Herbs and other natural approaches for easing herpes symptoms. It's ugly, embarrassing, and we're uncomfortable talking about it with others. What is it? Well, if you've ever had to explain, or try to cover up, the telltale clusters of blisters that appear due to exposure to the herpes virus, you're a member of this not-so-elite club. But, you can take solace in the fact that, even though your body will be a lifelong host to herpes, it doesn't mean you have to endure a life sentence of distressing and painful symptoms.
According to the American Social Health Association (ASHA), genital herpes infects an estimated one in five people age 12 or older in the United States, and an estimated 500,000 Americans contract genital herpes each year. The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that the occurrence of sexually transmitted herpes has increased 30 percent since the 1970s. With more than 70 viruses making up the herpes family, you may not think these statistics very surprising; fortunately, of the known virus culprits, only four of these directly affect humans -- herpes simplex (HSV), varicella-zoster (VZV) [also known as the "chicken pox virus"], Epstein-Barr (EBV), and cytomegalovirus (CMV). Of these, perhaps the most common and detectable is the herpes simplex virus, which has two distinct varieties -- types I and II.
Type I (HSV-1) is symptomatically characterized by cold sores, or fever blisters, occurring on the lips, around the mouth and, sometimes, near the eyes.
Type II (HSV-2) commonly leads to uncomfortable and embarrassing fluid-containing genital ulcers. Of course, these are only a sampling of the most commonly reported outbreak sites associated with HSV. Herpes blisters can also appear on the buttocks, abdomen, or elsewhere. (One woman reported discovering herpes blisters on her thumb!) The sores, called prodomes, begin with a tingling, itchy sensation of the skin, which later develop into red, painful blisters. The virus is most contagious during both the onset of blisters and their maturity into fluid-filled lesions.
The herpes virus is spread by direct contact with infected skin or body fluids, including saliva, discharge from lesions, and sexual fluids. Since prevention is worth a pound of cure, keep in mind that the risk of developing clinical infection after sexual contact with an infected person is near 75 percent, according to Michael T. Murray, N.D., and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., in their second edition of the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine.
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