Herpesviruses are double-stranded DNA viruses that cause various dermatoviruses. They are divided into several types depending on the time of replication (increase in viral load in the body) and hosts:
- α-herpesviruses – characterized by rapid replication and a wide range of hosts. After infection, the virus usually remains latent in the nerve ganglia. This group includes herpes simplex types 1 and 2, as well as type 3, which causes herpes zoster.
- β-herpesviruses – have slow replication and a narrow range of hosts. This includes cytomegalovirus, herpesvirus type 6, and type 7.
- γ-herpesviruses – the time of their replication is different, and the number of hosts is extremely limited. Representatives are herpes viruses type 4 (Epstein-Barr virus) and type 8, which are mainly associated with malignant diseases.
One of the most common herpes infections is the so-called herpes simplex with the causative agent of herpes simplex. Most of the world’s population – about 90% – is a carrier of herpes simplex types 1 and 2, while a small part of those infected – about 30% – suffer from recurrent infections.
Type 1 is thought to be more likely to cause infection in the upper half of the body, while type 2 is more likely to cause infection in the lower half of the body. The virus is transmitted by airborne droplets or through sexual contact. The incubation period is 6 to 8 days. The herpes virus penetrates the skin or mucous membrane and begins to multiply. Along the axons (long processes of neurons) it reaches the nerve ganglia, where after recovery it remains in a latent state. The virus is reactivated and the infection recurs with various irritants – illness, trauma, stress, premenstrual syndrome, colds, etc.
Depending on the method of infection and the place of primary penetration of the pathogen, several forms are distinguished:
- Gingivostomatitis. The disease is typical in childhood. Predisposing factors for its development are past illnesses and reduced immunity. The general condition of the patient begins to deteriorate, and fever appears. The mucous membrane of the lips and oral cavity is very red, swollen, and painful. For this reason, it is almost impossible to take liquids and food. The patient’s breath has an unpleasant odor. There is increased salivation. On the reddened areas of the mucosa, small vesicles appear – vesicles filled with liquid, which at a later stage open and form small sores covered with a pale yellowish coating. Vesicles also appear around the lips, which, after opening, become covered with brownish crusts. Sometimes there is an increase in regional lymph nodes. There are frequent cases of secondary infection of erosions of the mucous membrane with staphylococci, streptococci, and fungi.
- Genital herpes. Genital herpes is most commonly caused by herpes simplex type 2. Leading, as a rule, are young women with an active sex life. As with gingivostomatitis, with this form of the disease, the general condition worsens, fever, sharp pain in the affected area, and urination disorders appear. Numerous grouped vesicles with transparent contents appear in the genital area, located on an erythematous mucocutaneous base. The evolution of the disease is the same as in the labial form.
- Relapses of herpetic infections. Relapses of infection are due to changes in immunity or have no known cause. Some of the predisposing factors are past illnesses, intense sun exposure, emotional stress, and endocrine changes related to the menstrual cycle. Each person has a different frequency of relapses. Usually, they affect the same area of the body, but different parts of it. The clinical picture does not differ from that described above.
What is the treatment?
Treatment consists of antiviral drugs in different regimens depending on the location and severity of the infection. With relapses more than 6 times a year, long-term prophylaxis with antiviral drugs and the use of immunostimulants is advisable.