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.
Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe
Most herpes simplex virus infections are easy for physicians to diagnose. On occasion, however, a swab from the infected skin may be sent to the laboratory for viral culture, which takes a few days to grow. Blood tests may also be performed.Untreated herpes simplex virus infections will go away on their own, but medications can reduce the symptoms and shorten the duration of outbreaks. There is no cure for herpes simplex virus infection.Treatment for primary herpes simplex virus infection includes the following oral antiviral medications:
- Acyclovir pills
- Oral antibiotic pills if the areas are also infected with bacteria
- Oral antifungal pills if the areas are also infected with yeast
- Topical anesthetic cream, such as lidocaine ointment, to reduce pain
- Acyclovir pills
- Valacyclovir pills
- Famciclovir pills
Where Does The Herpes Virus Live In The Body
The herpes simplex viruses are latent, meaning they can live in the body without causing symptoms. After the initial infection, the virus gets into the nerve roots and spreads to the sensory nerve ganglia, the junctions where nerves from different parts of the body come together. For the genital area, the ganglia are adjacent to the spinal cord in the lower back. For orofacial herpes , the ganglia are located behind the cheek bone.
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How To Deal With Herpes Outbreaks
Caused by the herpes simplex virus , herpes infections not only make you feel depressed and alone but also affect your love life. Once the virus enters your body, it always stays dormant in the nerve root. When your immune system is low, it causes an outbreak. Dealing with herpes outbreaks can be annoying and embarrassing. In addition, the virus is spread easily to another person during an outbreak. All skin contact, such as kissing, touching blisters, or having sex, increases the spread of the virus. Thus, you need to treat herpes outbreaks to prevent spreading. Therere some things you can do to relieve and prevent outbreaks.
How Is Herpes Simplex Diagnosed
Healthcare providers may diagnose herpes simplex based on how the sores look. Your provider may take a sample from the sore. Laboratory analysis of the sample can confirm or rule out the herpes virus.
If you dont have sores, your healthcare provider can use a blood test to check for HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibody, a marker showing youve been exposed to the virus. The blood test doesnt show an active infection . But it informs your provider whether youve been exposed to the herpes virus in the past. If this is your first infection, you may not test positive for herpes if there hasnt been enough time for your body to develop antibodies. The HSV-1and HSV-2 antibody test may be repeated in eight to 12 weeks.
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Herpes And Newborn Infants
Herpes infection in a newborn can cause a range of symptoms, including skin rash, fevers, mouth sores, and eye infections. If left untreated, neonatal herpes is a very serious and even life-threatening condition. Neonatal herpes can spread to the brain and central nervous system, causing encephalitis and meningitis. It also can lead to intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and death. Herpes can also spread to internal organs, such as the liver and lungs.
Infants infected with herpes are treated with acyclovir, an antiviral drug. They usually receive several weeks of intravenous acyclovir treatment, often followed by several months of oral acyclovir. It is important to treat babies quickly, before the infection spreads to the brain and other organs.
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Copyright 2021 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to womenâs health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOGs complete disclaimer.
Talk To Your Doctor Before Using Herbal Methods Or Supplements
There are a few herbal methods and supplements that have shown some success in treating herpes outbreaks. For example, some studies have shown the amino acid lysine is helpful for some people with herpes, according to ASHA, but other studies have not been able to produce the same results. Also, some herbal treatments and supplements can have side effects or interfere with other medications. Talk with your doctor about whether these methods might work for you.
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Expect The First Outbreak To Be The Worst
Remember that although herpes lasts a lifetime, the first outbreak typically causes the most pain, while later outbreaks tend to be much milder.
You will always have herpes, and the sores will come and go, but you can decide not to treat the current outbreak. If its not that unpleasant or uncomfortable, some patients will do that, says Gade.
