How Is Genital Herpes Treated
There is no cure for genital herpes, but treatment can help. Self-care can relieve symptoms and help sores heal. Medicine can shorten an outbreak and also relieve symptoms.
Self-care for genital herpes
Dermatologists recommend the following self-care tips for their patients who have an outbreak:
Keep sores clean and dry.
Wear loose-fitting cotton underwear.
If an area feels painful, place a cold compress on it.
To cleanse and sooth painful sores, reduce itchiness, or decrease tenderness, take an Epsom salts bath. You want to soak for 10 to 20 minutes.
Medicine for genital herpes
To treat genital herpes, your dermatologist may prescribe one of these antiviral medicines:
Taking medicine is recommended for anyone who has a weakened immune system. With a weakened immune system, your body will likely need help to get rid of sores and symptoms. Without medicine, sores may not clear and symptoms can linger. You should continue taking the medicine until all sores have completely healed.
Medicine works best when started within 24 hours of getting a herpes sore.
If one of the medicines listed above fails to bring relief, you may need another medicine. For a severe infection, getting acyclovir through an IV may be necessary. Other antiviral medicines may also be an option.
Is There Anything I Can Do To Prevent Recurrent Outbreaks
It is not well understood what reactivates the herpes virus symptoms to recur. The triggers may include:
- Friction or trauma in the genital area
- Exposure to ultraviolet light
- Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
- Having a weakened immune system
A healthy lifestyle, such as a good diet, getting enough sleep and rest, exercise, and reducing stress may help limit the number of outbreaks. Using a water based lubricant during sexual intercourse can help to reduce friction and skin irriation that may trigger an outbreak in some people.
Genital Herpes And Pregnancy
It is important to avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. A first episode during pregnancy can create a greater risk of transmission to a newborn.
Fortunately, it is rare for women with genital herpes to infect their babies. If you know that you have genital herpes before becoming pregnant, your physician will monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy. If you have an active outbreak at the time of delivery, a C-section may be recommended. Depending on individual diagnosis, though, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorses suppressive therapy to reduce the frequency of C-section.
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How Often Do Outbreaks Occur
The number of outbreaks someone has varies from person to person. The average number of outbreaks for a person with genital HSV-2 is four to five per year. The average for genital HSV-1 is less than one outbreak per year.
Usually, there are more outbreaks during the first year, and many people find that outbreaks become less severe and less frequent with time.
Herpes triggers are highly individual, but with time, many people learn to recognize, and sometimes avoid, factors that seem to reactivate HSV in their own bodies. Illness, poor diet, emotional or physical stress, friction in the genital area, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light , surgical trauma, and steroidal medication may trigger a herpes outbreak.
The frequency of outbreaks can often be managed through effective stress management, and getting adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise. For people with frequent outbreaks, suppressive therapy with any one of the antiviral treatments can reduce outbreaks by as much as 80%.
Should I Talk To A Doctor About It
Now that you have a broad idea of how to differentiate a genital herpes ulcer from other commonly encountered conditions, you should consult your doctor when you suspect genital herpes for the first time. The first episode of herpes can have more noticeable symptoms than recurrences later will and it will be less difficult to ensure that the prognosis is benign and rule out more harmful conditions.
Herpes is still a condition often associated with anxiety, fear, and shame. Your healthcare provider can talk to you about your feelings in that regard and give you support and guidance.
With any genital condition, it is important to have the correct diagnosis made by your doctor, who will use laboratory tests for confirmation to establish a proper management plan.
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Other Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
A primary herpes infection can come with flu-like symptoms such as aches and pains. Recurrent infections also normally start with an itching, burning or tingling sensation in the affected area.
Painful urination can be a symptom of genital herpes, due to the soreness of the blisters. In women, unusual vaginal discharge can also be a sign of genital herpes.
What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Symptoms of genital herpes often start out very mild. Its easy to mistake them for signs of a small pimple or ingrown hair.
Herpes sores appear as small, red bumps or white blisters. They can pop up in any area of your genitals.
If one of these blisters ruptures, you might notice a painful ulcer forming in its place. It may ooze fluid or cause you pain when urinating.
