Herpes simplex virus (HSV), a recurrent viral infection, is caused by Herpes virus hominis (HVH), a most widespread infectious agent. Attempts at controlling this infectious disease as well as latent infections associated with herpes viruses is an area presently being actively explored.
Research being performed at universities, alternative and allopathic research centers, and pharmaceutical companies directed at learning more about the replicative cycle of these viruses in order to develop safe antiviral therapy is yielding new and important information.
The human herpes viruses, which include Herpes simplex virus types 1 and 2, human cytomegalovirus, Varicella-Zoster virus, and the Epstein-Barr Virus, either cause or are associated with a whole spectrum of diseases ranging from infectious mononucleosis to malignancies and mental retardation. Indeed, the herpes viruses are multipotential, having the ability to cause more than one kind of disease.
Herpes simplex virus type I is transmitted by oral and respiratory secretions, affects the skin and mucous membranes and commonly produces cold sores or fever blisters.
If you think you have the virus, see a doctor while symptoms are still present. The doctor will look at the area, take a sample from the sore(s) and test to see if the herpes virus is present. The test you should request is a specific virus culture or assay for herpes virus. Remember, the test will not work if the sores have healed. Known available tests are: Cell Culture Test, Antigen test, Pap Smear.
The virus starts to multiply when it gets into the skin cells. The skin becomes red and sensitive, and soon afterward, one or more blisters or bumps appear. The blisters first open, and then heal as new skin tissue forms. During a first outbreak, the area is usually painful and may itch, burn or tingle. Flu-like symptoms are also common. These include swollen glands, headache, muscle ache or fever. Herpes may also infect the urethra, and urinating may cause a burning sensation.
First Infection or Primary Outbreak in the Mouth
Herpes of the mouth and face usually infect children under the age of five years. About 95% of these children experience no signs of illness or rash during the first infection. Initially, the appearance of a small ulcer at the corner of the mouth or edge of the nostrils shows up during the third to fifth recurrence of infection. Typically, a child will catch the virus from a friend or family member who has a cold sore. About two to ten days after being exposed to the virus, the child may develop a high fever, stop eating, and become very fretful. The mouth becomes sore and the gums, the inside of the mouth, and the lips turn very red and swollen. Many blisters appear in the same area and break down to raw red ulcers after a day or two. There is usually a swelling of the glands in the neck and other parts of the body may become infected. An adult who has not already been infected with herpes may develop similar disease and be even sicker than a child. The body rallies to the defense and everything returns to normal after a week to ten days. The fever and swelling disappear followed by the sores healing over without leaving any scars.
Recurrent Herpes of the Mouth
During the first attack (primary outbreak), the herpes virus has climbed through the nerves to the base of the brain seeking protection from the body's defenses by going dormant. These evasive viruses hide in the deep nerve ganglion cells that run to the mouth and skin around it. One day, several months or even years later, the virus may awaken again. This awakening is usually caused by some form of stress or fever. The herpes virus, once awakened, travels back down the nerves and reappears inside your mouth, nose or around your lips to produce the familiar blistering cold sores. Most of the time you will have some warning that the attack is about to begin. This shows up as numbness or a tingling sensation in the area, medically known as prodromal symptoms. The blisters come shortly thereafter, breaking into red ulcers, and then crust over and heal without scarring in a few days. Generally a recurrent episode is less disruptive to the body as a whole. In effect, you will not have the same pain and discomfort in your mouth that the first attack produced.
Although there is no cure, there are measures that can be taken to reduce manifestations. During an outbreak, keep the infected area as clean and dry as possible. This will help your natural healing processes. Some doctors recommend warm showers in order to cleanse the infected area. Afterwards, towel dry gently, or dry the area with a hair dryer on a low or cool setting. To prevent chaffing, some people also find it helpful to avoid tight-fitting undergarments. Most creams and lotions do no good and may even irritate.
The amino acid lysine often controls herpes. Supplementation with free-form lysine has shown to be beneficial in controlling herpes along with a diet high in lysine and low in arginine. It has been found that foods high in I-Arginine may cause herpes outbreaks. Increased levels of lysine over arginine suppress viral replication and inhibit cytopathogenicity of herpes simplex virus. L-Lysine appears to be an effective agent for reduction of the occurrence, severity and healing time for recurrent HSV infection. Several doctors have reported that if lysine use reduces herpes outbreaks, an immunological imbalance is present. Treatments aimed at immune system improvement have been effective in eliminating or reducing recurrence.
Foods high in lysine and low in arginine include fish, chicken, beef, lamb, milk, cheese, beans, brewer's yeast, mung bean sprouts and most fruits and vegetables. Gelatin, chocolate, carob, coconut, oats, whole-wheat and white flour, peanuts, soybeans, and wheat germ have more arginine than lysine and should thus be avoided. To quote one study, "The amount of lysine required to control herpes varied from case to case but a typical dose to maintain remission was 500mg daily and active herpes required 1 to 6gm between meals to induce healing."
Vitamin C, zinc, thymus extracts, TMG, monolaurin from coconut, and olive leaf extract have all been used with some success as reported by various doctors.
As a healthy immune system may be important in controlling the virus, don't ignore the need for proper nutrition, exercise, and rest.