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Herpes Gladiatorum (Mat Herpes): Signs, Symptoms, Causes and Treatment

herpes gladiatorum

What is herpes gladiatorum (mat herpes)?

Herpes gladiatorum is generally described as a skin infection brought about by HSV-1 or herpes simplex virus type 1. The skin condition is triggered by the same kind of virus that induces painful sores or annoying fever blisters. Compared to the second type of HSV, the first type is the most common today. While the cases are high every year, not many individuals show signs and symptoms.

Also known as mat herpes, herpes gladiatorum can also be treated. However, since it is HSV, the infection has the tendency to remain for life. The treatments given will help in controlling the said infection and prevent episodes of herpes gladiatorum from happening more often. Moreover, it is also necessary to know that the virus can be spread, just like other infections, most especially if there is an outbreak.

How is the infection spread?

Since herpes gladiatorum is considered a communicable type of illness or infection, it can be spread through skin-to-skin contact with someone who has been diagnosed with it. Usually, the people who acquire this illness are those who are inclined with different contact sports, emphasizing the very close contact of playing or taking part in wrestling.

The infection can appear on any part of the body. However, it becomes severe when it affects the eyes, especially athletes. When this occurs, urgent medical treatment is necessary. Note that even if this infection is common to athletes, it can still happen to many people, regardless of being sporty.

List of symptoms involving herpes gladiatorum:

As mentioned, some people may not develop any symptoms after their initial infection. There are also individuals who show signs years after being infected. However, to satisfy someone’s suspicion of having the illness, here is the list of symptoms involving herpes gladiatorum. Know which of these you have and learn how to better manage these effects during the treatment process.

  • Recurrent fever and chills
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes or glands
  • Sore throat
  • Painful sores
  • Annoying fever blisters
  • Burning sensation or feeling in any part of the body (usually the face)
  • Recurrent headache (sometimes mild or severe)
  • Skin lesions

Some of these symptoms can be managed at home. However, there are also that needs to be addressed inside clinics or hospitals for better medical care management. During outbreaks, the virus can become very active, making transmissions very high. It is one of the reasons why preventing skin-to-skin contact is necessary to avoid possible herpes acquisition, especially herpes gladiatorum.


Correlative to other infections, herpes gladiatorum can lead to other serious health complications. These complications happen when the infection enters the liver, eyes, lungs, and even the brain. That is why at the first outbreak, treatment should be given immediately to address the illness and prevent health concerns from emerging. If no treatment is given, the condition can become worse, making it difficult to treat not only one medical dilemma but many more.


Just like other forms of herpes, herpes gladiatorum is caused by direct contact with an individual who has the virus. As mentioned, the common hosts of this infection are athletes, especially those who engage in contact types of sports. Some of these sports can include wrestling, basketball, and even rugby. Furthermore, note that other actions, such as kissing, sexual intercourse, and even sharing personal items, are agents of herpes gladiatorum transmission. It is inevitable to happen if a certain individual you come to contact with has active sores or blisters.


If you suspect having been infected with the virus, seek a doctor’s help immediately. The healthcare professional will know if you are truly infected with the illness by doing a physical examination and other tests, such as taking a skin sample from the affected area. The sample will then be analyzed for possible infections. When a diagnosis is incurred, you will then be given the first process of treatment, which may include the consumption of antiretroviral drugs.

Treatment and Prevention

As mentioned, you will be given a prescription containing the type of medicines you will be taking after your diagnosis. Some of these drugs available in the market today are famciclovir, valacyclovir, and acyclovir. These antiretroviral drugs can alleviate the painful and annoying symptoms triggered by the said infection. Moreover, it lessens the effects of the inflammation and other signs brought about by the illness.

Furthermore, since this type of infection is mainly observed in athletes, it is necessary for them to take extra precautionary measures. One of these measures includes an immediate shower after training or game sessions. Doing so will wash out any contaminants or agents that can cause the virus to attack its new host. Other than that, always practice proper hygiene and only use your items. Take good care of your body by taking good care of your skin and immune system.

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