I Get Cold Sores A Lot Does That Mean I Should Worry About Every Little Bump Below The Belt
I get cold sores every month, which I suppress pretty well with medication. My concern is that I may autoinoculate and spread it to my genitals in fact, every time I have a pimple, ingrown hair or tear down there I panic! How does the appearance of genital Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 differ from other more benign conditions? Is it unreasonable to end up at the gynecologist every time one of these other things appears?
Great questions. Lets tackle them one by one.
Is it unreasonable to end up at the gynecologist every time something looks funny down there?
Absolutely not. The only way to truly find out what youre dealing with in these situations is by consulting with an expert whose advice you trust. Sometimes even your doctor wont be able to tell by just looking the same problem can look very different in different people, or even at different times in the same person so she can do other tests to help you figure out whats going on.
Can you autoinoculate yourself and spread HSV-1 it to your genitals?
How does the appearance of genital Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 differ from other more benign conditions?
This is a tough one. Like I said, many conditions that can affect the genitals look like Herpes and sorting them out isnt always as easy as laying eyes on the situation. That being said, some of the more common conditions do have typical characteristics.
Theres a picture of each of these conditions to the right. Can you tell which one is which?
How Do You Get Herpes
The skin on your genitals, mouth, and eyes can be infected easily. Other areas of skin may get infected if theres a way for the herpes virus to get in, like through a cut, burn, rash, or other sores. You dont have to have sex to get herpes. Sometimes herpes can be passed in non-sexual ways, like if a parent with a cold sore gives you a peck on the lips. Most people with oral herpes got it when they were kids. A mother can pass genital herpes to a baby during vaginal childbirth, but thats pretty rare.
You can spread herpes to other parts of your body if you touch a herpes sore and then touch your mouth, genitals, or eyes without washing your hands first. You can also pass herpes to someone else this way.
Herpes is most contagious when sores are open and wet, because fluid from herpes blisters easily spreads the virus. But herpes can also shed and get passed to others when there are no sores and your skin looks totally normal.
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Why Genital Herpes Comes Back
Genital herpes is caused by a virus called herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, it stays in your body.
It will not spread in your body to cause blisters elsewhere. It stays in a nearby nerve and causes blisters in the same area.
If you can, avoid things that trigger your symptoms.
Triggers can include:
- surgery on your genital area
- a weakened immune system for example, from having chemotherapy for cancer
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How Big Is The Risk Of Infection
The likelihood of being infected with genital herpes during sex depends on many factors, including how often you have sex, whether and how frequently you use condoms, and how long your partner has already been infected. Someone who has had the virus for a long time is less contagious than someone who has just been infected. In general, women have a higher risk of becoming infected than men. Having other sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV also increases the risk of transmission.
In studies with couples where one partner had genital herpes, the other partner became infected within one year in 5 to 10% of the couples. The people in these studies only rarely used condoms, though and if they did, it was mostly during an outbreak. One of these studies showed that infection occurred in an estimated 1 out of 1,000 sexual acts.
How Can I Prevent Genital Herpes
If youre sexually active, you can take these steps to protect yourself and others from the herpes virus and other STIs:
- Be monogamous with one sexual partner or limit your number of partners.
- Get tested for STIs and complete any needed treatment.
- Tell your sexual partners if you have genital herpes so they can get tested.
- Use condoms, including dental dams during oral sex.
- Wash your hands often if you have an outbreak or are around someone with symptoms.
- If your sexual partner has genital herpes, these actions can lower your risk of getting the virus:
- Dont have sex when your partner has active symptoms.
- Make sure your partner takes antiviral medication as prescribed.
- Wait to have sex until scabs fall off.
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Myth #: Herpes Is A Really Big Deal
This one is my favorite, having watched a number of friends be traumatized by diagnoses, only to later realize that ultimately, herpes is not that big of a deal.
