Month Three To Multiple Years: Long
Most peoples pain decreases within two to three months, but for some the pain lingers longer. That persistent pain, called postherpetic neuralgia, is the most common complication of shingles, impacting up to 18% of folks with the infection. PHN develops when nerve fibers are damaged at the site of the shingles rash. The pain may be constant or intermittent, moderate, severe or even incapacitatingand it may last for months or even years. Its experienced as burning, itching, a stabbing pain or an altered sensation, says Dr. Rosen. While anyone can suffer with post herpetic neuralgia, your risk increases with age and with a history of chronic illness, such as asthma or diabetes.
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How Is Herpes Simplex Caught And Passed On
The facts about passing on/transmitting herpes are clear:
Herpes is passed directly from the affected area of skin , by direct skin to skin contact, with friction, when the virus is present.
It can be passed from the face of one person to the genitals of another through oral sex, when the virus is active.
You can pass it on from the affected area, when the virus is present on the skin surface: from the first warning signs that a recurrence is starting , through the time when there are sores or blisters, until they have healed and fresh skin has grown back.
Get this two-page summary which covers the basics.
About six in ten adults by age 25 carry herpes simplex virus type 1 and one in ten carries type 2. Even more people carry herpes simplex virus in older age groups but most dont know. Only around one in three of those infected with either type is aware of this.
How Do They Occur
Like other warts, genital warts are caused by a virus. The virus that causes genital warts is called human papillomavirus . There are many types of HPV. The types of virus that most often cause genital warts are called HPV-6 and HPV-11.
Genital warts are more contagious, or more easily spread, than other warts. They are spread by skin-to-skin contact. They may spread to other nearby parts of the body and they may be passed from person to person by sexual activity. The warts are usually first seen 1 to 6 months after you have been infected with HPV. However, you can be infected with HPV without having any visible warts.
HPV can cause changes in a womanâs cervix. Most of the time these changes are harmless, but sometimes the changes may cause cervical cancer.
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What Should I Do If I Have Genital Herpes
If you have genital herpes:
- See a doctor or nurse as soon as possible for testing and treatment.
- Take all of the medicine. Even if symptoms go away, you need to finish all of the antiviral medicine.
- Tell your sex partner so they can be tested and treated if necessary.
- Avoid any sexual contact while you are being treated for genital herpes or while you have an outbreak.
- Remember that genital herpes is a lifelong disease. Even though you may not have a genital herpes outbreak for long periods of time, you can still pass the virus to another person at any time. Talk with your doctor or nurse about how to prevent passing the virus to another person.
What Can I Do If I Have Herpes
Many people who find out they have herpes feel depressed knowing they will always have the virus and can give it to others. But you are not alone. Herpes is one of the most common STIs, both in the US and worldwide. Exact numbers of people affected are not known. This is because many people dont realize they have it, especially if symptoms are minor and are not bothersome. If you have herpes, you should:
- Learn all you can about it. Information will help you to manage your disease and feel better about yourself.
- Talk about your illness with your doctor.
If you have herpes, you can still:
- Have sex if you use a condom , and you tell your partner about your illness. Some couples, who have sexual relations only with each other, may choose not to use condoms even though one partner has herpes. Because each situation is different, you should talk to your doctor if this is a right choice for you in your relationship.
- Have children. Women with herpes can still give birth to healthy babies. If you have herpes and plan to have children, discuss your illness with your health care provider.
If you have herpes, you should also get checked for HIV and other STIs .
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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.
How Can I Best Learn To Cope With Herpes Simplex
Some people feel distressed or embarrassed about their herpes simplex infection. Its important to understand that the herpes virus is common. For most people, herpes doesnt significantly interfere with daily life.
To cope with negative feelings, you may consider:
- Connecting with others through support groups or online forums.
- Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one.
- Speaking with a therapist.
