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Other Health Problems Caused by Herpes Simplex Virus

If the herpes simplex virus (HSV) invades a part of the body other than the genital area, it may cause disease in that part of the body. In general, complications are rare. And they usually occur with the first-time (primary) genital herpes outbreak. Some of these complications include:

  • Meningitis, an infection of the fluid (cerebrospinal fluid, or CSF) and tissues (meninges) that surround the brain and spinal cord.
  • Encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. This is usually the result of a viral infection.
  • Inflammation of the lower spinal cord and surrounding nerves. This may result in an inability to urinate, loss of feeling and muscle strength in the legs, and constipation.

Other areas of the body that can be infected with the herpes virus include:

  • The lips (herpes labialis). These outbreaks are often called cold sores or fever blisters. They are usually mild but may be treated with antiviral medicines if they become severe or more frequent.
  • The hands and fingers (herpetic whitlow). Plastic or rubber gloves prevent its spread.
  • The anus (herpes proctitis). Herpes proctitis is often more severe than other types of genital herpes.
  • The eyes (herpes keratitis). Herpes can be transmitted from the mouth or genitals to the eyes. This can cause blindness if it is not treated early. If your eye is very irritated or if you feel pain in your eye, see your doctor as soon as possible.
  • Widespread infection, including viral infections of the liver, lungs, and joints. This occurs mostly in people who have impaired immune systems.
By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Jeanne Marrazzo, MD, MPH - Infectious Disease
Last Revised December 21, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 21, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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