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Herpes is an infection that is caused by a herpes simplex virus (HSV). Oral herpes causes cold sores around the mouth or face. Genital herpes affects the genitals, buttocks or anal area. Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It affects the genitals, buttocks or anal area. Other herpes infections can affect the eyes, skin, or other parts of the body. The virus can be dangerous in newborn babies or in people with weak immune systems.
There are two types of HSV:
- HSV type 1 most commonly causes cold sores. It can also cause genital herpes.
- HSV type 2 is the usual cause of genital herpes, but it also can infect the mouth.
HSV spreads through direct contact. Some people have no symptoms. Others get sores near the area where the virus has entered the body. They turn into blisters, become itchy and painful, and then heal.
Most people have outbreaks several times a year. Over time, you get them less often. Medicines to help your body fight the virus can help lessen symptoms and decrease outbreaks.
- Herpes Can Happen to Anyone: Share Facts, Not Fears (National Institutes of Health) Also in Spanish
- Herpes Simplex: Overview (American Academy of Dermatology)
Diagnosis and Tests
- Herpes (HSV) Test (National Library of Medicine) Also in Spanish
- Herpes Eye Disease (American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus)
- Herpes Keratitis (American Academy of Ophthalmology) Also in Spanish
- Herpetic Whitlow (VisualDX)
- Sacral Herpes (VisualDX)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Herpes Simplex (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
Find an Expert
- Herpes Simplex Virus (Cold Sores) (American Academy of Pediatrics) Also in Spanish
- Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) (VisualDX)
- Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) in Infants and Babies (VisualDX)
- Esophagitis - infectious (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Herpes viral culture of lesion (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Serum herpes simplex antibodies (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish