Transmission Of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease spread by skin-to-skin contact. The risk of infection is highest during outbreak periods when there are visible sores and lesions. However, genital herpes can also be transmitted when there are no visible symptoms. Most new cases of genital herpes infection do not cause symptoms, and many people infected with HSV-2 are unaware that they have genital herpes.
To help prevent genital herpes transmission:
- Use a condom for sexual intercourse.
- Use a dental dam for oral sex.
- Limit your number of sexual partners.
- Be aware that nonoxynol-9, the chemical spermicide used in gel and foam contraceptive products and some lubricated condoms, does not protect against STDs.
You Are Not Your Disease
The next trick is not judging yourself. After youve been diagnosed with herpes, it may be difficult to think about anything other than the fact that you have a disease. But thats all it isa disease. It isnt who you are.
One of the toughest things to remember when dating with herpes is that mostly its just dating. Dating is an activity fraught with the potential for drama, pain, and heartbreak for pretty much everyone. Herpes is just one factor in the equation.
With few exceptions, people dont date solely because they want to have sex. They date because they like each other and find each other interesting and attractive. When those other things are true, a herpes diagnosis often doesnt seem like that big a deal.
If you like someone enough, herpes can be just something you have to work with. Just like you have to work with a partners snoring or their affection for mornings.
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Genital Herpes: The Painful Facts About A Tricky Virus
There are two main types of herpes simplex virus infections, HSV-1 and HSV-2. Generally speaking, HSV-1 is responsible for those annoying cold sores that can pop up during times of stress or lack of sleep. Genital sores are usually caused by HSV-2. Many people dont realize that HSV-1 can cause genital ulcers as well, though these tend to be less severe and less likely to recur.
It can take as little as a few days and up to a week after a person has been exposed before any herpes symptoms appear. First, there will be redness and tingling, followed by small painful bumps that progress to fluid-filled “blisters.” Eventually, these burst to form shallow skin ulcers which then crust over, with gradual healing over a couple weeks. An initial genital herpes infection can be very painful, also cause fever, body aches and fatigue. Recurrent outbreaks tend to cause less severe symptoms. Rarely a genital herpes infection can cause inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain .
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What To Do When Youre Diagnosed With Herpes
It can be shocking to hear the word herpes in the doctors office. If youre caught off guard or overwhelmed, you may not register what your medical provider is telling you, says Dr. Navya Mysore, family doctor and primary care provider.
Mysore says genital herpes can be caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2. HSV-1 is most commonly related to cold sores, which a large amount of the population have. However, HSV-1 can also be the virus that causes genital herpes and HSV-2 can be the virus that gives you cold sores, she says.
While at the doctors office, dont be afraid to ask all the questions you may have, and make sure you ask for clarification if you dont understand something.
there is no cure for herpes , sexual health expert Dr. Bobby Lazzara says you can manage it enough to reduce the number of outbreaks and minimize the risk of transmission to future sexual partners.
He says herpes outbreak prevention may involve taking a once- or twice-daily antiviral medication, and the treatment of active outbreaks involves topical treatment, an antiviral medication, and sometimes a painkiller. Maintaining a consistent medication schedule is key to successfully managing herpes and preventing active outbreaks, he explains.
Between your appointments, create a list of questions you have about your diagnosis. That way you wont forget anything.
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Is That Spot A Pimple Or A Cold Sore
Acne is the most common skin condition in teens and young adults in the United States, and its increasingly common among women in their thirties, forties, and fifties. It can cause a range of blemishes variously known as blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules , cysts, and nodules, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
Acne is sometimes confused with oral herpes because of the way a breakout looks. Although oral herpes sores usually appear as small, clear blisters filled with fluid, in some instances they can look more like the reddened skin and pimples associated with acne. However, herpes is typically associated with more itchiness and pain than acne.
And whereas oral herpes sores are usually found on the mouth, lips, chin, cheeks, or nose, acne can break out on any area of the face as well as on the neck, chest, back, and shoulders.
Acne is caused by excess skin oil, clogged pores, and bacteria not the herpes virus. Hormones, stress, certain medicines, and sometimes diet can trigger or worsen acne outbreaks. While a single pimple may clear up in a few days, a larger acne outbreak may last for weeks to months.
