How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
HSV nucleic acid amplification tests are the most sensitive and highly specific tests available for diagnosing herpes. However, in some settings viral culture is the only test available. The sensitivity of viral culture can be low, especially among people who have recurrent or healing lesions. Because viral shedding is intermittent, it is possible for someone to have a genital herpes infection even though it was not detected by NAAT or culture. 11
Type-specific virologic tests can be used for diagnosing genital herpes when a person has recurrent symptoms or lesion without a confirmatory NAAT, culture result, or has a partner with genital herpes. Both virologic tests and type-specific serologic tests should be available in clinical settings serving patients with, or at risk for, sexually transmitted infections. 11
Given performance limitations with commercially available type-specific serologic tests , a confirmatory test with a second method should be performed before test interpretation. If confirmatory tests are unavailable, patients should be counseled about the limitations of available testing before serologic testing. Healthcare providers should also be aware that false-positive results occur. In instances of suspected recent acquisition, serologic testing within 12 weeks after acquisition may be associated with false negative test results. 11
Providers are strongly encouraged to look at CDCs STI Treatment Guidelines for further diagnostic considerations.
Herpes Coming Out Prompts: New Relationships
Option 1: âBefore we have sex, I want to let you know that using condoms/barrier methods are important to me. I found out a little while ago that I carry the herpes virus, which means that using protection is a must for us to have sex. How do you feel about this?â
Option 2: âI like where our relationship is going, and I want that relationship to be based on open communication. I found out a while back that I carry the herpes virus, and I want you to know that Iâm here to answer any questions about what that means for us.â
Get Tested For Other Possible Stis
Ask your doctor about testing options for other STIs like chlamydia, syphilis, HIV, and HPV if you engage in sexual activity. Many STIs can be asymptomatic, so early detection can lower the risk of them spreading or manifesting symptoms in the future.
For sexually active adults, the CDC offers the following screening suggestions:
- Everyone ages 13 to 64 should get tested at least once for HIV.
- Anyone who has sex with new or multiple male partners should get tested once a year for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea.
- Everyone who is pregnant should get tested for syphilis, early on in their pregnancy, they tested positive for hepatitis B, C, and HIV.
- People with new or multiple sex partners should get tested for yearly, at the very least, HIV.
Ask your doctor for guidance if youre unsure of which STI tests you require or when to get them. Based on your sexual history, they can offer suggestions and offer more details on various STI tests.
How Do You Know You Have Herpes
When a person has oral herpes, “cold sores” or “fever blisters” can show up on the lips or around the mouth. These sores may also show up inside the mouth, but this usually only happens the first time oral herpes symptoms appear.
Most people with genital herpes have no symptoms, have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed, or have symptoms but do not recognize them as a sign of infection. Genital herpes symptoms include blisters, sharp pain or burning feelings if urine flows over sores, an inability to urinate if severe swelling of sores blocks the urethra , itching, open sores, and pain in the infected area.
How Do I Talk With People About Having Herpes
It might feel scary to admit you have herpes, but talking about things can really ease your mind. You could lean on a close, non-judgmental friend that you trust to keep the conversation private. Parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and other family members can also be a source of comfort. Remember, herpes is really common, so its possible the person youre talking to has herpes, too.
There are a lot of online support groups for people who have herpes, and the American Sexual Health Association has a list of support groups that meet in person.
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Living With Herpes And Still Living Your Best Life
Having herpes is actually a blessing.
Here me out on this one. I know youre not believing me if you were just diagnosed with herpes. And I didnt see it that way at all back in 2011. Ive talked to thousands of people who have been diagnosed with herpes and it always starts out the same way. It starts out as, my life is over and how do I cure this. Ive talked to people who are suicidal, . Basically Ive seen all levels of devastation from a herpes diagnosis.
I see this time and time again. And I myself had my own issues that I had to work through. I had issues with money, binge eating, self confidence and dating the same guys. I put all of my blame on the fact that I had herpes. I believed that I had to stay with the guy who gave me herpes even though it was a horrible suffocating relationship, I didnât take care of myself health wise and Im still paying for that now, and my list can go on and on.
It took me getting herpes to wake up and actually begging to live my life.
