Herpes on stomach: Causes, Symptoms, Home Remedies

Herpes on stomach is painful, and also makes you suffer. So, let’s learn why it occurs, and how to treat it.

Herpes zoster commonly known as the shingles is a painful condition of the skin which results from the infection of herpes simplex virus. In this disease, painful blisters are found on the skin in the form of rashes following the infection.

It can develop over all parts of your body. However, in most cases, it affects the neck, face, stomach, chest, and back. The virus belongs to the varicella family which is the same family of viruses that primary cause chickenpox in children. Usually, the primary infection of the exogenous varicella-zoster virus is the chickenpox.

So after the infection of chickenpox, some of these viruses remain inside our system and survive while remaining in a dormant state for a long time inside the sensory nerve ganglia.

The viruses wait for the favourable condition, and when it arrives, they get reactivated and cause herpes zoster, a secondary form of varicella-zoster infection. The Herpes Zoster lesions usually take 7 to 10 days to get healed through the natural course, and they are very painful. But, use of antiviral medications may shorten the course of infection.

Any form of herpes is a disease with a long-term condition. But many individuals may carry the virus in their body without having any symptoms during their lifetime. Moreover, most of the individuals cannot experience or feel any kind of symptoms for months or even years after getting infected.

The symptoms are only visible after 2 to 12 days of exposure (on an average) even in individuals who do notice some symptoms in the initial period of infection.

Herpes infection can be a recurring disease in many individuals. The recurrence of the disease usually takes place more frequently after the individual is infected for the first time. However, over time the period of remission usually get longer with every occurrence the infection becomes less severe.

Herpes on Stomach and its causes:

herpes on stomach
Herpes on stomach
Image source: healthhype.com

Herpes on stomach is also caused by the same herpes zoster virus of the varicella family, which is responsible for chickenpox. The strain of the virus is known as HSV 1, while genital herpes is caused by another strain HSV 2. The HSV 1 strain causes herpes primarily in the back and abdomen area. However, on several occasions, it was found to affect the neck area as well.

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The virus lies in a dormant state inside the nerve roots after an initial attack as chickenpox in the childhood. The dormant state usually happens inside the sensory nerve roots. Under certain conditions, it erupts by itself especially during the period when the immune system of a person is compromised.

Usually, herpes on abdomen and stomach affect the adult population. Most of the patient suffering from this disease is found to be above the age of 50. This only affects the individuals with a weak immune system.

But the disease can happen in young individuals as well if their immune system is compromised or weak because of other conditions such as HIV infection. Cancer patients are also vulnerable to this disease at a younger age.

The disease is contagious in the sense that other healthy individuals coming in contact with the fluids secreted from the blisters (through bruises and cuts) can get infected. However, an individual is not contagious till the blisters are formed. Again, once the blisters are converted into crusts (the fluids get dried up), they no longer remain contagious.

Herpes on stomach symptoms:

A burning sensation with intense sensitivity in any area of the skin is the first sign of herpes attack in that particular area. Usually, the itching, burning, and pain is one-sided. Before the development of fluid-filled rashes, this burning sensation lasts for 2 to 3 days.

In general, upper back, chest, waist, stomach or around the eye or one side of the face are the most common places to be affected by herpes on stomach. Herpes is neuroectodermal infection affecting one of the (sometimes more than one) closed group spinal nerves.

Formation of the vesicles and the unilateral pain are limited to the spinal nerves sensory fibres that innervate particular skin area, on stomach in this case.

The herpes rashes are usually unilateral. The lesions develop as red patches of closely grouped eruptions on the skin. Further blisters are formed after 12 to 24 hours of the inception of the red patches.

The appearance of the blisters is like a band or affects just a small area. In most of the cases, you may notice the blisters formed in a line as the appearance of the blisters follows the pathway of the affected nerves.

The appearance of the rashes may start from back to the front of your belly in a line. In other instances, the blisters may appear as small patches on your belly.

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Such blisters may continue to appear for the next 24 to 96 hours or even longer. After that this blisters usually dry up and appear as a crust in the following 7 to 10 days. The complete healing process takes approximately 2 to 3 weeks.

The blisters leave behind pigmented spots that may result in mild scarring. Postherpetic neuralgia and other secondary bacterial infection may also be a possibility specifically in elder patients who may also suffer further complications.

Treatment of Herpes on Stomach:

No medicine can treat herpes infection or remove herpes virus. But, physicians often administer antiviral drugs to prevent rapid multiplication of the virus. Moreover, antiviral drugs help to cure the disease faster and also help in reducing the severity of the symptoms.

The physicians usually prescribe antiviral drugs in herpes infection when the individual first develop the symptoms. But the antiviral drug is not given for recurrent outbreaks as the symptoms are mild in recurrent cases and no treatment is usually required.

The diagnosis of herpes on stomach is difficult in the initial few days (in the first 24 to 48 hours).  Your physician may not be able to tell the exact reason behind the sensitive skin and pain until the appearance of the rashes on the affected area.

At first, the physician may think of several other causes behind the initial symptoms. The appearance of the blisters on your stomach, however, clears the clinical picture.

After a successful diagnosis of herpes on stomach physicians usually suggest complete bed rest and may give you soothing and analgesic ointments along with antiviral drugs. This is the primary treatment approach.

Usually, physicians prescribe acyclovir a type of antiviral drug in the form of ointment as well as medication. Never try to use this drug without consulting your physician and use according to the doses fixed by any healthcare professional.

Early treatment always helps. When the treatment is started quickly the inflammation suppresses fast, and the total course of the disease can be shortened. Further early treatment will decrease the chance of developing postherpetic neuralgia. In case, there is also a secondary bacterial infection; your physician may prescribe some form of antibiotics as well.

Home remedies for Herpes on stomach:

The application of aloe vera gel is often useful in soothing the burning pain as it can act as a natural anti-inflammatory agent. It also reduces the itching sensation and redness of the patches.

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The healing process can also be enhanced with the application of calendula which can also help in the prevention of secondary bacterial infection. Further, it helps in repairing of the scarred skin and alleviation of itching.

As a common home remedy, you can also apply ices in the early stages of the disease to decrease the redness and itching of the blisters. Just take some ice cubes in a clean cloth and apply it directly to the affected area on your stomach for about 10 to 15 minutes.

This will offer you some relief from the discomfort. But never apply ice directly on the affected area. Always cover them with a clean cloth or use ice packs.

You can use the following natural remedies to get relief:

  • Having over the counter painkillers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen to relieve the pain
  • Application of petroleum jelly on the blisters in the affected area
  • Taking a sitz bath with warm water
  • The symptoms can be reduced by bathing with lightly salted water
  • Always wash your hands well particularly after coming in contact with the affected area
  • Do not use tight clothing on the blisters and allow the affected area to be in contact with air as much as possible
  • Do not indulge in sexual activity until all the symptoms of herpes infection are gone

Episodic and suppressive treatment for Herpes on stomach:

If an individual has less than six incidences of recurrence of herpes infection, then the healthcare professionals use episodic treatment for herpes on stomach, while when the number of recurrences is more than six suppressive treatment approach is taken for herpes on stomach.

In episodic treatment, the patient is administered with a 5-day course of antiviral drugs and in suppressive treatment; the patient is given daily antiviral drugs for an indefinite period. The aim of the suppressive treatment is to prevent recurrence of the disease once more.

Even while receiving suppressive treatment for herpes on stomach, there is a chance of transmitting the disease to the partner during sexual intercourse. However, the chances are low.

References:
  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/151739.php
  2. Herpes zoster of the stomach. The Lancet, 314(8149), 953.

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