As the ulcer heals, itll form a scab. Resist the urge to pick at the scab, which will only irritate the area more. When an ulcer heals, a scab will form. Its important not to pick at or irritate a herpes sore.
Other potential symptoms include:
Genital herpes has no cure, but there are treatments that can help control symptoms.
Genital herpes doesnt always cause symptoms. You may not even know you have herpes until you pass it to someone else or get tested.
If youve had herpes in the past and are following a treatment plan, youll have periods of time without any symptoms. These are known as latent periods.
But this doesnt mean you no longer have the virus. And you can still pass the virus to others during a latent period, thought, though the risk is lower.
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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.
Before You Tell Them Practice
The one person youll definitely need to have the chat with is your sexual partner/s. This is very important even if you rarely experience herpes outbreaks, as genital herpes can be spread from an infected person into an uninfected person even without any visible outbreak symptoms.
Coming out as herpes positive can feel stressful and difficult, especially when its directed at a person you care about and with whom youd like a romantic or sexual future. Luckily, dating with herpes doesnt have to be such a big deal if you know how to address it.
One way to get over the nervousness of telling a partner you have herpes is to practice ahead of time. Make note of the key points you want to include and practice the script a few times in front of the mirror until you feel comfortable talking about.
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Which Genital Herpes Stage Is Safest For Sex
Genital herpes spreads mainly through sexual contact, and it can be contagious even between outbreaks due to asymptomatic shedding.
Theres no genital herpes stage that completely eliminates the possibility of infecting your partner with the virus, but herpes is more contagious in some stages than others. The primary infection stage and the blister stage are the two most highly contagious herpes phases. Its important to avoid all sexual and intimate contact during these times.
The latent stage of genital herpes, however, is the safest. Its still possible to transmit herpes to your partner with asymptomatic shedding, so you will still need to take precautions. But this stage is far less risky than others.
What Are Genital Herpes Sores
Genital herpes is a viral sexually transmitted infection that causes painful blisters to form in the genital area. Its caused by the herpes simplex viruseither type 1 or type 2 .
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , over half a million people between 14 to 49 were newly infected with genital herpes in 2018.
If you have genital herpes, you may experience periods with no symptoms, followed by painful flares. You can transmit the virus to sexual partners even if you have no active symptoms during sexual contact.
Symptoms may include:
- Look a little bit like cauliflower
More often than not, they appear in clusters.
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Genital Herpes Cdc Fact Sheet
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease that any sexually active person can get. Most people with the virus dont have symptoms. Even without signs of the disease, herpes can still be spread to sex partners.
Basic Fact Sheet | Detailed Version
Basic fact sheets are presented in plain language for individuals with general questions about sexually transmitted diseases. The content here can be syndicated .
How Do You Get Herpes
The virus can be passed on by:
having any skin-to-skin contact with the infected area
transferring the infection on fingers from someone else to your genitals
sharing sex toys that aren’t washed or covered with a new condom each time they are used.
The virus is most infectious when you have blisters, but it can be passed on when someone has no symptoms. This is normally immediately before or after an outbreak.
If you have genital herpes while pregnant you can pass the virus on to your unborn baby. Itâs important to speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
For more details on herpes in pregnancy read our âin detailâ tab.
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Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should talk to your sex partner about their risk. 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 health, sex life, and relationships. While herpes is not curable, it is important to know that it is manageable with medicine. Daily suppressive therapy can lower your risk of spreading the virus to others. Talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns and treatment options.
A genital herpes diagnosis may affect how you will feel about current or future sexual relationships. Knowing how to talk to sexual partners about STDs is important.
How Soon Do Symptoms Appear
Symptoms tend to come on suddenly anywhere from two days to two weeks after youve been exposed to the virus.
The appearance of symptoms is called an outbreak. After your initial outbreak is treated, you may have subsequent outbreaks during the next year and occasionally throughout the rest of your life.
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Genital Pimples Vs Herpes: Duration Of Illness
- If youâre concerned about how long genital pimples last, these skin bumps often disappear in about a week.
- Whereas, the first outbreak of genital herpes might last between 2 to 4 weeks. Subsequent outbreaks last for shorter periods and do not cause as much trouble as the first outbreak.
- The symptoms resolve by themselves for both conditions.
