Herpes simplex is a virus that can cause painful blisters and sores. The virus usually affects the skin and the thin layers of tissue that moisten, lubricate, and protect certain parts of the body (mucous membranes).
The two main types of herpes simplex viruses are type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). Both types of the virus can cause sores on the lips (cold sores) and sores on the genitals (genital herpes). HSV-1 more often causes cold sores. HSV-2 more often causes genital sores. The viruses are transmitted by direct contact, such as touching a sore directly or through sexual contact.
A herpes infection may cause only a single outbreak of sores. But in many cases the person will have recurrent outbreaks. Recurring infections can be triggered by factors such as stress, fatigue, sunlight, or another infection, such as a cold or flu.
Treatment can reduce the number and severity of outbreaks but cannot cure the infection.
Herpes zoster, another form of herpes virus, causes chickenpox and shingles.
Current as of:
September 11, 2018
Sarah A. Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & Kevin C. Kiley, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Find our contact forms and phone numbers or give feedback on a recent experience using Care to Share.
View test results, schedule appointments, or request prescription refills from the convenience of your computer or mobile device.
Learn about health system news and meet new providers in Progress Notes, Lancaster General Health's provider newsletter.