How Is Genital Herpes Spread
- Saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection
- Genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection
- Skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes or
- Skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes.
You also can get genital herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or is unaware of their infection. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a partner with oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools. You also will not get it from touching objects, such as silverware, soap, or towels.
If you have more questions about herpes, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
Outbreaks For Asymptomatic Hsv
The majority of herpes infections, of both HSV-1 and HSV-2, are asymptomatic. This means that you can be infected with the herpes virus and have viral DNA in your body without any visible symptoms.
People with asymptomatic herpes can still spread the virus to others while not having any cold sores or genital herpes lesions.
Sometimes, people with asymptomatic herpes might experience an initial outbreak of cold sores or genital herpes, only to have the virus disappear after the first outbreak. In this case, herpes is still present in the body, but simply remains inactive and doesnt produce further outbreaks.
It can be difficult to know whether or not you have asymptomatic HSV-1 or HSV-2, or simply have infrequent herpes outbreaks. However, if youre confident you have herpes but havent had an outbreak for several years, its likely that you have an asymptomatic infection.
Even if youre asymptomatic, its still important to take precautions against spreading herpes to other people. Herpes remains in the body even if you dont have any symptoms, and there is a risk that you could spread the virus through kissing, oral sex or other sexual activity.
If you have asymptomatic herpes, the best approach is to speak to your doctor about treatment options and the use of suppressive therapy to reduce your risk of infecting others.
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.
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What’s Involved In Herpes Testing
If there are blisters or sores, a healthcare provider may gently swab the area to take a fluid sample and test it. If there are no sores, but you are concerned you may have been exposed, a blood test may done. Herpes tests are not normally recommended unless you have symptoms.
Staying Safe While Avoiding Panic And Stigma
It can be tempting to freak out a little bit when you realize that herpes is both super-common and something you arent routinely getting tested for. So how do you process that information?
The first step is practicing the same safe sex that you know helps protect you from other STIs. Your best bet here is a barrier method like internal and external condoms for any penetration and physical shields such as dental dams for any oral play. Even though this wont fully protect you from herpes , it will reduce how much of your skin touches your partners.
This is why screening for herpes infection in the absence of any symptoms wouldnt really do much to cut back on casesthe advice would be the same: Practice safe sex with barrier methods. I agree right now with the recommendations not to screen people, but I think if we had a better diagnostic strategy, I would be much more in favor of routine screenings, Dr. Johnston says. It is important for people to know their status so they can protect themselves and their partners.
If you think you have herpes, see a doctor such as your ob/gyn or dermatologist , or go to your local health clinic. A medical expert can evaluate your symptoms, take samples for testing, and eventually offer treatment options if you need them.
You will likely be started on antiviral medications to help you heal faster and make you less contagious, Dr. Bard says.
Treatment The First Time You Have Genital Herpes
You may be prescribed:
- antiviral medicine to stop the symptoms getting worse you need to start taking this within 5 days of the symptoms appearing
- cream for the pain
If you have had symptoms for more than 5 days before you go to a sexual health clinic, you can still get tested to find out the cause.
Signs And Symptoms Of Herpes
The symptoms of herpes generally occur in two wavesan initial outbreak, which occurs after the virus incubates in the body, and subsequent outbreaks.
Initial herpes or cold sore outbreaks typically involve an itching and burning around the genitals , or around the mouth . Within a day or so, blisters can form in the affected area and develop into open, fluid-filled sores.
During an initial herpes outbreak, its common to experience headaches, muscle pains, fatigue and other flu-like symptoms. Many people also experience pain while urinating.
Recurring herpes outbreaks are similar, but are usually less severe than the initial outbreak. In people with HSV-2, outbreaks can occur up to five times a year, requiring two to three weeks to pass. People with HSV-1 typically experience one to two outbreaks per year, but that frequently varies drastically person to person.
