Herpes simplex is a viral disease and is caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).

HSV-1 causes primarily mouth, throat, eye, face, and central nervous system infections. HSV-2 causes primarily anogenital infections. However, both types may be responsible for infections in all other areas of the body as well.

The most common herpes infection is Oral herpes, while the second most common form of herpes infection is Genital herpes.

Other, and less common forms of herpes simplex infections include herpes gladiatorum, ocular herpes keratitis, cerebral herpes infections such as encephalitis, Mollaret’s meningitis, neonatal herpes, and possibly Bell’s palsy.


  • Herpes simplex is transmitted by direct contact with lesions or body fluids of an infected person. Transmission can also occur through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person during asymptomatic shedding.
  • Genital herpes is transmitted through sexual activity with an infected person by direct skin-to skin, lesion, or body fluid contact.
  • Oral herpes is transmitted through mouth contact, saliva, kissing, and oral sex with and infected person.
  • Herpes viruses have cycles of active and remission phases. Genital herpes may be asymptomatic, although contagious viral shedding may occur.


  • Active phases may present with lesions and multiple small and usually painful blisters, that can last 2-21 days, followed by remission.
  • After initial infection, the viruses are transported via sensory nerves into the sensory nerve cell body. At destination, the viruses become latent and reside life-long. As a result, the body produces antibodies to that particular type of HSV, preventing secondary infections of that same type of virus to other sites of the body.
  • Infected persons may experience repeated outbreaks with higher frequency following fresh infections, and report a lessening of severity and longer intervals of remission between outbreaks after several years of initial exposure. The reason for recurrences of outbreaks is unclear, but observations indicate a greater likelihood of repeated outbreaks as a result of immunosuppression, caused by specific drugs, physical and mental over-exhaustion, or general unwellness.
  • When triggered, the previously latent virus multiplies new virus particles in the nerve cell, which then are transported along the axon of each neuron to the nerve terminals in the skin, where they are released, and cause fresh outbreaks of lesions or blisters.
  • During outbreaks, you may experience flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes in the vicinity of the outbreak, depressive moods, and feelings of impaired general health. These initial symptoms may ease after 2 or 3 days.

Orofacial herpes infections

  • Skin
  • Mouth
  • Face

Genital herpes infections

  • Genitalia

Herpetic withlow infections

  • Hands

Herpes keratitis infections

  • Eyes

Herpes encephalitis invades

  • Central nervous system
  • Brain

Persons with repressed or immature immune systems, such as a newborn, implant receivers, or AIDS patients, are at high risk to severe complications caused by secondary herpes infections.


No cure for herpes has yet been developed. Upon infection, the virus remains in the body for life. Outbreaks can occur in times of immune impairment. After several years of infection, outbreaks tend to become more sporadic, and some people even become asymptomatic and will not experience further outbreaks, but they stay contagious and can infect others.

Treatments with specific antiviral drugs are available and may reduce shedding and the severity of symptoms. Vaccines are in clinical trial, but have not yet proven to be effective.

Regular sexual health check ups reduce the risk of spreading the virus.

Your best approach to significantly reduce the risk of new infection or spreading the disease is using a condom or dam every time you have sex. If you are infected, communicate this to your sexual partner(s). They have a right to know, and to protect their health.


Sex Addiction Australia offers information and sexual health counselling. Please make a confidential appointment with Heide in her Sydney office and online during AEST office hours (+61) 02 9380 4486 or email info@sexaddictionaustralia.com.au