There are more than 100 different types of herpes, although most people only recognize two or three different types. Among the most common are herpes simplex 2 (genital herpes), chicken pox, shingles, herpes simplex 1 (cold sores) and Epstein-Barr. All of these conditions are caused by a herpes virus, and there is no cure. Many signs and symptoms of herpes viruses are similar in nature but vary depending on the location of the outbreak.
Cold sores are caused herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV1). According to the International Herpes Management Forum, cold sores are one of the most common forms of herpes. Signs of cold sores include a blister that forms along the lip line or along the edge of the lips. It may be part of a cluster of blisters and painful to the touch or when the lips are stretched to smile. As the blister ages, it bursts and forms a crust around it. During this entire period, the HSV1 is very contagious and can affect any part of the body that comes in contact with the cold sore.
Genital herpes is caused by herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV2). According to Planned Parenthood, in many cases, people who have herpes may not realize they are having an outbreak, particularly if the outbreak is occurring in a part of the body not easily seen. Typical locations for an outbreak include around the vulva (inner and outer labia), the penis and the around the anus. Other places an outbreak can occur are inside the vagina, around the cervix and in the urethra. Similar to cold sores, an outbreak can be a single blister or cluster of blisters that break and develop a crust. During this time, the outbreak is highly contagious.
Chicken pox is another herpes virus that is extremely common. It is most common among children, but occasionally an adult who has not been exposed to the virus in childhood will become infected with the virus. According to the International Herpes Management Forum, chicken pox is one of the most common forms of herpes virus on the planet. An outbreak of chicken pox often begins with a cluster of blisters and a high fever. Blisters appear all over the body and may itch. After a period of a few days, the blisters burst and form a crust. During this entire period and as long as the child is running a fever, chicken pox is highly contagious.
Shingles are caused by the varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chicken pox. Most people who have shingles will have had chicken pox at some time in their life. Shingles are extremely painful because the nerves near the blister patches also are inflamed. According to the International Herpes Management Forum, patches of blisters may form anywhere on the body but are particularly common on the trunk. Similar to other forms of herpes, the blisters will burst and form a crust. Shingles are not considered a fully contagious disease and may appear in individuals who who have had an episode of chicken pox earlier in life who are under stress or have a compromised immune system.
Epstein-Barr is known as the cause of mononucleosis (also called mono or glandular mono). According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of Epstein-Barr appear after an incubation period of four to eight weeks and include fever, fatigue, sore throat, headache, swollen lymph nodes, swollen tonsils, rash and night sweats. Mono lasts for several weeks and, in severe cases, up to several months.