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.
It Is Common Not To Develop Any Symptoms
Most people never develop any symptoms when they are infected with the virus. At least 8 in 10 people with genital herpes simplex virus do not know that they are infected. In such people, the virus stays inactive in the root of a nerve that supplies the genitals, but never causes recurrent episodes of symptoms. However, even people who do not develop symptoms may, on occasions, have virus in their genital area and therefore be infectious to sexual partners. In fact, this is how many genital herpes simplex infections are passed on.
Is It Safe To Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes- as long as there is no open lesion on chest or breast . If you have an active outbreak while breastfeeding, its possible to spread the infection to your nipples through touch. Careful hand-washing can prevent this spread. You shouldnt nurse from a breast that has herpes sores. You can pump breast milk until the sores heal. Dont give your baby expressed breast milk if the pump comes into contact with an open sore.
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How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
To find out if someone has genital herpes, health care providers do tests on:
- fluid from a sore
People with genital herpes need to tell recent, current, and future sex partners about their infection. Because someone may never have symptoms or may not have symptoms for months to years after infection, a current partner may not be the source of the infection.
Frequently Asked Questionsexpand All
People with HSV-2 infection have an increased risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus if they have sex with an HIV-infected partner. Taking suppressive therapy does not decrease this risk.
If a woman is pregnant and infected with HSV, it can be passed to the fetus during birth while passing through the womans infected birth canal. This is most likely to occur if a woman first becomes infected with HSV during pregnancy and in a woman who has her first outbreak late in pregnancy. But it also can occur during a recurrent outbreak in a woman who was infected before pregnancy, although the risk is much lower.
If you have sores or warning signs of an outbreak at the time of delivery, you may need to have a cesarean delivery to reduce chance of infection. The decision depends on many factors, including where the sores are on your body and whether the fetus would come into contact with them during delivery.
Yes, in most cases. The herpes virus cannot be passed to a baby through breast milk. However, the baby could get infected by touching a sore on your body. Make sure any sores that the baby could come into contact with are covered when you hold your baby or while breastfeeding. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after feeding your baby. If you have sores on your breast, you should not breastfeed your baby from that breast.
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What To Do After Testing Positive For Genital Herpes
If a person tests positive for genital herpes, its recommended that they speak with a doctor. Although theres no cure for herpes, it can be treated through antiviral medication. Antiviral medication can help reduce the severity of recurring outbreaks .
Frequent, severe recurring outbreaks might be a sign of a compromised immune system. If outbreaks are occurring often, a doctor might investigate whether theres an underlying issue affecting the immune system.
Having sex is OK if theres a genital herpes diagnosis, but its best to avoid sex if theres a herpes outbreak. To reduce the chances of transmitting HSV to a partner, use barrier methods such as condoms and dental dams during all sexual activity.
Genital herpes does not always require treatment. However, genital warts can be painful. Antiviral treatments can reduce the symptoms and severity of outbreaks.
In rare cases, herpes can cause complications. Generally, though, it does not get worse over time.
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Can Cold Sores Be Prevented
The virus that causes cold sores is very contagious. To help prevent it from spreading to others:
- Keep your drinking glasses and eating utensils, as well as washcloths and towels, separate from those used by other family members and wash these items well after use.
- Dont kiss others until the sores heal.
- Wash your hands well and often, especially after touching a cold sore.
Be especially careful not to touch your eyes. If HSV-1 gets into the eyes, it can cause a lot of damage.
Suppressive Therapy For Recurrences
To suppress outbreaks, treatment requires taking pills daily on a long-term basis. Acyclovir and famciclovir are taken twice a day for suppression. Valacyclovir is taken once a day. The doses for these antiviral drugs are reduced in people with impaired renal function.
Suppressive treatment can reduce the frequency of outbreak recurrences by 70% to 80%. It is generally recommended for people who have frequent recurrences . Because herpes recurrences often diminish over time, you should discuss annually with your provider whether you should stay with drug therapy or discontinue it.
There is some evidence that valacyclovir may help prevent herpes transmission, particularly in situations where one heterosexual partner has HSV-2 and the other partner does not. However, this drug does not completely prevent transmission. While taking any suppressive therapy for genital herpes, it is still important to regularly use latex condoms and to avoid any sexual activity during recurrences.
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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 .
How Does Herpes Simplex Spread
Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.
People may get HSV-1 through
- Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
- Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
- If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.
People may get HSV-2 through
- Oral sex with someone whos infected.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.
You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.
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Condoms Reduce Womens Risk Of Herpes Infection But Do Not Protect Men
Using condoms during sexual intercourse significantly decreases the likelihood that men infected with herpes simplex virus type 2 will transmit the infection to their female partners, according to the first study to examine the effectiveness of condoms in preventing this infection.1Women are almost six times as likely as men to acquire HSV-2. Increased frequency of sexual intercourse, younger age and having a partner who is infected with both herpes simplex virus type 1 and HSV-2 increase the likelihood of acquiring HSV-2. Although using condoms more than 25% of the time offers women a high degree of protection against acquiring HSV-2, men do not receive the same benefits.
