There Are 2 Herpes Simplex Viruses That Can Cause Infection
- One causes most genital herpes.
- The other virus can also cause genital herpes but more often causes blisters of the mouth and lips.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 1 out of 6 people ages 14 to 49have genital herpes.
Women are more easily infected with herpes than men.
What Happens If Herpes Is Not Treated
Herpes can be painful, but it generally does not cause serious health problems like other STDs can.
Without treatment, you might continue to have regular outbreaks, or they could only happen rarely. Some people naturally stop getting outbreaks after a while. Herpes typically does not get worse over time.
The information on this page is adapted from the CDC and Planned Parenthood.
How Has My Partner Caught Genital Herpes
If your partner has only just been diagnosed with genital herpes, this does not necessarily mean that they have been unfaithful to you or sexually promiscuous in the past.
- Your partner may have caught genital herpes from you. You can carry the virus without knowing you have it as some people have no symptoms.
- It is also possible that your partner caught the virus from a cold sore on your mouth or face during oral sex. You can pass the virus on even if you dont have a cold sore at the time of contact.
- Your partner may have contracted the virus from a previous sexual partner, even several years ago. The virus can remain inactive in your body for long periods.
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Herpes Myths To Stop Freaking Out About
A surprising number of people you know probably have herpes.
Shocked? You shouldnt be, since the virus is very common. According to the World Health Organization, 3.7 billion people under age 50 have herpes simplex virus type 1 thats 67 percent of the global population in that age bracket. Another 417 million people between ages 15 and 49 worldwide have herpes simplex virus type 2 .
Many people consider HSV-1 more benign, but it turns out theres not much difference between the two types of virus. While its true that HSV-2 is a sexually transmitted disease and can cause genital sores or blisters, type 1 can do the same thing.
One big misconception is that cold sores are caused by HSV-1 and genital herpes are always type 2, but thats not always the case, says Sarah Vensel, a physician assistant in San Francisco. Cold sores are so common theyve been normalized at this point. But genital herpes is sometimes the exact same virus just in a different location.
Not only is herpes incredibly common its also totally manageable. Allow us to set your mind at ease and debunk three widespread herpes myths:
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How Can Herpes Be Prevented
Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of transmitting or acquiring genital herpes because herpes virus shedding can occur in areas that are not covered by a condom.25,26
The surest way to avoid transmission of STDs, including genital herpes, is to abstain from sexual contact, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for STDs and is known to be uninfected.
Persons with herpes should abstain from sexual activity with partners when herpes lesions or other symptoms of herpes are present. It is important to know that even if a person does not have any symptoms, he or she can still infect sex partners. Sex partners of infected persons should be advised that they may become infected and they should use condoms to reduce the risk. Sex partners can seek testing to determine if they are infected with HSV.
Daily treatment with valacyclovir decreases the rate of HSV-2 transmission in discordant, heterosexual couples in which the source partner has a history of genital HSV-2 infection. 27 Such couples should be encouraged to consider suppressive antiviral therapy as part of a strategy to prevent transmission, in addition to consistent condom use and avoidance of sexual activity during recurrences.
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Myth #: Herpes Outbreaks Are Always Obvious
According to the CDC, most people with genital herpes infection do not know they have it. This isnt just an issue with testing its because herpes can often be more subtle and complex than how it was presented in high school health class.
I have a friend who knew he had herpes immediately, because he had hundreds of sores. I have another friend who was shocked to be diagnosed off of one paper-cut like lesion she had suspected was yeast-related. These two anecdotes illustrate how differently herpes can present in each individual. Everybody is unique and has a unique immune system, says Hawkins. could be incredibly mild, where someone thinks its a blemish or ingrown hair, and it could be really apocalyptic, where someone feels the need to go in and see a medical provider and get access to medication.
