While most people think of herpes as something that attacks the skin, either in the form of cold sores or genital lesions, this common virus has also been linked to serious brain disorders like encephalitis, meningitis and even dementia. Though these complications are serious and require medical attention, people with herpes should know that the likelihood of developing one of these disorders is rare. If you're one of the millions of adults who has either HSV-1 or HSV-2, here's what you need to know about how the virus causes problems in the brain.

How herpes travels to the brain

As a neurotropic virus, herpes enters the nervous system during a skin infection, either through oral transmission (HSV-1) or genital contact (HSV-2). Depending on what type of herpes you have, sensory neurons that become infected may carry the virus to specific regions of the brain. Brain conditions may even develop without evident clinical symptoms.

Encephalitis

Herpes encephalitis is a condition that refers to acute inflammation of the brain that can be caused