DEAR DR. GOTT: Can herpes simplex II be the cause of peripheral neuropathy?
DEAR READER: Herpes simplex type 2 is a common sexually transmitted infection that generally affects the genitalia; however, the disorder can be spread to the mouth during oral sex. For women, the most common area to be affected is the cervix, anus, buttocks and external genitals. For men, the buttocks, anus, penis, scrotum, and thighs will most commonly be affected. The virus spreads easily through intimate contact with an individual who is infected; it can also be acquired by an act as simple as touching an infected razor.
Most of the individuals infected don’t even know they have the disorder because they either have extremely mild symptoms or none at all. When they are present, they can include pain or itching a week or two following exposure from an infected partner. Following initial exposure, pain and irritation may occur a few days before another outbreak. Blisters or small red bumps may appear and then rupture, ooze and bleed. The lesions will ultimately scab over and heal. Following the initial infection, the virus will lie dormant in the body but can reactivate several times a year thereafter.
There is no means of eliminating the virus from the body; however, the religious use of condoms and prescription medication will lessen the possibility of further spread of the virus.
Now, on to peripheral neuropathy that results from nerve damage, traumatic injury, toxin exposure, certain diseases, and infection. The peripheral nervous system sends information from the brain and central nervous system throughout the body, affecting one or more nerves. This can result in muscle weakness, burning pain, numbness, or a tingling sensation in the hands, feet, legs and arms.
There are a number of possibilities for peripheral neuropathy to occur, such as a history of diabetes, traumatic injury, kidney disease, vitamin deficiencies; autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and Guillain-Barre syndrome; specific infections to include hepatitis C, HIV/AIDs, Epstein-Barr virus, Lyme disease, varicella-zoster; exposure to heavy metals and some medications – particularly those used to treat cancer, and more. Under certain circumstances, if the correct nerve is affected, the various herpes viruses has been linked to peripheral neuropathy symptoms; however, how common this is, is not known.
Symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can be treated with over-the-counter medications, capsaicin a substance commonly found in hot peppers, prescription anti-seizure medications patches with topical anesthetic, and antidepressants.
On the home front, those with peripheral neuropathy should be extremely diligent in caring for blisters and other wounds of the affected area, they should massage their extremities in an attempt to improve circulation, review their diet to be assured it includes fresh fruits/vegetables/while grains, and quit smoking. Some sufferers have found relief in rubbing mentholated chest rub on the affected areas once or twice a day.