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Complications Associated with Herpes

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Typically, if you are an otherwise healthy adult, it is rare to develop serious health problems as a result of an HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection, it will be nothing more than a mere annoyance. People with immune systems that are already compromised, experience the most difficulty since outbreaks will generally last longer and take more time to heal.

Genital herpes and pregnancy
If you are pregnant when you have your first initial genital herpes outbreak, the virus can be passed to the unborn child. In some cases this may even result in a premature birth. Unlike the way adult bodies handle genital herpes, the affect on a baby can be far more severe and can include complications that damage the skin, eyes and brain. If you already have had an initial outbreak before getting pregnant, the chances of spreading the virus are much lower. If an outbreak happens during labor or delivery, the doctor will typically perform a cesarean section so that the baby does not come in contact with the virus.

Genital herpes and HIV risk
While herpes is not connected to HIV, it can make people who have both herpes and HIV more likely to spread the virus. For those who have genital herpes but not HIV, they are more likely to become infected than those without herpes.

Reoccurring genital herpes outbreaks
While many people who have genital herpes don’t know it, if you have been diagnosed with HSV-2 and have had an initial outbreak, it’s likely you will have more throughout your lifetime. While these typically are more of an annoyance than a serious threat to your health, outbreaks increase the likelihood of passing the virus on to a partner. Currently there is no cure for genital herpes, but there are some medications available that make outbreaks less frequent for many people.

Herpes Encephalitis
This is a very rare condition that can occur if the HSV-1 virus travels to the brain. It is thought to affect only 2 people per million in the United States. The symptoms include sore throat, fever, headache, stiff neck, vomiting and runny nose. Again, it is unlikely that you will develop herpes encephalitis if you have either type of the herpes virus.

On occasion, herpes will show up at other locations aside from the normal (oral and genital) sites. Sometimes it can spread to the hands and fingers in a condition known as herpes whitlow. This is rare but can occur when an oral herpes outbreak reactivates and travels along the pathways of the nerves to the eye instead of the mouth.