Now that I had herpes I realized that nothing was going to pull me out of the Eeyore phase that I was in. I was going to continue to binge eat, I was going to continue to stay in an unhealthy relationship I was going to keep letting people treat me poorly etc. That was not what I wanted for my life and that was not what God wanted for my life.
Learn How To Date With Herpes
Yes, you can still date, and quite successfully too. This is all about confidence, self-respect, and honesty. Once you have come to terms with the diagnosis, it will be easier to inform and reassure potential partners about it without scaring them away. Thats because, believe it or not, its your attitude and feelings about it that will come across the most.
Now heres the facts: You do have to inform your partners before intimacy happens. But it doesnt have to be as hard as it seems. There is a right way to tell someone you have herpes: Calmly, informatively, and aware. Let them know that having sex with you doesnt necessarily mean they will get it. Let them know the herpes transmission rates when using forms of protection like taking Valtrax and using condoms. Theyre surprisingly low.
Of course, if youd like to avoid having the talk, you can do that too by dating people who have herpes. Thats because there are herpes dating sites you can use, in particular Positive Singles, which you can read more about here.
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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.
What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hsv
Most commonly, HSV-1 causes sores around the mouth and lipsoften called cold sores or fever blisters. HSV-1 can cause genital herpes, but most cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-2. Typically, someone with HSV-2 will have sores around the genitals or rectum.
Symptoms are usually the most intense during the first outbreak and become less intense over time. Symptoms can last 2-4 weeks before resolving on their own without medicine, and even longer during the initial infection.
Some of the symptoms associated with HSV include itching, tingling or burning sensation, tiredness, swollen lymph nodes and flu-like symptoms, but many with HSV may have no symptoms at all.
While there are some tell-tale signs of HSV, not everyone may show visible signs or symptoms, resulting in them unknowingly transmitting it to a partner via contact, Dr. Gelow said. Unfortunately, there are no studies that show how often this happens, but we do know that the virus sheds 10-20% of the time in those who are asymptomatic.
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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.
How To Treat Herpes
When managing herpes, respond quickly. People generally can feel early on when an outbreak is going to occurthey feel a tingling or sometimes an aching sensation, and a little tiny start of a blister, Dr. Brayer says. If you treat it right away you can sometimes block it from coming.
When you first sense a herpes outbreak, immediately:
- Take aspirin. Its an anti-inflammatory and will lessen the virus, she says.
- Apply ice to the area for 10 to 15 minutes to slow the virus and lessen pain.
- Start an antiviral medication. If youve had several outbreaks, ask your doctor for specific prescription meds that you should keep on hand, Dr. Brayer says. If you catch an outbreak early enough, sometimes you can take just one pill and it will stop.
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Remember: The Stigma Is Out Of Proportion
The stigma surrounding genital herpes is far more intense than the infection deserves. Genital herpes has been around for millennia, and HSV-2 is the most common STI in the United States. In fact, according to the WHO, genital herpes affects over 400 million people worldwide.
The genital herpes stigma prevails largely because people don’t understand it. Many assume they can catch genital herpes from a toilet seat or other common surfaces. They aren’t educated about how HSV-2 spreads or affects the body. Others don’t know that genital herpes remains dormant for months or years at a time, allowing those infected with the herpes virus to live completely normal lives.
Overall, genital herpes can be a highly manageable condition, with few physical side effects and no fatalities to date. In fact, you may not even notice the virus at all if your outbreaks are infrequent or mild. Some people find that they don’t experience symptoms until years after their first outbreak!
Myth: A Condom Protects 100% Against Genital Herpes
The herpes virus is always active in your body, even when no sores are present.
Wearing a condom is an important preventative measure if you or your partner has herpes, but it doesn’t guarantee complete protection. The herpes virus lives both inside and outside the area a condom covers, so it can still spread from one person to another.
If you’re concerned about contracting or transmitting herpes, don’t have sex if you or your partner has an active herpes outbreak. The virus is more likely to spread when active sores and ulcers exist. It’s also important that the infected person regularly take antiviral medicine to keep their infection under control.
Also Check: What To Do If You Think You Have Oral Herpes
How You Can Live A Normal Life With Herpes
When many individuals hear the word herpes it causes panic and makes them feel like they cannot live a normal life. This is not to be true! You can have a normal and happy life even if you have herpes. The dermatologists at Dermatology & Mohs Surgery Institute share how this is possible through different tips and treatments.
