Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is a common viral infection that presents with focal blistering. It most commonly affects the mouth, nose, genitals, and buttocks. HSV infections can be very annoying because they may reappear periodically and the sores may be unsightly. It affects most people on one or more occasions during their lives. There are two main types of herpes simplex virus (HSV), although there is considerable overlap.
- Type 1, which is mainly associated with facial infections (cold sores or fever blisters)
- Type 2, which is mainly genital
Both type 1 and type 2 herpes simplex viruses reside in a latent state in the nerves which supply sensation to the skin. During an attack, the virus grows down the nerves and out into the skin or mucous membranes where it multiplies, causing the clinical lesion. After each attack, the virus enters the resting state again.
Mild uncomplicated eruptions of herpes simplex require no treatment. As sun exposure often triggers facial herpes simplex, sun protection is important. Some infections may require treatment with an either a topical or oral antiviral agent. Antiviral drugs will stop the herpes simplex virus multiplying once it reaches the skin or mucous membranes but cannot eradicate the virus from its resting stage within the nerve. Repeated courses may be prescribed or the medication may be taken continuously to prevent frequent attacks.