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How To Protect Yourself Against Genital Herpes During Pregnancy
If you are pregnant and your partner has genital herpes, it is important to avoid contracting the virus during pregnancy. Avoid skin-to-skin contact when herpes sores are present and remember to use condoms, even when there are no obvious genital herpes lesions, to reduce the risk of possible transmission.
Becoming infected with genital herpes during the third trimester of pregnancy increases the risk of the baby becoming infected with the virus. Abstaining from sex with an infected partner is usually recommended during the third trimester of pregnancy.
If a first ever episode of herpes infection occurs during pregnancy, the mother is usually given antiviral medicines. Additionally, if this infection occurs in late pregnancy, it is recommended that the baby is delivered by Caesarean section.
There is less risk of infecting the baby if you have a recurrent episode of genital herpes during pregnancy. Caesarean section is only recommended if the woman has genital herpes sores at the time of delivery. Antiviral medicines may also be given in the last few weeks of pregnancy to women with recurrent genital herpes to reduce the risk of an outbreak at the time of delivery.
Babies are always monitored closely after birth to check for infection.
Myth #: There Are Two Types: Genital And Oral Herpes
Buckle up, because this is where things get really confusing. There are two types of herpes, HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is typically oral, meaning it causes cold sores on the mouth. More than half the population has been exposed to this virus, and often from childhood. HSV-2 is typically genital, and most usually is transmitted through sexual contact.
With that said, Dr. Dweck says that herpes type 1 can be spread to the genitals via oral contact . So you might have type 1 that only presents orally, or you might have type 1 that only presents genitally. Herpes type 2 can also be spread in the reverse fashion, from the genitals of one individual to the mouth of the other .
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You Can Get Herpes From Oral Sex
When someone has a cold sore on their mouth or simply an oral infection with no sores present, and is the giver of oral sex to someone else, the virus can be spread from the mouth to the genitals. The receiver of the oral sex might then get genital herpes type 1. The virus type doesn’t change ,but the cold sore virus will simply live, and possibly recur, in the area of the genitals.
Is There Anything I Can Do To Prevent Recurrent Outbreaks
It is not well understood what reactivates the herpes virus symptoms to recur. The triggers may include:
- Friction or trauma in the genital area
- Exposure to ultraviolet light
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Having a weakened immune system
A healthy lifestyle, such as a good diet, getting enough sleep and rest, exercise, and reducing stress may help limit the number of outbreaks. Using a water based lubricant during sexual intercourse can help to reduce friction and skin irriation that may trigger an outbreak in some people.
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What Happens If I Dont Receive Treatment
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another body part like your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, quickly wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading the infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your unborn fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? for information about this.
Avoid Sharing Drinks Or Straws
Common surfaces usually don’t contribute to the spread of herpes because the herpes virus can’t live long once exposed to air.
HSV-1, however, can spread through saliva. So it’s generally a good idea to avoid sharing drinks, straws, silverware or any kind of lip care product with anyone during an oral herpes outbreak.
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How Common Is Genital Herpes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 40 million to 50 million adults in the United States have genital herpes. HSV II infection is more common in women and in people who have had more than five sexual partners. Most people with HSV II do not know they have it, because it does not always cause symptoms.
How Is Genital Herpes Treated
Herpes has no cure. But antiviral medicines can prevent or shorten outbreaks during the time you take the medicine. Also, daily suppressive therapy for herpes can lower your chance of spreading the infection to your partner.
Your doctor will either give you antiviral medicine to take right after getting outbreak symptoms or to take regularly to try to stop outbreaks from happening. Talk to your doctor about treatment options.
During outbreaks, you can take the following steps to speed healing and prevent spreading herpes to other parts of your body or to other people:
- Keep sores clean and dry.
- Try not to touch the sores.
- Wash your hands after any contact with the sores.
- Avoid all sexual contact from the time you first notice symptoms until the sores have healed.
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How Can Herpes Spread To Other Part Of Body
If you touch your sores or the fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another part of your body , such as your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body . If you do touch the sores or fluids, immediately wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading your infection.