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Can Genital Herpes Come Back
Yes. Genital herpes symptoms can come and go, but the virus stays inside your body even after all signs of the infection have gone away. The virus becomes “active” from time to time, leading to an outbreak. Some people have outbreaks only once or twice. Other people may have four or five outbreaks within a year. Over time, the outbreaks usually happen less often and are less severe.
Experts do not know what causes the virus to become active. Some women say the virus comes back when they are sick, under stress, out in the sun, or during their period.
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Initial Outbreaks Of Hsv
If youve been infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2, youll usually go through an initial outbreak. Your first herpes outbreak is also referred to as the primary outbreak, which usually happens one to two weeks after your virus exposure, and tends to be the most severe physical experience from the virus.
Not everyone with HSV-1 or HSV-2 will have an initial outbreak. Some people are completely asymptomatic, which means they can be infected with the virus without experiencing any real herpes symptoms.
During a first herpes outbreak, most people experience the physical effects of herpes , plus additional flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, sore throat and general body aches.
Herpes outbreaks usually start within several days of exposure. If youre worried that youre going through an initial outbreak of herpes, the best thing to do is check your symptoms and talk to your doctor about testing and treatment options.
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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How Do You Get Herpes
Oral herpes can be spread by oral-to-oral contact like kissing or by sharing drinks.
The likelihood of contracting herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from sharing objects such as silverware, soap, or towels is low, but it is possible, says Dr. Benitez.
While an outbreak isnt necessary for herpes transmission, herpes is most contagious about 3 days before an outbreak this usually coincides with an itching or burning sensation or pain in the area where the outbreak will occur.
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Where Can I Get Tested For Herpes
You can get tested for herpes and other STDs at your doctors office, a community health clinic, the health department, or your local Planned Parenthood health center.
STD testing isnt usually part of your regular checkup or gynecologist exam you have to ask for it. Be honest with your nurse or doctor so they can help you figure out which tests are best for you. Dont be embarrassed: Your doctor is here to help you, not to judge you.
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Precautions About Sharing Kitchenware
Youre unlikely to get herpes from sharing a drink, a straw, or a glass.
But youll want to avoid sharing objects with someone who may have another infection, such as a cold, the flu, or strep throat.
Heres how you can help protect yourself from getting an infection:
- Ask for a clean glass if you get a dirty glass at a restaurant, cafeteria, or anywhere where dishware is shared, such as at your workplace.
- Clean any surface you plan to use before preparing food in case bacteria or viruses are present.
- Dont mix chopping boards by chopping or preparing raw meat on the same board as vegetables or other foods that dont need to be cooked.
- Wash your hands immediately after handling raw meat before you touch any other surfaces or foods, especially if youre sick.
- Thoroughly clean any surface you used to prepare raw meat or other food that might be carrying bacteria or viruses.
What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- What is the best treatment for me?
- What are the side effects of antiviral medications?
- How can I reduce the risk of future outbreaks?
- Whats the best way to prevent getting another STI?
- How can I protect my partner from getting genital herpes?
- Should I look out for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people are living with the herpes virus that causes genital herpes. Its a common STI. You shouldnt be embarrassed or put off seeking medical care if you develop symptoms. Treatments can ease symptoms, reduce outbreaks and protect sexual partners from infection. Having the virus shouldnt affect your relationships or sexual health. However, you do need to tell your sexual partners that you have the virus. Your healthcare provider can discuss ways to prevent spreading this STI.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/23/2020.
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What About Pregnancy
A pregnant woman who has genital herpes can passthe virus to her baby. A baby born with herpes might:
- Have brain, skin, or eye problems
If you are pregnant, you should tell your health careprovider if you have herpes. If you show any signs ofherpes during pregnancy, tell your provider. Pregnancycan be managed safely if your health care providerknows about your herpes. Medicines can help babiesborn with herpes if they are treated right away.
Is There An Over
Yes, but OTC medications are generally less effective in treating herpes than prescription ones. Abreva is an over-the-counter topical drug that many people use to treat cold sores from HSV-1, but not HSV-2. NSAIDs like ibuprofen and Tylenol are OTC drugs that reduce pain and discomfort, but they do not treat herpes directly.
