Myth #: If Someone Has Herpes They’re Probably Promiscuous
“One of my ‘favorite’ myths is that only promiscuous or ‘slutty’ people get herpesI just want to shout from the rooftops that this is absolutely not the case,” says Hawkins. “Herpes is something thats super easily transmitted.” This is especially true of type 1 oral herpes, as you may have contracted it from, say, your grandmother as a kid. If this is the case, 15 years later you could perform oral sex on your partner and accidentally transmit your type 1 to his or her genitalsit’s that easy.
For this and all the reasons outlined abovethe fact that it’s difficult to test for, most people don’t know they have it, it can be contracted non-sexually, etcyou can catch genital herpes from your first love, your long-term partner, someone who has been STD tested and shows you a clean bill of health, etc. Your number of sexual partners and your sexual proclivities are irrelevant.
Genital Herpes And Pregnancy
It is important to avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. A first episode during pregnancy can create a greater risk of transmission to a newborn.
Fortunately, it is rare for women with genital herpes to infect their babies. If you know that 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, a C-section may be recommended. Depending on individual diagnosis, though, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorses suppressive therapy to reduce the frequency of C-section.
Contact Dermatitis Can Be Mistaken For Herpes
Contact dermatitis is a skin condition that can cause red, itchy, cracked, dry, or scaly skin, blisters, or a rash. Like herpes, it recurs, and while it’s not an STD, when it appears in the mouth or genital area, it may be mistaken for herpes. However, unlike herpes, contact dermatitis can happen anywhere on the skin and is caused by direct contact with an irritant or something you’re allergic to, per the Mayo Clinic. It’s not caused by a virus.
Contact dermatitis usually occurs within minutes to hours after touching an irritant. Common causes include poison ivy and reactions to medication, cosmetics, detergents, and jewelry. The skin rash from contact dermatitis usually clears up in a few weeks.
The best way to prevent contact dermatitis is to identify whats causing it and avoid touching that item or substance again. Allergy testing can help identify the cause.
While contact dermatitis is generally not a serious condition, it can be itchy and uncomfortable. When the rash is present, try using cool, wet compresses or anti-itch creams to soothe it. Antihistamine pills can help reduce the itchiness. Avoid scratching the area: Doing so can make symptoms worse and open the door to a bacterial or fungal infection. If your itching is severe, you should see your primary care provider or a dermatologist for topical steroid medication.
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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.
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.
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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.
Herpes Can Happen To Anyone
Did you know that the virus that causes cold sores or fever blisters on or around the mouth can also infect other areas of the body? The infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus. And its very common.
Most people with herpes infection dont even know it. They may not have symptoms or not notice them.
For people who do have symptoms, a herpes infection may show up as one or more blisters. These can be on or near the mouth, eyes, genitals, or rectum. After the blisters break, they turn into sores or ulcers. These sores are painful and take about a week to heal.
Once someone is infected with herpes simplex, the virus goes into hiding and stays in the body for the rest of their lives. The virus can re-emerge at any time and cause an outbreak. Some people have outbreaks several times per year. Tingling or burning in the area can signal that an outbreak is looming.
There are two types of herpes simplex viruses: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is often transmitted during childhood. You can get it from close contact with someone who has the infection. For example, a family member with a cold sore may kiss a child. HSV-1 is the main cause of herpes of the mouth or eyes. Although its possible for HSV-2 to infect the mouth or eyes, its usually found in the genital area.
Theres no cure for herpes. But anti-herpes medicine can speed healing of the sores. If taken every day, this medicine can also lower the risk of future outbreaks.
Help Fight the Stigma of Herpes
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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.
What Is A Herpes Rash
A herpes rash, also known as an outbreak, is the bodys response to the presence of the herpes virus. This virus causes small sores to develop on the skin, often around the nose and mouth or genitals, although they can develop anywhere on the body. The location of the outbreak often depends on where the affected person was first exposed to the virus.
At this point, no cure is available for herpes, which means people can experience outbreaks of the herpes rash at any time. The first outbreak is often the worst and most painful, with future outbreaks lessening in severity.
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Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should talk to your sex partner and let him or her know that you do and the risk involved. 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 overall health, sex life, and relationships. It is best for you to talk to a health care provider about those concerns, but it also is important to recognize that while herpes is not curable, it can be managed with medication. Daily suppressive therapy for herpes can also lower your risk of spreading genital herpes to your sex partner. Be sure to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider. Since a genital herpes diagnosis may affect how you will feel about current or future sexual relationships, it is important to understand how to talk to sexual partners about STDsexternal icon.