Risk For Genital Herpes
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , about 1 in 6 Americans ages 14 to 49 years have genital herpes. While HSV-2 remains the main cause of genital herpes, HSV-1 has significantly increased as a cause, most likely because of oral-genital sex. Except for people in monogamous relationships with uninfected partners, everyone who is sexually active is at risk for genital herpes.
Risk factors for genital herpes include:
- History of an STD
- First sexual intercourse at an early age
- High number of sexual partners
- Low socioeconomic status
Women are more susceptible to HSV-2 infection because herpes is more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men. About 1 in 5 women, compared to 1 in 9 men, have genital herpes. African-American women are at particularly high risk.
People with compromised immune systems, such as those who have HIV, are at very high risk for genital herpes. These people are also at risk for more severe complications from herpes. Drugs that suppress the immune system, and organ transplantation, can also weaken the immune system and increase the risk for contracting genital herpes.
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I Had Lesions When I Was Evaluated But My Culture Was Negative Does This Mean That I Dont Have Herpes
Not necessarily. Although lesions can be caused by something other than herpes, false negative herpes tests can occur if the samples are not taken appropriately, if there is a long transport time between the clinic and the laboratory, or if cultures were taken late in the course of the lesions. Lesions that occur early in the course of a herpes outbreak are much more likely to have positive cultures than cultures taken after the lesions crust over.
Herpes Pregnancy And Newborn Infants
Herpes can pose serious risks for a pregnant woman and her baby. The risk is greatest for mothers with a first-time infection because the virus can be transmitted to the infant during childbirth. Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using specific diagnostic tests for women in labor to determine the risk of transmission. Babies born to mothers infected with genital herpes are often treated with the antiviral drug acyclovir, which can help suppress the virus.
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What You Need To Know
- Herpes simplex virus , also known as genital herpes, is most likely to be spread when an infected person is having an outbreak, but it can also be transmitted without any symptoms being present.
- Medications can help reduce your symptoms, speed up the healing of an outbreak and make you less contagious.
- If you know you have genital herpes before becoming pregnant, your physician will monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy. If you have an active outbreak at the time of delivery, cesarean section may be recommended.
Did I Get Herpes From My Current Partner
It is often difficult to identify the person who infected you with genital herpes. Because its possible to have the genital herpes virus but never experience any symptoms, some people are not aware they are infected, and can unknowingly transmit the herpes virus to a partner.
A current episode of herpes may not be from a current relationship. People who experience herpes for the first time may think that they have acquired their herpes from their current partner. However, a current episode may have been passed on by a sexual contact in the recent or distant past.
If you always use a condom or a dental dam during sexual contact, you significantly reduce your risk of catching or passing on genital herpes. However, a slight risk remains because the area of infected skin may not always be covered by the condom or dental dam.
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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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What Is Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex is a virus that causes skin infections. The infection lasts your lifetime, and it causes painful or itchy sores and blisters that come and go. Herpes simplex virus typically doesnt cause severe problems. But it can be dangerous in infants and people with weakened immune systems. There are two types of herpes simplex:
- Herpes simplex 1 tends to affect your mouth or face. It causes cold sores. HSV-1 spreads through contact with saliva .
- Herpes simplex 2 is a sexually transmitted disease . It causes sores on skin that comes in contact with the genitals of an infected person.
Sometimes a herpes infection can affect other parts of your body, such as your eyes or other parts of your skin.
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What is the best treatment for me?
- Are there any side effects to my treatment?
- Is it safe to have unprotected sex if I dont have any sores?
- Can I give myself genital herpes if I also have oral herpes?
- Can I give someone else herpes even if Im not having an outbreak?
- What is the best way to prevent herpes outbreaks?
- Can I live a normal life with herpes?
- Am I at risk of developing any other diseases?
- Are there any support groups in my area?
- If I give my baby herpes, what is the treatment?