There are two different kinds of herpes: Oral herpes and genital herpes. Herpes is a viral infection and both variants are very common in Sweden. It’s estimated that between 70 and 80 % of the Swedish population has or has had oral herpes. 30-40 % have antibodies against genital herpes.
How is herpes passed on?
If you have the virus in your body, there is a risk of passing it on. This risk increases, however, if you have visible symptoms. Oral herpes is easily transferred by kissing and oral sex between lips, the anus and the genitals, for example. Genital herpes is also easily spread between the genitals. So it is possible to have oral herpes in the mouth, around the genitals and in and around the anus. The genital herpes variant can only occur in the genitals.
Most people don’t have any symptoms of either genital or oral herpes when they catch it. The symptoms of genital herpes appear later and first show as redness on the penis, scrotum, in and around the vagina, and on the butt cheeks and rectum. Blisters appear with the redness, and they can be painful or itchy. When the blisters burst they create sores that can feel tender or hurt. Headache and high fever are other symptoms.
Oral herpes usually appears first around the mouth, but it can be passed on to the genitals and create similar symptoms there.
Since herpes is caused by a virus it cannot be cured, instead the person has to live with the virus in their body for the rest of their life. As a result there is also a risk of the symptoms recurring. However, not everyone has recurring symptoms, while others may have them several times a year.
Since both oral and genital herpes are caused by a virus, there is no cure for the infection. The person has to live with the virus in their body for the rest of their life. Herpes does not, however, prevent you from living a normal life. There is medicine to alleviate the symptoms and reduce the recovery period, i.e. the time it takes for the blisters and sores to heal. As a rule the symptoms usually also heal without treatment, although this could take up to 3-4 weeks. Talk to a doctor or someone at your pharmacy to get recommendations for the best medicine.