However, both types can recur and spread even when no symptoms are present.
The two types do behave somewhat differently depending on whether they are residing in their site of preference-the mouth and face for HSV-1, and the genital area for HSV-2.But both types are quite common, and under most circumstances neither is a major health threat.That's one reason medical professionals tend to dismiss HSV -2 despite the emotional trauma a diagnosis can cause for a patient.However, in some cases type 1 can recur spontaneously in the eye, causing ocular herpes, a potentially serious infection which can lead to blindness.In very rare cases HSV- 1 can spread spontaneously to the brain, causing herpes encephalitis, a dangerous infection that can lead to death.HSV-1 is also the usual cause of herpes whitlow, an infection on the finger, and "wrestler's herpes," (herpes gladiatorum) a herpes infection on the chest or face.The range and potential severity of HSV-1 infections lead some experts to view the virus as more risky than usually perceived."This is heresy, but I think type 1 is a more significant infection than type 2," says Spotswood Spruance, MD, an oral HSV specialist at the University of Utah."Type 1, and the morbidity associated with it, are underestimated." By comparison, HSV-2 is widely believed to be a painful, dangerous infection that affects only people with very active sex lives. Some 22% of adult Americans from all backgrounds, income levels, and ethnic groups have HSV-2.Following the unspoken assumptions of our society, many people still believe there is a "good" herpes virus-HSV- 1, the usual cause of cold sores-and a "bad" herpes virus-HSV-2, the usual cause of genital herpes.In this feature, we take a look at HSV- 1 and 2 to see how alike and different the two viral types really are.