Herpes Recurrences | Are recurrent outbreaks as bad as the first?


Does Herpes Recur?

Yes, both oral and genital herpes can recur. Some people have frequent recurrences, while other people have them rarely. The average for genital herpes is about 4 recurrences per year. Most people with genital herpes do have recurrences.

At the beginning of the infection, the herpes virus escapes the immune defenses by entering the nerve endings and travelling to the ganglia, which are clusters of nerve cells. In the ganglia, the virus is inactive and it causes no harm to the body or the nerve cells. From time to time, however, the virus can be reactivated. When that happens, it travels back down the nerve to the surface of the skin. There it starts to multiply, causing another outbreak. Recurrences usually develop near the site of the initial infection.

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Questions about Recurrences

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Symptoms Of A Typical Recurrence

During a first episode, the immune system develops antibodies and other weapons against the virus. During a recurrence, then, this "immune memory" helps fight off infection more quickly. As a result, there are usually fewer sores, they heal faster, and the outbreak is less painful. The flu like symptoms of the first outbreak are seldom present.

What Triggers A Recurrence?

Herpes infections have different patterns in different people. Any one or combination of the following factors might sometimes, not always, induce an outbreak: surgery, illness, stress, fatigue, skin irritation (such as sunburn), diet, menstruation, or vigorous sexual intercourse.


More information on Triggers for Herpes. Click here!

Frequency of Recurrent Outbreaks

The first year after the initial infection typically has more recurrent outbreaks. The average person has a herpes outbreak four times a year. About 80% of those who have contracted HSV2 will have at least one recurrent outbreak.

But, herpes outbreaks are different for everyone. Some women get an outbreak every month around the time of menses. Some people may not experience an outbreak for many years. Some people may have no recurrent oubreaks at all if the virus stays latent in a dormant state. Some of these people don’t even know they have herpes.

HIV and Outbreaks

Persons co-infected with HSV and HIV may be at increased risk for HSV recurrences. Many individuals with symptomatic HIV infection report frequent and severe oral HSV recurrences. These may become more severe as the immune system weakens.

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