Herpes is a common infection caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). It can infect the mouth and/or genital area. Oral herpes is the infection that affects the mouth area and is caused by the HSV-1, while genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. The herpes virus stays dormant for periods of time and hides within the cells in the body. The virus is eventually triggered by things like stress, illness, poor nutrition, a weakened immune system, direct exposure to sunlight, and even menstruation.
More than half of Americans have oral herpes and about 1 in 6 American adults have genital herpes. Most people don’t even know that they have herpes because the signs and symptoms of herpes are hard to notice. Signs and symptoms may take weeks, months, or years to appear, but once you have it, the virus will never leave your body.
Initial herpes symptoms usually appear 2 to 20 days after direct exposure to the infection, but may also take years before they appear. Initial herpes sores usually heal in about 2 to 4 weeks, but the virus stays in the body. Sores usually appear again when exposed to triggers. Symptoms from flare-ups usually heal in 10 to 14 days.
One of the common symptoms of oral herpes is cold sores, or fever blisters, that appear on the mouth area. Oral herpes is usually harmless, but cold sores are said to be painful for newborns. They sometimes return in weeks, months, or years.
Genital herpes usually shows no symptoms or very mild ones that can often go unnoticed. The most common herpes symptom is a cluster of blistery sores on the genital area. Genital herpes symptoms include blisters, sores, an inability to urinate due to the swelling of sores, pain, and/or itching in the infected area.