Our guide to stopping a cold sore in the early stages goes into more detail about the typical symptoms of a herpes outbreak, as well as the triggers that can cause an outbreak to develop.
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How To Keep Herpes Dormant
One person with genital herpes may work at a high-stress job and be in a stressful relationship, and be more prone to outbreak recurrences. Another may have a more stress-free lifestyle that potentially keeps the virus dormant for years or even decades.
We cant all be stress-free all the time, and thats life. To minimize the frequency of outbreaks, its helpful to manage stress in a healthy way. Getting out for a walk, meditating, practicing yoga or mindfulness, relaxing in a bath, or writing in a diary are examples of ways to cope with and manage stress.
A healthy diet helps physically as well as emotionally, and a lysine-rich diet may suppress the herpes virus. All these factors can contribute to less frequent flare-ups.
How Do You Know If You Have Genital Herpes
The only way to know if you have genital herpes is by amedical exam. Your health care provider can examineyou and test for it. Lab samples are taken from a sore,blister, or blood. Your health care provider may ask totest you for other infections at the same time.
Tell current and most recent sex partners of your herpes infection.
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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.
The Blood Tests Do Have A Lot Of Value But Here Are The Biggest Issues:
About 50% of the population has type 1 herpes. Type 1 can be genital or oral. If you have never had symptoms and obtain an IgG based type-specific blood test , and the test comes back positive for type 1, we have no way of knowing whether you are infected orally, genitally, or both. The only way we can know which location is infected is by symptoms.
About 30% of negative results for HSV 1 are false negatives. This means if you test negative, you might still have HSV 1.
If you are positive for type 2 and fall within a positive range of 1.1 â 3.5, theres a decent chance this is a false positive. About 50% of positives that fall in this range are in error, with the closer you get to 3.5 the more likely you are positive and the closer to 1.1 the less likely you are positive. There can be false positives above 3.5 as well but theyre less likely. If you do test positive within this low range, the CDC recommends confirmatory testing. The most accurate confirmatory blood test is the Western Blot. The Western Blot is more complicated to obtain and your insurance may not cover it. In addition, many doctors do not know about the high false positive rate within this range so they incorrectly diagnose their patients without getting confirmation. I have worked with a number of patients diagnosed within this range who I encouraged to follow up with the Western Blot and they discovered they were negative.
Blood tests given too early after possible exposure can be false negative.
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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.
Can I Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes, you can breastfeed if you have genital herpes, but not if you have a herpes sore on one of your breasts. If you have genital herpes, it is possible to spread the infection to any part of your breast, including your nipple and areola.
If you have any genital herpes sores on one or both of your breasts:
- You can keep breastfeeding as long as your baby or pumping equipment does not touch a herpes sore.
- Do not breastfeed from the breast with sores. Herpes is spread through contact with sores and can be dangerous to a newborn baby.
- Pump or hand-express your milk from the breast with sores until the sores heal. Pumping will help keep up your milk supply and prevent your breast from getting overly full and painful. You can store your milk to give to your baby in a bottle for another feeding. But if parts of your pump also touch the sore while pumping, throw the milk away.
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Does A Cold Sore On My Mouth Mean I Have Genital Herpes
No, a cold sore on your mouth usually means you have herpes simplex virus type 1 . You can get HSV-1 by kissing someone or sharing utensils, towels, razors, or lipstick with someone who has HSV-1.
HSV-1 cannot turn into HSV-2 , but you can get a cold sore on your mouth from HSV-2 if you give oral sex to someone with HSV-2. Cold sores caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2 are contagious. You can spread it to other people or other parts of your body if you touch an open sore and then touch another part of your body. That means if you have a cold sore and give oral sex to someone, that person will get the herpes virus on his or her genitals.
Avoid touching your cold sore as much as possible. If you touch your cold sore, wash your hands right away to avoid spreading the infection to other parts of your body or other people.
Can It Lie Dormant
The herpes virus can lie dormant in the body for years before people experience any symptoms.
