but are not limited to: fatigue, illness, stress, UV exposure, or hormonal changes such as menstrual periods.
Accurate diagnosis of a blistering disorder requires either a biopsy or viral culture of the site. The use of indirect immunoflourescent antibody technique may also be performed. Though viral blistering disorders, such as herpes, cannot be cured, there are several oral and topical prescriptions that can temporarily alleviate symptoms.