Herpes simplex virus is an infectious agent that causes the appearance of specific vesicular rashes on the skin and mucous membranes of the nasolabial region or genitals. At the moment, most of the population is infected with this pathogen, but not everyone has any clinical manifestations. The main method of treatment for this disease is antiviral drugs prescribed in the form of local and systemic forms. In this article we will try to figure out what is herpes simplex and why does it develop?
Etiology and pathogenesis of herpes simplex
Herpes simplex is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 or type 2. The clinical picture of this disease is represented by grouped vesicular rashes localized on the skin and mucous membranes. The most common among the population is the labial form of this pathology, in which the lip area is affected. The second most common is the genital form.
At the moment, herpesvirus infections are one of the most pressing problems for medicine. Statistics show that almost 90% of the entire world’s population is infected with one or more serotypes of the herpes simplex virus. According to various sources, from 12 to 25% of infected people suffer from recurrent forms of this disease. About 500 thousand new cases of herpes infection are registered annually in the United States.
Despite the fact that herpes simplex in the vast majority of cases has a favorable prognosis, sometimes it can lead to quite serious consequences. First of all, this includes secondary bacterial infection, damage to the central nervous system, pathogenic effects on the fetus during pregnancy, which leads to miscarriage, congenital malformations, and so on.
The genetic material of the herpes simplex virus is represented by deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). Viral particles of the pathogen have rather large sizes – from 150 to 300 nanometers. They quickly die when heated, in contact with chemical disinfectants, ultraviolet rays. The natural susceptibility of the human body to this flora is extremely high. In 1962, it was found that the pathogen has two serotypes: 1 and 2.
Herpes simplex virus type 1 in the vast majority of cases causes damage to the nasolabial region, less often – conjunctiva and cornea. Infection occurs from an infected person. As an entrance gate, as a rule, the upper respiratory tract acts. After penetration into the body, the pathogen migrates to the nerve ganglia, where it remains latent throughout life. Its activation with the appearance of characteristic clinical manifestations contributes to a decrease in immunity.
Herpes simplex virus type 2 most often causes genital damage. Infection occurs during sexual contact with an infected person. At the same time, in the vast majority of cases, symptoms also do not occur immediately, but after some time, provided that immunity decreases.
Symptoms of herpes simplex
The clinical picture in herpes simplex is similar, regardless of whether the rashes are localized in the labial or genital area. Initially, the mucous membranes of the affected area turn red and swell. Often, even before the rash occurs, the patient notes a burning and itching feeling.
After a while, small grouped bubbles appear on the hyperemic background, filled with a transparent liquid, which then becomes more turbid. Sometimes vesicles merge with each other to form large elements reaching up to 1.5 centimeters in diameter.
In the future, there are two possible scenarios. In the first case, the bubbles shrink into yellow crusts, which disappear independently after a few days. At the same time, pigmented foci remain in their place, disappearing after some time. The second option is the opening of vesicles with the subsequent formation of erosions.
A sick person complains of soreness and burning in the affected area. In the vast majority of cases, the general condition of the patient does not suffer. However, sometimes, especially when the genitals are affected, there may be subfebrile fever, weakness and malaise, chills.
The average duration of the disease in the absence of secondary infection is about 1.5 or 2 weeks. In some cases, patients face relapses of this infection. Most often, relapses are associated with hypothermia, acute respiratory infections, excessive fatigue, and so on.
Diagnosis and treatment of infection
As a rule, there are no difficulties in terms of diagnosis. Often, only an external examination is enough to make a diagnosis. In doubtful cases, cytological examination, PCR diagnostics or serological analyses may be used to detect the virus.
Treatment is carried out with the help of antiviral drugs, for example, acyclovir or valacyclovir. Depending on the severity of the disease, antiviral agents can be used in both local and systemic forms. Additionally, immunomodulators are prescribed. After 1 or 2 months after recovery, the issue of the formulation of an antiherpetic vaccine may be decided.