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We summarize in this article how to recognize genital herpes and why itâs important to talk to your doctor if youâre worried you may have it.
The most common symptom of herpes is skin lesions. These lesions can be confused with similar-looking lesions caused by a number of other conditions.
Using photographs to help you see what weâre saying, we describe herpes lesions and compare and contrast them with the lesions caused by these diseases:
Youtube video on how to differentiate herpes from other skin conditionsPractical tips by expert STD doctor – Dr.Fuzayloff
Contact Your Physician Or Clinic
Because the only sure way to diagnose genital herpes is with lab tests, youll need to contact your primary care physician, gynecologist, or local health department for testing. There are six ways to test for HSV-2:
- Swab culture of the blister
- Polymerase chain reaction test
- Antigen detection
- Lumbar puncture
How To Prevent An Outbreak
Some people only take their medications if they feel the itching and tingling that means an outbreak is coming on — or when sores show up — to stop it from getting worse. Your doctor may suggest you take an antiviral every day if you:
- Have lots of outbreaks
- Want to prevent more outbreaks
- Want to lower the risk of spreading it to your partner
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Herpes Treatment During Pregnancy
If you develop a herpes rash during your pregnancy, talk with your obstetrician right away. Its possible that the virus can affect an unborn baby. It may also be transferred to the newborn during childbirth. See your healthcare provider if you develop symptoms, to have a physical exam and discuss treatment options.
To soothe an outbreak of genital herpes, take your prescribed medication and try sitting in a warm bath. Applying ice to a herpes rash on the face may provide some relief as well. To help prevent outbreaks, take steps to avoid the triggers that lead to one, such as a sunburn or extreme stress.
Also, you dont want to kiss a baby if you have a cold sore because it could lead to a serious infection in the baby early in life.
Prevention Of Genital Herpes
The best protection against STIs is to always use barrier protection such as condoms, female condoms and dams . Because herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact, condoms will reduce the risk of transmission, but it will not protect sexual partners completely as condoms do not cover the entire genitals.
Using lubricant with a condom during sex will also reduce the risk of trauma to the genital skin. This has been shown to reduce HSV transmission, especially in the first six months of a sexual relationship. Silicone-based lubricants are recommended.
Remember that herpes transmission can occur when symptoms are present , but may also occur even if there are no genital symptoms through asymptomatic viral shedding.
For people who have frequent episodes of genital herpes, antiviral medication, taken daily, helps to reduce transmission of herpes to a sexual partner.
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How To Treat A Cold Sore
Treating a cold sore requires patience. It will heal over time, but while you’re waiting for that to happen, it’s important to ensure the virus doesn’t continue to spread. So here are some tips for coping with a cold sore:
- Avoid touching your cold sore. Remember that the virus that causes cold sores is contagious. So touching your sore can spread the virus to other people or other areas of your own body, including the eyes.
- Don’t pop the blisters. Doing so won’t help the sore heal any faster and can actually make the breakout worse.
- Try an over-the-counter cold sore treatment. Most cold sores will heal on their own. Unfortunately, this typically takes 10 days to two weeks. OTC treatments like Abreva can help shorten this healing time.
- See your healthcare provider for prescription medication. If you’re prone to cold sore breakouts, your healthcare provider can prescribe antiviral medications. These need to be taken at the very start of a breakout and can drastically reduce the severity and healing time.
- Use lip balms and salves, if needed.For cold sores that are crusted over and dry, applying a balm will keep the sore moist. Moisture can help prevent painful splitting. Apply balms and salves with a cotton swab rather than with your finger to avoid contamination.
What Friction Burn And Friction Blister Are
Friction burn is intraepidermal damage caused by skin repeatedly rubbing on another object.
- âIntraepidermalâ means the burn forms in the top, epidermal, layer of the skin.
- Skin has multiple layers: the stratum corneum, epidermis, and dermis. The epidermis is part of the top layer of skin.
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It Is A Sore But Not A Herpes
While genital ulceration is often associated with herpes, it can be the result of several other conditions, including but not limited to, other sexually transmitted diseases, inflammatory conditions, skin irritation, and allergic skin lesions. In addition to herpes, the main sexually transmitted diseases that present with a genital ulcer are primary syphilis and chancroid. In the United States, syphilis infection is more common than chancroid.
Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Many people who have genital herpes may not be aware they have the infection, because they may not have any symptoms.