Acne is not contagious, and topical and oral medication can help heal pimples, stop new pimples from forming, and prevent scars. To avoid scarring, don’t squeeze or pop pimples.
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Can Symptoms Be Treated
There is no cure for genital herpes. But the symptoms can be lessened and prevented with treatment. Treatment can also reduce the risk of infecting others.
Your health care provider may prescribe antiviral medications to help prevent or reduce the pain and discomfort from an outbreak of symptoms. Medication taken on a daily basis to suppress the virus can reduce the number of outbreaks and reduce the risk of infecting others.
When To See A Healthcare Provider
If you have a cold sore, you do not necessarily need to make an appointment with your healthcare provider because the sore will likely go away on its own within a few days. However, make an appointment for an evaluation if you have signs and symptoms of cold sores that are persistent and/or extremely painful, especially if they are associated with fevers, swelling, bleeding, or oozing. Though cold sores are generally not serious and rarely cause complications, you’ll want to get outbreaks under control.
If you have any signs of genital herpes, however, you should see a healthcare provider within a few days, before the lesions go away.
Sores on or near the genital area can herald a sexually transmitted infection , or they may be the result of some other type of irritation. Most STIs are treatable, but it is difficult to know which one you may haveor if you have one at allunless you are trained in diagnosing them.
Many people do not freely communicate with sexual partners when it comes to STI status, so it’s best to get a definitive answer on what’s causing your symptoms.
If you have pain or bleeding with urination, pain with sexual activity, or if you notice that lesions in the genital area seem to be inflamed, you should call your healthcare provider, even if you have already been diagnosed with and treated for herpes.
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Genital Herpes Treatment In Pregnancy
You may be offered antiviral treatment:
- to treat outbreaks in pregnancy
- from 36 weeks to reduce the chance of an outbreak during birth
- from diagnosis until the birth if you first get herpes after 28 weeks of pregnancy
Many women with genital herpes have a vaginal delivery. You may be offered a caesarean, depending on your circumstances.
How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
Genital herpes is diagnosed with a physical exam and can often be diagnosed just by looking at the sores.
If blisters or sores are present on the genitals, tests used to diagnose herpes or to rule out other conditions that can be mistaken for genital herpes include:
- A sample of cells or fluid from a sore is sent to a lab
- If no symptoms are present, a blood sample may be taken to check for herpes antibodies
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What Happens At A Sexual Health Clinic
The doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic will:
- ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners
- use a small cotton bud to take some fluid from 1 of your blisters or sores for testing
The test cannot:
- be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores
- tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from
Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after you’re infected with the herpes virus.
Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should talk to your sex partner about their risk. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely. Having sores or other symptoms of herpes can increase your risk of spreading the disease. Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partners.
You may have concerns about how genital herpes will impact your health, sex life, and relationships. While herpes is not curable, it is important to know that it is manageable with medicine. Daily suppressive therapy can lower your risk of spreading the virus to others. Talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns and treatment options.
A genital herpes diagnosis may affect how you will feel about current or future sexual relationships. Knowing how to talk to sexual partners about STDs is important.
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Who Gets Genital Herpes
Any sexually active person can get genital herpes. Its very common. According to the Centers for Disease Control , about 1 in 6 people in the United States who are 14 to 49 years old has genital herpes.
While its easy to get infected, some people have a higher risk of getting genital herpes. Women are more likely to get infected during sex. People who have many sexual partners also have a higher risk.
Anyone who has a weakened immune system also has a higher risk. People can have a weakened immune system for many reasons. Medication is one reason. Medications that weaken the immune system include those taken to prevent losing a transplanted organ and some that control severe psoriasis.
More Questions From Patients:
Many people with genital herpes have no symptoms, or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed.
The first time genital herpes symptoms appear is called the first episode or initial herpes. Initial herpes symptoms are usually more noticeable than later outbreaks.
Symptoms of genital herpes in men may include
burning when you pee if you have sores
trouble peeing if you have sores covering your urethra
itching or pain around your genitals
During initial herpes, symptoms may also include
swollen, tender glands in the pelvic area, throat, or under the arms
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The Health Risks Of Genital Herpes
Pain and discomfort are the main health effects of genital herpes, but the virus can also cause emotional and social problems for those infected. Although it cannot be cured, genital herpes can be managed with antiviral medication that may help control the recurrences. On rare occasions, genital herpes may cause serious complications such as blindness and inflammation of the brain.