Overall, 528 couples were included in the study. Of the susceptible partners, 267 were women and 261 were men, with a median age of 36 years. Ninety-two percent were white, and 98% were in a heterosexual relationship. Participants median frequency of intercourse was twice weekly half said that they had used condoms no more than 10% of the time since becoming sexually active. Of the source partners, 62% were seropositive for only HSV-2, while 38% were seropositive for both HSV-1 and HSV-2.
During the studys observation period, 31 of the 528 susceptible partners acquired HSV-2: 26 of the women and five of the men. Women acquired the virus at a rate of 8.9 per 10,000 sex actsalmost six times the rate of men .
What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Ii
Typically, the first signs of herpes II is a cluster of blister-like lesions in the genital area which spread and merge, break and crust over within four to 15 days. The fluid from these itching, painful sores is highly infectious. Other frequent symptoms are painful urination, urethral or vaginal discharge and swollen lymph nodes. The first exposure or primary episode consists of headache, fever, chills and muscular weakness. Recurrent episodes are less severe and are limited to the affected area.
Used to quite an active member but have generally come to terms a little with my illness over the past ten months. As a back story I caught herpes off my new partner. He didnt know he had it and it was a terribly tough time. Ive been through a major depressive period, but to those of you struggling, there is light at the end of the tunnel. On suppressive therapy and looking after myself I have been herpes free for about 8 months which has been awesome.
Unfortunately Ive just been on holiday and got a little lazy in taking my daily tablets And here I am. 5 days into an awful outbreak.
Do any of you apply anything directly to your sores ? Bearing in mind I am female and this is already a sensitive area and I dont want to irritate myself further
Thanks in advance for any suggestions, willing to try absolutely anything at the moment.
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How Do I Know If I Have Herpes Or Something Else
If you do develop symptoms, your first outbreak will most likely start 2 to 20 days after you get infected. In some people, though, a first outbreak occurs years after that first infection. Generally, first outbreaks last two to four weeks. Then the sores and symptoms fade away, but the virus remains in your body in a dormant or quiet state much of the time. That lingering virus can cause later outbreaks, but usually the first is the worst.
During a primary outbreak of genital herpes, you may experience symptoms that mimic the flu, such as:
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
- Malaise, a general feeling of distress
How Herpes Is Treated
There is no cure for herpes.
- The health care provider may prescribe antiviral medicine to help speed up the healing process. It also shortens the time when the virus can spread from the herpes sores.
- Pain may be treated with medicine such as Tylenol or Motrin or by applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the affected area.
- If sores are in the mouth, avoid foods high in acid, like citrus fruits and juices.
- The infected area should be kept clean and dry.
- Wash hands often and avoid touching the sores to prevent spreading the virus.
- It is important to stay healthy by getting enough rest, having proper nutrition and exercise and managing stress well.
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Is Genital Herpes Related To Shingles
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella zoster virus , which causes chickenpox earlier in life. The natural history of varicella zoster infection is similar to genital herpes infection in that VZV also becomes latent in the sensory nerve roots. Later in life the virus may exit, causing shingles.
Recurrences in shingles cause blister lesions in a single area of skin called a dermatome. Shingles is not a sexually transmitted infection and is independent from genital herpes.
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Can Women Who Have Sex With Women Get Genital Herpes
Yes. It is possible to get genital herpes, or any other STI, if you are a woman who has sex only with women.
Talk to your partner about her sexual history before having sex, and ask your doctor or nurse about getting tested if you have signs or symptoms of genital herpes. Use a dental dam during oral sex and avoid sexual activity during an outbreak.
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Headaches And Muscle Pain
Other systemic symptoms that may accompany a herpes outbreak are headaches and muscle pain. Headaches tend to be severe while the muscle pain can be of low intensity, though draining nonetheless.As with a low-grade fever, over-the-counter medications can provide relief. A severe complication, herpes meningoencephalitis, can also cause these symptoms.
Episodic Therapy For Recurrences
For a recurrent episode, treatment takes 1 to 5 days, depending on the type of medication and dosage. You should begin the medication as soon as you notice any signs or symptoms of herpes, preferably during the prodrome stage that precedes the outbreak of lesions.
In order for episodic therapy to be effective, it must be taken no later than 1 day after a lesion appears. If taken during prodrome, episodic therapy may help prevent an outbreak from occurring or reduce its severity. If taken at the first sign of a lesion, it can help speed healing.
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My Early Symptoms Of Herpes
I am very familiar with the early symptoms of herpes because I have had genital herpes for over 20 years.
It begins with a tingling skin sensation in my genital area. Within a day, that area is red and itchy then I know I have an outbreak coming on.
I will double up on my suppressive herpes medications or Valtrex when I feel this in my body.
You can also take herpes medication such as Valtrex or Famvir at this time to prevent or suppress the virus from breaking out in blisters.
What Should I Know If I Am Pregnant And I Have Genital Herpes
Its normal to be concerned about the health of your baby when you have any type of STI. HSV can be transmitted to your baby if you have an active outbreak during a vaginal delivery.
Its important to tell your doctor that you have genital herpes as soon as you know youre pregnant.
Your doctor will discuss what to expect before, during, and after you deliver your baby. They can prescribe pregnancy-safe treatments to ensure a healthy delivery. They may also opt to deliver your baby via cesarean.
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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.