After people have the first outbreak of herpes, the virus then lies dormant in the nervous system. Any further outbreaks are due to the virus reactivating, which causes symptoms to appear.
Symptoms are usually less severe during repeat outbreaks. Sores also clear up more quickly, often within 37 days. This is due to the antibodies the body produces to fight the first outbreak of herpes. The body can then use these antibodies to respond more quickly to future outbreaks.
There is currently no cure for herpes. Even if a person stops experiencing symptoms, the virus will remain inside their body.
It is also important to point out that herpes is transmissible even when no sores or other symptoms are present. For this reason, early prevention is advisable.
Condoms and dental dams do not offer complete protection against the herpes virus, as herpes can live on areas around the genitals. However, these methods do reduce the likelihood of contracting the infection or passing it on.
A person who has herpes can also take other steps to reduce the chance of passing it on to a sexual partner. Such steps include telling their sexual partner that they have herpes before having sex.
Both people can then take additional steps to reduce the likelihood of transmission. These steps may include:
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How Do You Treat Herpes
Theres no cure for herpes, but prescription medications can ease symptoms, end outbreaks sooner, and lower the chances of passing the virus to other people.
You can also help ease the pain caused by herpes outbreaks by taking a warm bath, wearing loose clothing and putting an ice pack on the sores.
Syphilis: A Greater Health Threat Than Herpes
Syphilis and genital herpes are both STDs that can cause sores in the genital area. Like oral herpes, syphilis can also cause mouth sores, which often clear without treatment. But despite these similarities in symptoms, the two diseases differ in their causes syphilis is caused by a bacteria and herpes by a virus and the health risks they pose.
For most people the exceptions being infants and people who have weakened immune systems or who are chronically ill herpes is more of an annoyance than a dangerous disease. But untreated syphilis can lead to severe complications, including bone, joint, liver, heart, and brain damage.
There are four stages of syphilis, according to the CDC, each with different signs and symptoms. In the primary stage, a painless sore or sores develop where the bacteria first entered the skin or mucous membrane. In the secondary stage, you may develop a skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. In the latent stage of syphilis, there are no signs or symptoms, and in the tertiary stage, the bacterial infection can damage the heart, brain, and other organs of the body.
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Avoid Withdrawing From Your Partner
A sudden outbreak can be disappointing, especially if you were looking forward to an intimate evening.
But its important to remember that your worth isnt tied to your diagnosis. Youre still the same person, outbreak or not.
If you dont truly believe this, your words might reflect your self-judgment, and you might end up pulling away or conveying the message you do have something to feel embarrassed about .
Instead of saying something like:
- We cant have sex tonight I understand if you dont want to come over after all.
Try something like:
- Tonights a no-go for sex, so lets cuddle up with a horror movie.
The second validates the reality that you still have a lot to offer in the way of companionship. And dont forget, a hot makeout session can be pretty sexy. Think of the tension youll build up!
Sex is an important component in many romantic relationships, but it shouldnt be the only thing keeping your relationship going.
To help your relationship thrive, practice connecting with your partner in other ways.
You might try:
- sharing goals for the future
- simply existing in the same space
Experts agree this simply isnt true. The virus doesnt live long once outside the body, so the risk of transmission is very low in these scenarios.
Soap and water kills the virus, so if you touch sores to apply medication, all you have to do is wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Simplex
Many people with the infection never experience any herpes symptoms. If you do notice symptoms, youll experience them differently depending on whether youre having your first herpes outbreak or a repeat outbreak. Recurring symptoms are usually milder than the first outbreak. Symptoms dont last as long with later outbreaks. Some people may only have one or two outbreaks during their lifetime. Others may have as many as four or five outbreaks a year.
People who do have herpes symptoms may experience:
- Cold sores around their lips, mouth or tongue. They may look crusty or like fluid-filled blisters.
- Tingling, itching or burning.
- Pain while urinating.
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