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What Is The Treatment
Antiviral medication can be prescribed when herpes first develops, or if the blisters are painful or happen often. The antiviral treatments will not cure herpes, but can help to reduce discomfort and how long it takes for a sore to heal.The medication works best if it is started as soon as possible. It can also decrease the chance of spreading it to others by preventing the virus from multiplying.
To ease discomfort when you have symptoms, try the following:
- Take acetaminophen or Ibuprofen to help with the pain
- Wear loose-fitting clothing and cotton underwear
- Soak in warm water baths
- Keep the infected area dry, e.g., use a blow dryer on a cool setting after bathing instead of rubbing the area with a towel
- Apply an ice-pack, wrapped in a clean cloth, to sores
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep urine diluted . If urinating hurts, pour warm water over your genitals while urinating or pee when you are in a warm shower or bath
- Do not use medicated or non-medicated ointments or creams, unless they are prescribed by your health care provider
- Avoid breaking blisters and any sexual contact until symptoms have resolved
Can You Have Hsv
Yes, it possible for HSV-2 to lay dormant and to never have an outbreak. That said, just because its dormant doesnt mean youre not contagious. About 10% of the time asymptomatic HSV-2 is spread between people.
As mentioned above, because its possible to have HSV-2 and never have an outbreak or show any symptoms, HSV-2 can easily spread without people even realizing it. If you know youve been exposed to herpes HSV-2 or HSV-1, get tested as soon as possible so you know your status.
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My Partner Has Herpes How Can I Avoid Getting It And And Still Have A Fulfilling Sex Life
I just found out the guy Ive been seeing for a couple weeks has herpes. Im full of questions, but one question I keep dwelling on is, how can people get pregnant without passing on herpes to their partner? How can I avoid getting herpes and still have a fulfilling sex life with him?
Its normal to have complicated feelings after you find out that your partner has herpes. Millions of people are living with herpes, and sharing your concerns with your partner and educating yourself on how its spread are good ways to protect yourself.
Genital herpes is spread from skin-to-skin contact with someone who has it including . 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.
Here are other ways to avoid getting herpes from your partner:
Talk with your partner about taking herpes medicine every day, which can lower their chances of spreading herpes.
Dont have sex during a herpes outbreak, even with a condom. There may be sores on places the condom doesnt cover. Wait until the sores are totally gone, and the scabs heal and fall off.
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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How Lysine Works Against Cold Sores
Lysine supports human health in many ways, but its best known for its potential role in protecting against cold sores.
Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 . Some people infected with HSV-1 never experience an outbreak, but most have experienced the pain and embarrassment of cold sore blisters. These fluid-filled sores develop on or around the mouth and burst to release their fluids.
Though no permanent cure for cold sores exists, its possible to prevent future outbreaks or expedite the recovery of existing cold sores using lysine. HSV-1 relies on arginine-rich proteins to spread and reproduce. Arginine is a different amino acid found in certain meats, nuts, and wheat. It triggers cold sore and aggravates existing outbreaks.
Research suggests that lysine works against cold sores by interfering with the absorption of arginine. With the help of enough lysine, arginine becomes unavailable to the virus and shortens the duration of the outbreak.
In one small study, treatment with lysine ointment achieved full resolution in 40% of participants by the third day and in 87% of participants by the sixth day. This marks a vast improvement compared to a standard cold sore episode that may last up to 21 days without treatment.
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There Is More Than One Type Of Herpes Infection
There are two types of herpes simplex infection: herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 . Cold sores around the mouth are generally caused by HSV-1. Most cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-2. Cold sores on the mouth can cause genital infection during oral sex for people who do not already carry the cold sore virus. There are many other viruses that are also in the herpes virus family, however the infection and symptoms are different. One example is varicella zoster virus which causes chickenpox and shingles.
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