Herpes Simplex 2 (HSV-2) is an infection mainly found in the genital area and is transmitted through sexual activity. Humans are the only species known to transmit HSV-2 to each other. HSV-2 is a reoccurring condition, at times going unnoticed or unrecognized. However subtle the signs and symptoms of HSV-2, short and long-term effects result from this disease.
If a person is sexually active there is a risk of contracting HSV-2. Skin-to-skin contact involving the infected area and a break in the skin can result in infection. Even when symptoms of HSV-2 are not present, the virus is still in the body and can be transmitted to a sexual partner. If signs of oral herpes are present in the mouth, the HSV-2 virus can be passed to a partner during oral sex.
During asymptomatic shedding (virus is present on surface of skin but there are no symptoms) it is possible for the HSV-2 virus to spread.
There may be subtle or no symptoms with the initial outbreak of HSV-2. At times initial symptoms can go misread as other conditions, such as insect bites, abrasions, a yeast infection, jock itch, or other skin conditions.
More noticeable short-term effects of HSV-2 include: swelling or redness on penis, vulva, or anus; difficulty eating; extreme fatigue; feeling not so good; slight fever; sore throat; and tiny blisters in the genital area. Short-term effects can take two days to two weeks after infection to appear.
After initial outbreak, different factors can trigger future short-term effects of HSV-2. These include: dental work, emotional stress, exposure to light, becoming too tired, and cold or flu.
Outbreaks with HSV-2 can occur up to four times a year, but the virus never leaves the body, and there is no cure. Outbreaks may be treated with antiviral medications. HSV-2 can be passed to an infant during pregnancy, and if a weak immune system is already present in the mother or child, there is risk of brain damage or even death in the infant.
The reoccurrence of outbreaks can bring about painful lesions or blisters. As more outbreaks occur the immune system becomes weaker. Outbreaks can leave behind scars.
People with HSV-2 have a higher risk for contracting HIV because of exposed blisters. In the long run, HSV-2 can affect the nervous system, causing encephalitis or neurological complications and at times resulting in ocular herpes (herpes of the eyes). In some rare cases a long-term effect for men with herpes is impotence, and for women, cervical cancer.