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.
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Herpes Encephalitis And Meningitis
Herpes simplex encephalitis is inflammation of the brain caused by either HSV-1 or HSV-2. It is a rare but extremely serious brain disease. Untreated, herpes encephalitis is fatal most of the time. Respiratory arrest can occur within the first 24 to 72 hours. Fortunately, rapid diagnostic tests and treatment with acyclovir have significantly improved survival rates and reduced complication rates. Nearly all who recover have some impairment, ranging from very mild neurological changes to paralysis.
Herpes simplex meningitis is inflammation of the membranes that line the brain and spinal cord. It is mainly caused by HSV-2. Like encephalitis, meningitis symptoms include headache, fever, stiff neck, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. Fortunately, herpes meningitis usually resolves after about a week without complications, although symptoms can recur.
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.
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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.
What Is A Cold Sore
A cold sore is a group of tiny, painful blisters caused by the herpes simplex virus . Theyâre also called fever blisters or herpes simplex labialis.
Up to 90% of people around the world have at least one form of HSV.
The symptoms are usually the most severe the first you time you get cold sores. A first-time cold sore can make a child seriously ill.
After the first outbreak, your body should make antibodies, and you may never have another infection. But many people get cold sores that come back.
Is Genital Herpes Infection Related To Hiv
Herpes and HIV are caused by different viruses. But patients infected with these viruses are more likely to transmit either disease to their sexual partners. Patients with herpes are more vulnerable to HIV infection. People newly diagnosed with herpes should be tested for HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections.
Patients who are infected with both herpes and HIV also may have a higher concentration of HIV viruses in their body because of the interaction between the herpes virus and the HIV virus. When HIV damages a persons immune system, the person may be more likely to shed herpes simplex virus asymptomatically.
Tips To Soothe The Pain
- Take aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen .
- Place lukewarm or cool cloths on the sore place.
- Take lukewarm baths.
- Keep the area dry and clean.
- Wear cotton underwear.
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?
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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.
First Signs: Burning Tingling Or Numbness Of The Skin
Usually, a small area of skin may burn, tingle, itch or simply feel very sensitive before any rash occurs, says Alina G. Bridges, D.O., an associate professor of dermatology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. This sensation can last roughly one to three days prior to skin lesions appearingand the discomfort can be intense. Its often mistaken for appendicitis, a heart attack or severe headache, says Dr. Bridges.
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When Should I See A Doctor For A Herpes Rash
If you experience what you believe to be a herpes rash for the first time, you should see a doctor to confirm your suspicions. After being diagnosed with the herpes virus, future outbreaks generally arent cause for concern in otherwise healthy individuals. However, if you have a weakened immune system or any type of long-term health condition, such as HIV/AIDS or cancer, the virus can cause other complications. Organ transplant recipients who suspect they might have herpes should also contact their doctor.
Genital Herpes Cdc Fact Sheet
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease that any sexually active person can get. Most people with the virus dont have symptoms. Even without signs of the disease, herpes can still be spread to sex partners.
Basic Fact Sheet | Detailed Version
Basic fact sheets are presented in plain language for individuals with general questions about sexually transmitted diseases. The content here can be syndicated .
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Symptoms Of Oral Herpes
Oral herpes is most often caused by HSV-1, but can also be caused by HSV-2. It usually affects the lips and, in some primary attacks, the mucous membranes in the mouth. A herpes infection may occur on the cheeks or in the nose, but facial herpes is very uncommon.
Primary Oral Herpes Infection
If the primary oral infection causes symptoms, they can be very painful, particularly in children. Symptoms include:
- Tingling, burning, or itching around the mouth are the first signs.
- Red, fluid-filled blisters that may form on the lips, gums, mouth, and throat.
- Blisters that break open and leak. As they heal, they turn yellow and crusty, eventually turning into pink skin. The sores last 10 to 14 days and can be very uncomfortable.
- Blisters that may be preceded or accompanied by sore throat, fever, swollen glands, and painful swallowing.
Recurrent Oral Herpes Infection
A recurrent oral herpes infection is much milder than the primary outbreak. It usually manifests as a single sore, commonly called a cold sore or fever blister . The sore usually shows up on the outer edge of the lips and rarely affects the gums or throat.