How To Get Rid Of Herpes Fast
The best way to get rid of herpes as quickly as possible is to see your doctor for a prescription antiviral such as Zovirax or Valtrex . Taking an antiviral can help clear up the infection within a week or so, as well as decrease the severity of symptoms.
To relieve pain, a cool sitz bath can be helpful. Be sure to use gentle soap on the area, without any harsh chemicals or fragrances, as these can irritate the sores.
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No Ulcers Doesnt Equal No Herpes So Then What
If youve never had genital ulcers and as far as you know, have never been exposed, is it worth getting tested? Thats a controversial point and in fact, the widely followed official guidelines discourage screening.
Why? Many reasons: Lets say a person has a blood test that comes back positive for HSV-2. This means that the patient may have been exposed to HSV-2 at some point in their lives, somehow, somewhere. Research tells us that these folks may be periodically shedding virus particles in their genital fluids. These patients would then be diagnosed with genital herpes, encouraged to share their status with future partners, and offered daily antiviral medication to prevent possibly spreading the virus.
All of this can be a tough pill to swallow, so to speak. There is significant social stigma and shame associated with herpes. In addition, there are occasionally false-positive tests. Labeling someone with the diagnosis can be devastating to their future relationships, and asking someone to take a pill for a condition they may or may not have and may or may not spread seems unreasonable.
However, not all experts agree with the official guidelines. Except for the uncommon case of a false positive blood test for HSV-2, a seropositive test means one of three things:
If you are not sure about getting tested, talk with your doctor.
About the Author
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 .
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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
Is There Anything I Can Do To Relieve My Symptoms For Genital Herpes
- Keep sores clean and dry
- Dont touch the sores. If you do, wash your hands well with soap and water
- Wear loose, cotton underwear and clothes to keep your clothes from rubbing against the sores
- Take warm or cool baths
- Try holding cool compresses or ice packs to the sores for a few minutes several times a day
- Drink plenty of water
- Get plenty of rest
- Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to help with pain and fever
- If urination is painful, you can urinate sitting backwards on the toilet so the urine doesnt touch the lesions or urinate in a warm bath or shower. You can also use both hands to separate the lips of your vulva, so that urine doesnt touch the sores. Its important to wash your hands right after touching your vulva so the virus isnt spread to your fingers or face.
- Dont touch or rub your eyes dont wet contact lenses with saliva
- Wash your hands before touching a contact lens
You may have some early warning signs that an outbreak is coming. These signs include: tingling, burning, and itching where you had sores before. These signs could start a few hours or days before the outbreak.
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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.
Onset Of First Outbreak
The first outbreak of oral herpes usually develops within about one to three weeks after infection. This initial outbreak may last for up to three weeks.
With genital herpes, the first outbreak usually occurs within about two to 20 days. Similar to oral herpes, the initial outbreak may last as long as three weeks.
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Using Valacyclovir To Treat A Primary Outbreak Of Cold Sores
Valacyclovir is also used to treat primary outbreaks of cold sores, or oral herpes. The standard dosage of valacyclovir for managing a primary oral herpes outbreak is 2,000 mg every 12 hours for one day .
During a particularly severe or persistent outbreak, your doctor may recommend adjusting your valacyclovir dose or extending the dosage to provide greater relief. Follow your doctors advice and instructions for the best results from valacyclovir and other antiviral medication.
Im Pregnant How Could Genital Herpes Affect My Baby
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, it is very important for you to go to prenatal care visits. Tell your doctor if you have ever had symptoms of, or have been diagnosed with, genital herpes. Also tell your doctor if you have ever been exposed to genital herpes. There is some research that suggests that genital herpes infection may lead to miscarriage, or could make it more likely for you to deliver your baby too early.
Herpes infection can be passed from you to your unborn child before birth but is more commonly passed to your infant during delivery. This can lead to a potentially deadly infection in your baby . It is important that you avoid getting herpes during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, you may be offered anti-herpes medicine towards the end of your pregnancy. This medicine may reduce your risk of having signs or symptoms of genital herpes at the time of delivery. At the time of delivery, your doctor should carefully examine you for herpes sores. If you have herpes symptoms at delivery, a C-section is usually performed.