The first episode of herpes can cause considerable pain and distress. Symptoms of the first episode may include:
- flu-like symptoms such as feeling unwell, headaches and pains in the back and legs, with or without enlarged glands in the groin
- small blisters around the genitals these break open to form shallow, painful ulcers, which scab over and heal after one to two weeks
- small cracks in the skin with or without an itch or tingling
- redness or a distinct rash
- some people also have considerable pain and swelling in the genital area, and hence may have additional pain and difficulty passing urine.
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How Ingrown Hairs Develop
Ingrown hairs develop when hair grows crooked or curls inside the skin before breaching the top-most layer of our skin . The hair gets stuck under the epidermis, causing the skin to become infected and inflamed.
Just about everyone who shaves their facial or body hair will experience ingrown hairs at some point in life. Some people get ingrown hairs more frequently than others, either due to a genetic factor or because of their shaving or waxing technique.
Most ingrown hairs are harmless, causing little more than a reddish bump and minor discomfort. Some people have a more severe reaction to ingrown hairs and develop painful, itchy razor burn that can only be treated by changing their shaving habits.
Ingrown hairs can usually be removed using tweezers, treated using glycolic acid or simply left to heal on their own.
However, since the pimples that can develop around ingrown hairs are exposed to air, sweat and other substances, they can easily become infected. When ingrown hairs become infected, its normal for them to develop into painful sores that can resemble a herpes outbreak.
When you develop an infected ingrown hair, its part of a condition called folliculitis. Folliculitis generally includes a bacteria most commonly staphylococcus aureus which enters into the hair follicle through the small pimple that can develop around an ingrown hair.
How Do You Get Rid Of A Herpes Outbreak Fast
The most effective treatment method is prescription medication from a doctor. This can be in the form of topical cream or an oral medication.
If you suspect you have herpes and would like to speak to a physician and/or get tested and treated online, book an appointment with a PlushCare doctor now.
We accept insurance and appointments are available every 15 minutes. Our doctors can order lab tests for a herpes test and diagnose you based on the results.
If you have already been diagnosed with herpes they can prescribe you a treatment plan, including any necessary medications.
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How To Treat And Prevent Pimples
Since pimples aren’t contagious, you can’t spread them to other people or other areas of your body. Take heart in knowing that the zit should start healing within a day to a week. Here are some tips for coping with pimples:
- Don’t pick at or pop your pimple.Squeezing a pimple can make the blemish much worse. It can also cause scarring.
- Ice down especially large or painful blemishes.Wrap an ice cube in a soft cloth and hold it over the pimple for a few minutes at a time. If you do this a few times a day, it can help reduce swelling and ease the pain.
- Apply an over-the-counter spot treatment to individual pimples.Acne spot treatments can help speed healing. Don’t apply them more frequently than directed, though, since they can dry out and irritate your skin.
- Take a daily acne treatment medication.If you often get pimples or have them over your entire face or body, you may benefit from medication. Effective acne treatments will stop pimples before they form. Using these can help clear your skin long-term.
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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What Are The Complications Of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes may cause painful genital ulcers that can be severe and persistent in persons with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV-infected persons. 5 Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also cause rare but serious complications such as aseptic meningitis . 5 Development of extragenital lesions may occur during the course of infection. 5
There are also potential complications for a pregnant woman and her newborn child. See How does herpes infection affect a pregnant woman and her baby? below for information about this.
Ingrown Hair And Pseudofolliculitis
When the hair is not properly shaved on fragile skin, it can curl inside it, forming a bump, and can progress to pseudofolliculitis or even folliculitis.
The skin in the genital area is particularly fragile, and ingrown hair can easily occur there as a result of a nonoptimal shaving technique. The bump of ingrown hair is usually small and firm, but it can look like a blister, which makes it look like a herpes lesion. It can also be painful, but its pain does not resemble the distinctive burning pain of herpes. It also does not ulcerate, and if it pops open it usually heals very quickly, unlike herpes.
When there is recurrence of ingrown hair, inflammation can occur in that area and present as redness of the surface of the skin and a chronic recurrence of itchy buttons. The condition is commonly seen in the beard area, especially on the neck and under the chin where the skin is more fragile, but it can also be seen in the pubis and other areas.
The skin lesions of pseudofolliculitis are, like ingrown hair and contrary to herpes, unlikely to ulcerate. They follow the pattern of hair growth, and they have particularly more pruritis or pain a day or two after shaving.22
Image 7. Ingrown hair and pseudofolliculitis .
