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Herpes is a condition caused by the herpes simplex virus and this infection causes sores or blisters on a person’s skin in regions like the face and in the genital areas as well. The herpes simplex virus does not leave the body and remains within the nerve cells in a dormant state. This virus is reactivated from time to time and this causes recurrent herpes.

Both the herpes simplex type 1 and type 2 viruses look similar but the proteins or spikes outside the viruses are different. The body also recognizes the viruses differently and thereby makes antibodies. In some cases of herpes the symptoms are dramatic while in others the subtle signs may include redness of skin, tiny sores and irritation. In recurrent herpes outbreaks the initial outbreak is often more severe than the later ones.

The first episode of herpes can last for as long as 3 to 4 weeks and such an episode can be quite severe. This is because it is the first time that the immune system of the body has to handle the type 1 and the type 2 viruses. The first episode of herpes may also include other symptoms like fever, fatigue and swelling in lymph nodes. In recurrent herpes the symptoms in outbreaks after the first one tend to resolve and alleviate far earlier as compared to those in the first outbreak.

Recurrent herpes attacks occur as the virus lies in a dormant state in the nerve cells in the body. It then travels through the nerve paths and hides in these roots. Certain triggering factors cause the virus to reactivate. These factors include a compromised immune system following an illness, menstruation, physical and emotional stress etc.

Recurrent herpes outbreaks may occur without any visible symptoms in the form of sores along with other skin blemishes. Recurrent outbreaks occur due to the viral particles that are present on the skin or in the mucous membranes. Such presence of particles is called viral shedding. In many cases patients can identify reactivation of the virus due to the prodrome symptoms. Such prodrome signs include tingling and itching of skin along with pain in some cases.

Many patients experience more than 4 recurrent herpes outbreaks with genital herpes brought on by the type 2 strain of virus. As against this it is observed that individuals with genital herpes caused by the type 1 strain of virus have a lower recurrence rate. The reactivation is also dependent on when a person is infected. Many people tend to have frequent recurrence in the first year of infection.

Recurrent outbreaks involving genital herpes are less severe as compared to the first or primary infection. On an average more than one outbreak are observed every year in 60 to 90% of the cases. In around 40% of the herpes cases where the type 2 strain is involved more than six outbreaks may be experienced.


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