There are mainly two strains of Herpes virus, HSV1, and HSV2. HSV1 affects the areas in and around the mouth and lips. Although HSV1 is the most prevalent cause of oral herpes, 20 % of the cases result from HSV2. These viruses are mainly transmitted during anal, oral and vaginal sex.
It is not always necessary for the oral herpes virus to stay active. In some cases, they can stay dormant for so long that the afflicted person may not even have the slightest hint about the prevalent condition in his body. When the symptoms do come out, it is usually in the form of blisters and cold sores over the lips and the mouth. The severity could range from minor rashes akin to insect bites to aggravating burns, itches and tingling sensation for a prolonged period of time. Although not necessary, the surfacing of the blisters is usually preceded by flu like symptoms such as fever, swollen glands, sore throat, and pain while swallowing.
Although herpes is generally transmitted through sexual encounters, oral herpes could also spread due to sharing drinks and utensils. Since the viruses can stay in a dormant condition without triggering outbreaks, most of the times it is also transmitted while exchanging casual kisses and pecks. After entering the host, the virus can stay either in a dormant or an active condition. If they do get active, they start destroying the host cell which then erupts as fluid filled blisters. Once these sores dry up, they form scabs and ultimately disappear without leaving any scars.
The active and dormant phases of the HSV1 virus cannot be predicted. Since these viruses can stay dormant for a considerably long period of time, most of the transmissions occur without any knowledge of the affected person and the recipient. This is known as shedding and comprise almost one-third of the total number of transmissions.
Although oral herpes is not a life threatening condition, it can cause extreme discomfort to the affected person, especially if the symptoms keep resurfacing quite frequently. It could cause constant soreness, itchiness, and pain while swallowing food as well as drinks.
The HSV1 virus mainly thrives in the moist areas that are in constant contact with the air. Therefore, the condition can get pretty serious if the virus reaches the eyes. This specific condition is known as ocular herpes and can result in permanent blindness. If the viruses travel further up towards the brain, it could even lead to a fatal condition known as herpes encephalitis.
Apart from that, the HSV1 has also been linked to Recurrent Lymphocytic Meningitis where the affected person experiences sudden attacks of meningitis symptoms which could last for 2 to 7 days. These attacks could occur in an interval of weeks, months or even years.
Just like genital herpes, there is no cure for oral herpes as well. There are a few medications to slow down or soothe the symptoms. However, the viruses cannot be completely eradicated from the body. Medications like acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir reduce the intensity of the outbreaks and speed up the healing but cannot completely cure the infection.