For starters, Dr. Dweck tells me that one-third of the sexually-active population has been exposed to herpes. Hawkins offers more specific, but equally staggering, numbers as well she says that one-half of the population has oral herpes and one-sixth of the population aged 14 to 49 has genital herpes.
Whatâs more, my OB/GYN points out that the virus is more so inconvenient than it is nefarious, meaning that while outbreaks, especially your first, can be painful, theyâre not doing you any health harm overall. And if you do have significant recurrent outbreaks, thereâs a medication for that.
For all of these reasons, pros tend to agree that the outsized stigma around herpes is unwarranted and often, itâs the worst part of being infected. In reality, thereâs no reason herpes should make someone feel like a social pariah or that it should remain such a closeted, shameful condition.
âThe fact that so many people are living with this and having the same experiences but we dont talk about it, its really a shame because we could definitely support each other in ways were currently not doing,â says Hawkins. âHerpes is, of course, not something people would want, but its not as big of a deal as people make it out to be.â
Can Herpes Be Passed To Baby
If a woman with genital herpes has virus present in the birth canal during delivery, herpes simplex virus can be spread to an infant, causing neonatal herpes, a serious and sometimes fatal condition. Neonatal herpes can cause an overwhelming infection resulting in lasting damage to the central nervous system, mental retardation, or death.
Women who acquire genital herpes before they become pregnant have a very low risk of transmitting the virus to their babies. This is because their immune systems make antibodies that are temporarily passed to the baby through the placenta.
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Can Genital Herpes Be Treated
Your physician can prescribe different medications to help reduce your symptoms and speed up the healing of an outbreak. These medicines work best when you start them soon after an outbreak occurs.
To reduce pain during an outbreak:
- Sit in warm water in a portable bath or bathtub for about 20 minutes. Avoid bubble baths.
- Keep your genital area clean and dry, and avoid tight clothes.
- Take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Avoid aspirin.
Let your physician know if you are worried about your genital herpes. He or she can recommend a support group to help you cope with the virus.
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.
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How Long Does A Herpes Outbreak Last
Herpes outbreaks usually last for about one to two weeks, though the first outbreak after infection may last longer. The symptoms typically go away on their own without treatment. However, there are at-home remedies and prescription treatments which may help to ease symptoms and shorten the length of outbreaks. Herpes outbreaks may continue to occur, but many people find that they become shorter and less severe over time.
What Are The Types Of Herpes Viruses
Herpes is a group of contagious viruses. All of these viruses cause blisters and sores. Some of the more common herpes viruses include:
- Type 1: HSV-1, or oral herpes, causes cold sores to form on lips, gums, tongue and inside the mouth. It can cause genital herpes in some cases This type usually spreads through saliva when you kiss someone with open herpes sores. You can also get HSV-1 by sharing items like toothbrushes, lipsticks or eating utensils.
- Type 2: HSV-2 causes genital herpes.
- Herpes zoster: This virus causes chickenpox and shingles.
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Research And Statistics: Who Has Genital Herpes
Its estimated that each year, 776,000 people in the United States get new genital herpes infections. Genital herpes is most often caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 .
According to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey , the prevalence of HSV-2 was 11.9 percent during 2015 and 2016, a decline of 5.9 percentage points from the years 1999 and 2000.
HSV-2 is more common in women than in men. Its suspected that women are more likely to contract the HSV-2 infection because genital infection is more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men during penile-vaginal sex.
What Is Neonatal Herpes
Neonatal herpes can be a very serious infection. Babies generally contract the virus from their birthing parent during childbirth even if the parent doesnt have active lesions. They may also get HSV-1 if an adult with an active cold sore kisses them. Breastfeeding babies can also get HSV-1 from the breast if there are lesions present. But babies cant get herpes from breast milk, so its safe to pump and feed.
Herpes simplex can be more dangerous for young babies because they dont have a fully developed immune system. But most babies with neonatal herpes can recover fully with treatment.
The dangers of neonatal herpes are much higher if the infection spreads to the babys organs. If youre pregnant and have herpes, speak with your healthcare provider about how to lower the risk of passing the infection to your baby.
