Herpes, or herpes simplex, is a viral infection that causes sores that most often appear on the face or in the genital area. There are two specific types of herpes infection.
Infection with herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) is usually associated with cold sores of the lips, mouth and face. These sores appear as "fever blisters" and eventually crust over into scabs. Infection is usually acquired in childhood and is transmitted by saliva.
Infection with herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), also called genital herpes, is a sexually transmitted disease. It manifests as sores appearing on the penis, scrotum, labia, vagina, upper thigh, buttocks, or around the anus.
Symptoms of both types of herpes can range from mild to severe. In fact, some people have symptoms so mild they may not realize they have herpes.
Although a person with herpes may not always experience outward symptoms of the virus, the virus remains present in the body. The virus can be reactivated by stress or illness, and can be spread through skin-to-skin contact. Transmission is possible even when no lesions are present. Herpes can be transmitted to infants during delivery if the baby comes into direct contact with the virus.
There is no cure for herpes; however, medications may help reduce herpes outbreaks.