What Are The Risks Of Oral Herpes?

Oral herpes is extremely common. It is caused by herpes simplex virus type 1. Most people have oral herpes, but the majority of cases are asymptomatic, so the person never knows they have it, or there is one outbreak, after which the virus is suppressed. Generally, oral herpes is not dangerous, but in a few cases serious complications can result. Symptoms of oral herpes:

  • Small fluid filled blisters around the mouth, most commonly on the lips
  • Mild fever

Ocular Herpes

Sometimes herpes can spread from the mouth to the eye. This is called ocular herpes. Usually ocular herpes affects only one eye, and can be recurrent. Most of the time, ocular herpes is not dangerous, but in severe cases it can result in:

  • Scarring on the eye
  • Partial loss of vision
  • Blindness (herpes keratitis)

Herpes Simplex Encephalitis

This is a rare but serious condition caused by herpes simplex virus 1. Symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Change in mental status
  • Memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Coma

If untreated, this condition can be fatal.

Herpes and Pregnancy

  • Herpes can be very dangerous to newborn babies.
  • Women with herpes are more likely to miscarry, have babies that do not grow as quickly as normal babies, and go into labor too early.
  • Contracting herpes during pregnancy is much more dangerous to the baby than if herpes was present before pregnancy. Women with preexisting herpes infections have antibodies, which can be passed to the baby. The antibodies will help the baby's immune system fight infection. Without antibodies, the baby is extremely vulnerable.
  • People with active herpes outbreaks should not touch infants.
  • Possible complications of herpes in infants include:
    • Painful sores covering the body
    • Brain damage
    • Seizures
    • Death
  • Usually it will be several days after birth before a baby will show signs of herpes. Here are some warning signs to be aware of:
    • Irritability
    • Reduced appetite
    • Fever
    • Lethargy

If you notice any of these symptoms in your baby, call your doctor immediately.

Bell's Palsy

Herpes has been shown to contribute to Bell's palsy, a condition caused by inflammation of the facial nerves. 80% of patients with Bell's palsy recover in three months, but some people experience lasting symptoms. Symptoms of Bell's palsy:

  • Overactive tear glands in the eye
  • Loss of eyelid control
  • Pain similar to a toothache
  • Drooling
  • Numbness or paralysis on one or both sides of the face
  • Loss of ability to taste on one side of the tongue

Preventing Complications of Herpes

A healthy immune system is the #1 defense against herpes complications. There are lots of ways to keep your immune system healthy. Take the following precautions to ensure a healthy immune system:

  • Eat a balanced diet rich in antioxidants and essential nutrients
  • Get 7-9 hours of sleep every night
  • Exercise and maintain a healthy weight
  • Take supplements that boost immunity.

Sources:

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9405E3DE1239F930A35752C0A960958260

http://www.emedicine.com/med/topic1006.htm#target1

http://www.healthcentral.com/encyclopedia/408/253.html

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