Do Natural Remedies Help
There are several options that can be tried to ease the pain. A73612 and Donnor52059 suggest dabbing cornstarch directly on the sores. I can’t find any scientific studies that have researched this, but I can’t see that it would do any harm.
A73612 also recommends squirting water from a bottle over the sores when you pee. This is a time-honoured method that will help to ease the pain.
Yolandayw mentioned taking a simple painkiller such as paracetamol during an outbreak. Feelbroken advised putting Vaseline on the sores. Lidocaine 5%, a local anaesthetic gel that numbs the area, is another option. Some people find it helpful to put on five minutes before passing urine. You need to get it on prescription and it doesn’t suit everyone. Some people develop sensitivity to it which makes the symptoms worse.
Yolandayw also advised using ice as a home remedy. Simply wrap the ice in a tea towel and apply for 5-10 minutes. Never put ice directly on the skin as this can cause ‘ice burn’. Drinking plenty of water can also be helpful as it reduces the concentration of urine, making it less painful when you have to pee.
D91907 mentioned putting aloe vera gel on the sores. There is some scientific evidence that aloe vera is useful for both genital and oral herpes.
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Prevention Of Genital Herpes
The best protection against STIs is to always use barrier protection such as condoms, female condoms and dams . Because herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact, condoms will reduce the risk of transmission, but it will not protect sexual partners completely as condoms do not cover the entire genitals.
Using lubricant with a condom during sex will also reduce the risk of trauma to the genital skin. This has been shown to reduce HSV transmission, especially in the first six months of a sexual relationship. Silicone-based lubricants are recommended.
Remember that herpes transmission can occur when symptoms are present , but may also occur even if there are no genital symptoms through asymptomatic viral shedding.
For people who have frequent episodes of genital herpes, antiviral medication, taken daily, helps to reduce transmission of herpes to a sexual partner.
Pimples Vs Herpes Blisters Why Do They Happen
Before we delve into what herpes looks like, lets first take a look at why it happens. It is a sexually transmitted disease, caused by skin-to-skin contact with the infected area of someone who has the Herpes Simplex Virus .
HSV comes in two forms, of which HSV-1 presents itself as blisters on the mouth , including cold sores and fever blisters, and is thus associated with oral herpes. Meanwhile, HSV-2 affects the genital region and causes genital herpes. This does not mean that anyone with blisters on their mouth must have been infected with HSV-1, as they could very well have inherited HSV-2 from an infected partners genitalia via oral sex.
On the other hand, pimples are linked to hygiene issues. They arise when dirt or oil clogs up the pores on the skin, increasing the likelihood of bacterial infection and inflammation. The pores may also be clogged by other conditions such as folliculitis or contact dermatitis .
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Myth #: A Blood Test Is The Best Way To Know If You Have Herpes
Blood tests are not always accurate and testing for herpes can be tricky. It can take two weeks to six months after being exposed to herpes before it is detected in the blood. To make matters more complicated, if you are low risk for herpes and asymptomatic, it increases your risk of a false positive result. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against routine testing for herpes unless you or your partner have symptoms. The most accurate test is when you are able to take a swab sample from a new herpes lesion, but often times the diagnosis is made by a clinician based on your history and report of symptoms.
Because the blood test can be expensive and inaccurate, it is not typically included in a sexually transmitted disease evaluation unless you ask your provider for it specifically.
In short, if you dont have symptoms, you dont necessarily need a blood test. If you do experience an outbreak, a skin swab not a blood test is your best bet for confirmation.
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What Does Herpes Look Like
- Sensitive, reddish, inflamed skin
- Clusters of small, blisters filled with clear fluid
The first occurrence of herpes is usually the most painful and lasts about two weeks. Subsequent episodes are less likely to occur, although some people may have recurrent episodes. It is estimated that about 40% of American adults get reoccurring cold sores. Those infected with HSV-2 are more likely to experience recurring herpes outbreaks. These subsequent outbreaks are generally milder than the first and last about a week. This is because the body has created antibodies against the virus and is therefore more prepared to fight off the infection. Those infected with HSV-2 are more likely to experience recurring herpes outbreaks than those infected with HSV-1.
Herpes tend to form in irregular clusters of blisters.
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