Dating With Herpes And Talking To Sexual Partners About Herpes
Dating with herpes doesnât need to be a big deal. Most people with genital herpes can still have satisfying sex lives.
Yes, there are some things youâll need to do to date responsibly and take care of your sexual partners â like using protection, even when youâre not experiencing an outbreak â but that doesnât mean your dating life will be nothing but awkward moments and heartbreak.
The most difficult part of having a conversation about herpes with a sexual partner is getting started. You may fear the other personâs initial reaction more than anything else, rather than the conversation that happens after theyâve had time to digest new information.
Here are some conversation prompts to help you get over that initial hump:
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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.
How Does Genital Herpes Spread
Herpes can be spread when an infected person has lesions blisters and open sores on their body or when you do not have any symptoms. Taking antiviral medicine can help you reduce the risk of spreading genital herpes to your sexual partners. You can also:
- Inform your sexual partner that you have genital herpes.
- Use a condom every time you have sex.
- Refrain from having sex when you have symptoms.
- Abstain from performing oral sex if you have blisters or open sores around your mouth.
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How Do You Prevent Herpes Transmission
Avoid touching any sores you have. If you do, wash your hands with soap and water. You should avoid sex while you have sores, and use a male or female condom or dental dam with your partner if sex occurs despite intentions to not have sex. Herpes is most contagious during an outbreak, but its also possible to spread herpes when no symptoms are present.
A good diet, enough rest and sleep, and effective stress management may help prevent herpes recurrences. If you have oral herpes, avoid getting sunburned.
Getting tested for STDs is a basic part of staying healthy and taking care of your body like brushing your teeth and exercising regularly. Getting tested and knowing your status shows you care about yourself and your partner. STD awareness and testing is a basic part of staying healthy and taking care of your body. Its important to know your risk and protect your health.
Discussing Genital Herpes With Your Partner
Many people do not feel comfortable talking about sexuality and sexual health issues. This information will explore ways of feeling more confident in discussing herpes in the context of a sexual relationship.
Cold sores on the mouth and genital herpes are medically the same conditions. The significant difference arises from the stigma that tends to accompany a herpes infection that is sexually transmitted.
Most people find that their partners are both supportive and understanding. It is a common assumption to initially think that a person may base their judgement of you on the fact you have genital herpes. However, for most this is a minor skin infection. People fear the possibility of rejection but the reality of this is that it rarely happens.
Because fear of rejection is a concern, it leads some to question why they should risk talking about herpes. Accordingly, some people choose not to tell. Instead, they abstain during herpes outbreaks, practice safe sex at other times, and hope for the best.
This strategy may have more disadvantages than advantages. First of all, you spend a lot of time and energy worrying that your partner is going to get herpes. Its much harder to tell someone if they just found out theyre infected with herpes. For most people, the anxiety over not telling your partner you have herpes is worse than the telling itself.
If you are able to discuss the situation openly and honestly, you can find imaginative ways to be safely sexually intimate.
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Example Disclosure Of Diagnosis
I like how things are going in our relationship, and Im hoping well end up in bed sometime soon. Before we do, I wanted to let you know that I have genital herpes. I take suppressive therapy and havent had an outbreak in a while, so the risk of passing it to you is low.
Still, its not zero, so I wanted you to have a chance to think about it before we get intimate. You dont need to respond right now. When, and if, youre ready, Im happy to talk with you more or to just send you some information.
No Cure Better Treatment And Prevention Needed
There is no cure for herpes. At present, antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir, can help to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms but cannot cure the infection.
As well as increasing awareness about HSV infection and its symptoms, improved access to antiviral medications and heightened HIV prevention efforts for those with genital HSV symptoms are needed globally.
In addition, development of better treatment and prevention interventions is needed, particularly HSV vaccines. WHO and partners are working to accelerate research to develop new strategies for prevention and control of HSV infections. Such research includesthe development of HSV vaccines and topical microbicides. Several candidate vaccines and microbicides are currently being studied.
A vaccine against HSV infection would not only help to promote and protect the health and well-being of millions of people, particularly women, worldwide it could also potentially have an impact on slowing the spread of HIV, if developedand provided alongside other HIV prevention strategies says Dr Meg Doherty, Director of the WHO Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis, and STI Programmes.
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