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Is Genital Herpes Worse In A Person With Hiv Infection Or Aids
Genital herpes, like other genital diseases that produce lesions, increases a persons risk of getting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Also, prior to better treatments for AIDS, persons infected with HIV had severe herpes outbreaks, which may have helped them pass both genital herpes and HIV infection to others.
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How Can You Avoid Genital Herpes
Most women get genital herpes through sexual contactwith a person who has herpes sores. You can get thevirus without having sex. To avoid infection:
- Avoid skin-to-skin and sexual contact.
- Have safer sex:
- Reduce the number of sexual partners.
- Condoms, when used correctly, can reduce therisk of getting genital herpes. Each time you have sexuse a condom :
- Before vaginal sex
- Before oral sex
For more information, see Safer Sex.
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Preventing The Spread Of Herpes
Even when you do not have sores, you can pass the virus to someone during sexual or other close contact. To protect others:
- Let any sexual partner know that you have herpes before having sex. Allow them to decide what to do.
- Use latex or polyurethane condoms, and avoid sex during symptomatic outbreaks.
- Do not kiss or have oral sex when you have a sore on the lips or inside the mouth.
- Do not share your towels, toothbrush, or lipstick. Make sure dishes and utensils you use are washed well with detergent before others use them.
- Wash your hands well with soap and water after touching a sore.
- Consider using daily antiviral medicine to limit viral shedding and reduce the risk of passing the virus to your partner.
- You may also want to consider getting your partner tested even if they have never had an outbreak. If you both have the herpes virus, there is no risk for transmission.
Are Canker Sores Caused By The Herpes Virus
Canker sores are not caused by the herpes virus or by any other virus. In fact, the cause of canker sores is unknown, although they may be triggered by a minor injury in your mouth from dental work or brushing too hard, an allergy, a vitamin B deficiency, stress, or a food intolerance. Some medical conditions, such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease, may also cause canker sores, and they often occur in families, so it’s possible genetics or environment play a part, too.
Canker sores typically appear as small, round, or oval whitish sores with a red border, according to the Mayo Clinic. They typically occur on the tongue, inside the cheeks, inside the lips, or on the gums. The medical term for a canker sore is aphthous ulcer. Canker sores can be quite painful, but they usually heal within about two weeks without leaving any scarring.
Unlike cold sores, which usually occur outside the mouth, canker sores occur only inside the mouth. Like cold sores, canker sores are recurrent, but they are not contagious: You cant give a canker sore to another person. Canker sores occur more often in teenagers and young adults, and they are more common in women than men.
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Should You Get The Shingles Vaccine
The shingles vaccine is safe and easy, and it may keep you from getting shingles and PHN. Healthy adults age 50 and older should get vaccinated with a shingles vaccine called Shingrix, which is given in two doses. Zostavax, a previous shingles vaccine, is no longer available in the United States.
You should try to get the second dose of Shingrix between two and six months after you get the first dose. If your doctor or pharmacist is out of Shingrix, you can use the Vaccine Finder to help find other providers who have Shingrix. You can also contact pharmacies in your area and ask to be put on a waiting list for Shingrix. If itÃ¢s been more than six months since you got the first dose, you should get the second dose as soon as possible. You donÃ¢t need to get a first dose again.
You should get Shingrix even if you have already had shingles, received Zostavax, or dont remember having had chickenpox. However, you should not get a vaccine if you have a fever or illness, have a weakened immune system, or have had an allergic reaction to Shingrix. Check with your doctor if you are not sure what to do.
You can get the shingles vaccine at your doctors office and at some pharmacies. Medicare Part D and private health insurance plans may cover some or all of the cost. Check with Medicare or your health plan to find out if it is covered.
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