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How Can I Tell If Someone Has Herpes
There are often few or no initial symptoms. If the person does have symptoms then they will differ between the first infection and the recurrent states.
The symptoms of genital herpes for the first time include:
- Small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around your genitals, rectum , thighs and buttocks
- Blisters and ulcers on the cervix in women
- Vaginal discharge in women
- Pain when you pass urine
- A general feeling of being unwell, with aches, pains and flu-like symptoms.
These symptoms may last up to 20 days. However, the sores will eventually scab and heal without scarring.
Recurrent outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe.
How Can I Protect My Sex Partners
You can take steps to protect others from herpes. Keep in mind that you can spread it even when you dont have symptoms.
Avoid sex during outbreaks: Youre more likely to give your partner herpes while you have an outbreak. Avoid sexual contact from the time you notice the first signs, such as tingling or pain, until the scabs fall off and your skin is back to normal.
Try not to touch your sores: If you do, wash your hands right away. A good cleaning may stop the spread to another part of your body or to your partner.
Use condoms: They wont totally protect your partner, but they can lower the chances of spreading the virus.
Talk to your doctor: They might prescribe a drug to make it less likely youll give herpes to someone else. As with condoms, the medicine wont 100% protect your partner.
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My Partner Just Told Me They Have Herpes I Dont Now What
ByAnna C.|June 30, 2014, noon
Pictured above: From
Has your new partner just informed you that he or she has herpes? People have many reactions when hearing this kind of news and, depending on how informed you are about herpes, your reaction might be tinged with panic or fear. If thats your instinct, try to keep those feelings in check: Your partner might be feeling very vulnerable, so its best not to react with shunning or shaming.
More than 80 percent of people with genital herpes are unaware of their infections.
Herpes is more widespread than most of us realize. It can be caused by one of two strains of the herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 or HSV-2. While HSV-1 is more commonly associated with cold sores and HSV-2 is more commonly associated with genital herpes, either virus can infect the genital area. One estimate states that 1 out of 5 American females and 1 out of 9 American males between 14 to 49 years of age have a genital HSV-2 infection.
Now that you know your partner has herpes, you might have some questions. How easy is it to transmit genital herpes from one partner to another? What can you do to minimize your chances of catching the virus? And, while it is certainly stigmatized in our culture, is herpes something to fear?
has not hindered my love life, inhibited my ambition, or limited my friendships .
An anonymous writer shared these inspiring words:
How Do People Get Genital Herpes
People can get infected with genital herpes when the virus comes into contact with a break in the skin in or around the mouth or genital area. This can happen when:
- They receive oral sex from a partner who has oral herpes .
- They touch a herpes sore and then touch their own genitals.
- Their genitals touch the skin in the genital area of someone who is infected .
Genital herpes can spread even if there are no sores because the virus is still in the body. The virus can be in the skin near the genitals and infect another person during sexual contact.
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Myth #: If Someone Has Herpes Theyre 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 genitalsits that easy.
For this and all the reasons outlined abovethe fact that its difficult to test for, most people dont 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.
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The Emotional Side Of Herpes
Many people feel embarrassed and ashamed upon learning that they have genital herpes, or theyre worried about getting it from a sexual partner or prospective sexual partner.
If either case describes you, take the time to educate yourself about the causes and symptoms of herpes, treatments, and steps you can take to stop the spread of herpes, such as using condoms.
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How To Prevent Herpes
But most people have sex at some point in their lives, so knowing how to have safer sex is important. Using protection like condoms and dental dams when you have sex helps to lower your risk of getting an STD.
Herpes can live on areas of your body that arent protected by condoms , so condoms wont always protect you from herpes. But they do lower your chances of getting herpes.
Dont have sex with anyone during a herpes outbreak, because thats when it spreads most easily. But herpes can also spread when there are no sores or symptoms, so its important to use condoms and dental dams, even if everything looks and feels A-OK.