Genital herpes can sometimes be passed from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or birth. The infection can be life-threatening to the child or result in skin lesions or brain damage. Antiviral medication and a cesarean delivery can reduce the risk of infecting the child.
Meet Nearby People With Herpes
PositiveSingles is the largest online dating and support community for people with herpes. Online since 2001, it has the largest user base among all the STD dating sites and APPs. You will find out there are plenty of people around you.
Thank you Positive Singles for providing me the avenue to meet my life long Soul Mate, the Love of my Life. It has been a wonderful year since we met and I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with Lisa.
It started as a long distance relationship for 6 months but after that we moved in together. Wishing the same for everyone else searching for their mate.
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No Ulcers Doesnt Equal No Herpes So Then What
If youve never had genital ulcers and as far as you know, have never been exposed, is it worth getting tested? Thats a controversial point and in fact, the widely followed official guidelines discourage screening.
Why? Many reasons: Lets say the test comes back positive for HSV-2. This means that the patient may have been exposed to HSV-2 at some point in their lives, somehow, somewhere. Research tells us that these folks may be periodically shedding virus particles in their genital fluids. These patients would then be diagnosed with genital herpes, encouraged to share their status with future partners, and offered daily antiviral medication to prevent possibly spreading the virus.
All of this can be a tough pill to swallow, so to speak. There is significant social stigma and shame associated with herpes. In addition, there are occasionally false-positive tests. Labeling someone with the diagnosis can be devastating to their future relationships, and asking someone to take a pill for a condition they may or may not have and may or may not spread seems unreasonable.
However, many experts disagree with the official guidelines. I wrote to Dr. John Gnann, professor of infectious disease at the Medical University of South Carolina and co-author of a review in the New England Journal of Medicine . He has suggested the below guidelines, and outlines the rationale:
Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic
You can see a GP, but they’ll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital herpes.
Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.
Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment.
They’ll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.
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How Do You Get Herpes
Oral herpes can be spread through saliva, kissing, and skin-to-skin contact. HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes, if the genital areas are exposed to fever blisters or sores on the mouth or face, or through oral sex. Even though HSV-1 also never completely goes away, that strain of the virus causes fewer outbreaks over time in the genital areas than HSV-2.
Genital herpes can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and/or sexual intercourse of all types . Most people dont realize that sores from genital herpes can appear on the face as well as the genital area. Because the virus can spread any time contact occurs with a blister or sore, a condom doesnt always provide sufficient protection.
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Syphilis: A Greater Health Threat Than Herpes
Syphilis and genital herpes are both STDs that can cause sores in the genital area. Like oral herpes, syphilis can also cause mouth sores, which often clear without treatment. But despite these similarities in symptoms, the two diseases differ in their causes syphilis is caused by a bacteria and herpes by a virus and the health risks they pose.
For most people the exceptions being infants and people who have weakened immune systems or who are chronically ill herpes is more of an annoyance than a dangerous disease. But untreated syphilis can lead to severe complications, including bone, joint, liver, heart, and brain damage.
There are four stages of syphilis, according to the CDC, each with different signs and symptoms. In the primary stage, a painless sore or sores develop where the bacteria first entered the skin or mucous membrane. In the secondary stage, you may develop a skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. In the latent stage of syphilis, there are no signs or symptoms, and in the tertiary stage, the bacterial infection can damage the heart, brain, and other organs of the body.
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How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Most people with genital herpes have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms. Mild symptoms may go unnoticed or be mistaken for other skin conditions like a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people do not know they have a herpes infection.
Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. This is known as having an outbreak. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. Flu-like symptoms also may occur during the first outbreak.
People who experience an initial outbreak of herpes can have repeated outbreaks, especially if they have HSV-2. However, repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although genital herpes is a lifelong infection, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time.
Ask a healthcare provider to examine you if:
- You notice any symptoms or
- Your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD.
STD symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly genital discharge, burning when peeing, or bleeding between periods .