What Causes Herpes?

Herpes is a group of viruses that usually cause sores and blisters in the area where they infect. There are different types of viruses, and although there is more talk of genital herpes, there are several types of herpes. Have you ever wondered what causes herpes? Here we will explain some of the viruses to you.

The Types of Herpes

Varicella-zoster virus (VZV) is one of eight herpesviruses known to infect humans and vertebrates.
Varicella-zoster Virus

Before knowing what causes herpes, we will review the types of viruses that exist and in which areas it appears.

  • Herpes varicella-zoster virus: This virus is the cause of chickenpox and shingles.
  • Herpes simplex virus (HSV): In this case, there are two types of virus, type 1 causes blisters and cold sores inside and around the mouth, and type 2 that is responsible for causing sores and blisters on the genitals.

Herpes on the genitals is considered to be an STI (sexually transmitted infection), and once you have acquired the virus, it stays in the body for life.

What Causes Herpes?

Herpes is spread from one person to another, usually through contact with blisters or sores. What causes Herpes? In the case of cold sores, if a blister touches another person, that person can develop the infection. In the case of genital herpes, it is generally transmitted by vaginal, oral, or anal sexual contact.

Herpes Symptoms

Symptoms of genital herpes. Vector illustration for medical journal or brochure.
Herpes Symptoms

Herpes may or may not cause symptoms. Some people never develop any symptoms, or their symptoms are confused with other skin infections, so it is essential to go to a specialist if you think you have any type of herpes. Herpes symptoms can be:

  • Itching in the infected area
  • Pain when urinating
  • Sores or blisters that are very painful
  • vaginal discharge
  • Lumps in the groin
  • Fever, headaches, body aches

You should know that herpes has stages of development, in the primary outbreak, you can suffer symptoms that you could mistake for the flu, and sores or blisters may or may not appear.

Tips to ease the pain

  • Put warm or cold cloths on the painful area.
  • Take lukewarm baths. (Women may find it is more comfortable to urinate in the tub at the end of the bath if she feels pain while urinating. This can help by diluting the urine so that the sores do not burn as much.)
  • Keep the area dry and clean.
  • Wear cotton underwear.
  • Wear loose clothing.

Stages of Infection

Herpesvirus infection, latency and nerve ganglion (cold sores)
Stages of Infection

The infection goes through several stages, and each one has specific symptoms. Still, it is also important to note that during the development of the condition, not all symptoms appear, or it may even be that the presence of the infection is not noticed at any time.

First stage

The first stage develops between 2 and 10 days after the infection. At this stage, small groups of blisters can develop that cause pain. In a short time, the blisters can open and release a transparent or cloudy liquid, when they open up they become sores that can be very painful, you can also develop pain when urinating.

Second stage / latency

At this stage, no blisters or sores appear, or any other related symptoms. Here the virus travels from the skin of the infected area to the nerves near the spine.

Third stage/replication

At this stage, there are no symptoms. It is a stage where herpes is very contagious since the virus begins to multiply in the nerve endings. If they are in areas where they are produced, or there is contact with body fluids such as saliva, semen or vaginal fluids, the virus can enter these fluids. The herpes virus can have recurrences. That is, once you have blisters, sores, and other symptoms that are treated and go away, they can return. Symptoms in recurrences are generally milder than in the first outbreak. Different factors can cause a recurrence, such as getting sick, stress, being in the sun, menstrual periods, or a poor immune system. A recurrence can be detected if you start to feel itching, pain, or tingling in the areas where you were first infected.


Information about what causes herpes is important. The best way to prevent herpes is not to have sexual contact with people who have the virus. Even when there are no symptoms, it can still be spread, as we said this happens in the replication stage. Using a condom can help reduce the spread of the virus, but even with this measure, it is still possible for people to become infected.

Herpes Treatment

Valaciclovir pill of antiviral medication used to treat outbreaks of herpes simplex and herpes zoster shingles
Herpes Medication

Herpes is easier to diagnose when there are sores; if a person is treated early, it can reduce the pain of the infection. Herpes has no cure; however, some medications can help control it and reduce pain, speeding up the healing of blisters or sores. Medications are also used to treat recurrences. In these cases, the medications should be taken when symptoms of tingling, itching, burning, and pain begin in the infected areas.

Tips for Treating Herpes:

  • Seek your doctor's advice if you think you have herpes.
  • Remember that you are not alone. Millions of people have herpes.
  • Stay healthy and limit stress.
  • Don't touch the sores.
  • Tell your sexual partner and use condoms.

Living with Herpes

People very commonly feel ashamed or guilty when you are diagnosed with herpes. You may feel like your sex life is ruined or that someone you thought you could trust has hurt you. You may feel sad or upset. Tell your doctor about how you feel. Be aware that herpes is very common. About 1 in 6 adults has it. Herpes can become less severe as time goes on. You can help protect your sexual partner by not having sex during flare-ups and by using condoms at other times.

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