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How Do Pimples Form
Papules and pustules are caused by inflammation of clogged hair follicles. Buildup of oil and dead skin can trap bacteria in the follicle, leading to an infection. To combat this infection, the immune system starts an inflammatory response that increases blood flow to the areacausing the redness you seeand recruits cells to trap and fight the bacteria. This process forms pusthe collection of dead cells and tissue, bacteria, white blood cells, blood serum, and other debris.
When To Seek Care
Home remedies may be enough to help you get through an outbreak before it heals and goes away.
But seek immediate medical attention if herpes symptoms are disruptive to your daily life or if youre experiencing any of the following symptoms:
- Sores or blisters dont go away on their own after 2 weeks or get worse over time.
- Pain or discomfort becomes severe and distracting, even with home treatment.
- You have severe symptoms like a fever that dont get any better for more than a week.
- You have severe pain or discomfort when you urinate or have a bowel movement.
- You feel any hardness or lumps under the skin around the infected area or in your genital area.
- You have trouble passing urine or stool or cant do either without severe pain or obstruction.
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Causes Of Oral And Genital Herpes
Herpes is very infectious and also very common. Two studies published in PLOS ONE estimated that in 2012, 67% of people worldwide who are under 50 are infected with HSV-1, and 11.3% of people ages 14-49 are infected by HSV-2. Some people may not be aware that they are infected because it is possible for the virus to stay dormant and not cause any symptoms until an outbreak is triggered. People with herpes sores often confuse them with common skin problems such as rashes, pimples, bug bites, razor burns, ingrown hairs, or yeast infections.
Herpes sores are caused by one of two subtypes of the herpes simplex virus :
What Are The Psychological Impacts Of Cold Sores And Pimples
Like any skin affliction, pimples and cold sores can both wreak havoc on people’s emotional well-being. “Acne and cold sores are notorious for causing anxiety and stress,” says Amy Wechsler, a New York City-based psychodermatologist. “They make people very self-conscious, and sufferers feel like the acne or cold sore is the only thing people see when they look at them.”
That being said, if you battle either ailment, it’s crucial to know you’re far from alone. According to recent reports, 50 million people in the U.S. alone have acne, and 50 to 80 percent of U.S. adults have oral herpes . Though, as Friedman mentioned, only 30 percent of people amass actual clinical cold sores.
All this is to say: Cold sores and pimples are both incredibly common conditions that, while annoying, can be pinpointed and treated accordingly. Talk to your doctor to figure out a treatment solution together.
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Support And Advice For Genital Herpes
If you have just found out you have genital herpes, you may feel shocked and may have a lot of questions. It may help you to gather as much information as you can about herpes. This can help you to make fully informed decisions about your treatment, safe sex and preventing further recurrences. Talking to a counsellor about your concerns may also help.
How Is Genital Herpes Spread
If you do not have herpes, you can get infected if you come into contact with the herpes virus in:
- Saliva or genital secretions
- Skin in the oral area if your partner has an oral herpes infection, or skin in the genital area if your partner has a genital herpes infection.
You can get herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or who may not know he or she is infected. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a sex partner who has oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from touching objects around you such as silverware, soap, or towels. If you have additional questions about how herpes is spread, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
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How Does Genital Herpes Affect A Pregnant Woman And Her Baby
Neonatal herpes is one of the most serious complications of genital herpes.5,16 Healthcare providers should ask all pregnant women if they have a history of genital herpes.11 Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, or babies may be infected shortly after birth, resulting in a potentially fatal neonatal herpes infection. 17 Infants born to women who acquire genital herpes close to the time of delivery and are shedding virus at delivery are at a much higher risk for developing neonatal herpes, compared with women who have recurrent genital herpes . 16,18-20 Thus, it is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. Women should be counseled to abstain from intercourse during the third trimester with partners known to have or suspected of having genital herpes. 5,11
Treatment If The Blisters Come Back
Go to a GP or sexual health clinic if you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and need treatment for an outbreak.
Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by 1 or 2 days if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.
But outbreaks usually settle by themselves, so you may not need treatment.
Recurrent outbreaks are usually milder than the first episode of genital herpes.
Over time, outbreaks tend to happen less often and be less severe. Some people never have outbreaks.
Some people who have more than 6 outbreaks in a year may benefit from taking antiviral medicine for 6 to 12 months.
If you still have outbreaks of genital herpes during this time, you may be referred to a specialist.
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