What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes
Many people with genital herpes wonât get any symptoms, or may get symptoms for the first time months or even years after they were infected.
For most people, the first blisters go away within a month. Although the outbreaks clear-up by themselves, the virus stays in the body. This means that people usually get blisters again â which is called having a ârecurrent outbreakâ. Outbreaks usually become shorter and less severe over time.
Other symptoms can include:
tingling or burning around the genitals
feeling unwell, with aches, pains and flu-like symptoms
unusual vaginal discharge in women.
Do Condoms Help Prevent The Spread Of Genital Herpes
Yes. To prevent transmission of herpes, we recommend that condoms be used 100% of the time. Many patients will shed the virus and be contagious when they dont have symptoms. Studies have shown that asymptomatic shedding occurs between 1% and 3% of the time in patients with HSV II genital infections. Many new herpes infections occur from partners who are shedding the virus asymptomatically, so condoms are highly recommended.
Condoms may not be an attractive option for monogamous couples or for couples who desire to become pregnant. Couples may opt to have serological tests to determine if either partner has an asymptomatic infection. In close monogamous relationships, the risks of transmission can be weighed against other relationship issues, such as intimacy and pregnancy.
What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
The symptoms of genital herpes vary a lot. Most people have very mild symptoms or none at all.
Symptoms can vary from a mild area of irritation to more painful blisters or sores and generally feeling unwell. Common symptoms may include:
- sometimes sores on the cervix
If you are having a first episode of genital herpes, you are more likely to also feel generally unwell and have fever, headache and general bone and muscle aches.
This may last for several days, during or after which reddened areas may appear on your genitals. These may develop into painful blisters. The blisters then burst, generally to leave sores that gradually heal, usually without scarring.
The severity of this first episode varies between people, but for some it may be severe and last for up to 3 weeks if not treated. These symptoms should quickly resolve with treatment. There is effective treatment available if symptoms are problematic.
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Can I Have Sex When I Have A Herpes Outbreak
You should not have sex during a herpes outbreak. During an outbreak, theres a high risk of passing the virus on to your sexual partner. You should avoid having sex until youve been treated and your sores have healed.
You can have sex in between outbreaks. While the risk of transmission is low, its still best to use a condom. Condoms can prevent the virus being transmitted through genital fluid.
You should let your partner know if youve got herpes. You can explain to them that its safe to have sex in between outbreaks provided you use a condom. Being open and honest with your partner is key to having safe sex.
How Do You Treat A Repeat Herpes Outbreak
You can treat a repeat herpes outbreak using the same antiviral medications for the first outbreak. Repeat outbreak treatment can be prescribed as a shorter course, such as 2 to 3 days. This all depends on your symptoms. Your doctor will explain the treatment schedule best for you.
If you get frequent outbreaks of herpes , you may be prescribed suppressive therapy. This is using antiviral medicines that you take everyday.
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Is There A Link Between Herpes And Hiv
Genital herpes is one of the most common co-infections for people with HIV. It can be a more serious condition if youâre HIV positive – outbreaks may last longer and blisters can be more severe. If youâre having recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes, you should have an HIV test, as this may be a sign of a weakened immune system caused by HIV.
Having an STI such as genital herpes can increase your risk of getting and passing on HIV. The blisters and sores provide an easy way for HIV to get into your body and cause an infection.
People with HIV who arenât on treatment or who have a lower CD4 count are more likely to get other infections, like herpes.
If youâre taking antiretroviral treatment for HIV, itâs important to discuss this with your doctor. They can advise how treatment for herpes may interact with your HIV drugs.
How Does Genital Herpes Affect A Pregnant Woman And Her Baby
Neonatal herpes is one of the most serious complications of genital herpes.5,16 Healthcare providers should ask all pregnant women if they have a history of genital herpes.11 Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, or babies may be infected shortly after birth, resulting in a potentially fatal neonatal herpes infection. 17 Infants born to women who acquire genital herpes close to the time of delivery and are shedding virus at delivery are at a much higher risk for developing neonatal herpes, compared with women who have recurrent genital herpes . 16,18-20 Thus, it is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. Women should be counseled to abstain from intercourse during the third trimester with partners known to have or suspected of having genital herpes. 5,11
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How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Most people with genital herpes have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms. Mild symptoms may go unnoticed or be mistaken for other skin conditions like a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people do not know they have a herpes infection.
Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. This is known as having an outbreak. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. Flu-like symptoms also may occur during the first outbreak.
People who experience an initial outbreak of herpes can have repeated outbreaks, especially if they have HSV-2. However, repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although genital herpes is a lifelong infection, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time.
Ask a healthcare provider to examine you if:
- You notice any symptoms or
- Your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD.
STD symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly genital discharge, burning when peeing, or bleeding between periods .
If You Have Genital Herpes Already Can It Be Spread To Other Parts Of The Body Such As The Arms Or Legs
No. Genital herpes cannot be transmitted to another part of your body such as your arm, leg or hand after the first infection occurs. If you have genital HSV II, you will not get HSV II at another site in your body. The immune system produces antibodies that protect other parts of your body from infection. However, there are cases where a person has multiple site infections from the same virus. This is usually acquired at the time of the first infection. For example, if someone has never had herpes but then has oral and genital sex with an infected partner, they can acquire the infection at both sites.
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When Is Preventive Treatment Considered
Some people have outbreaks of genital herpes very often or experience especially severe symptoms. Then it may be a good idea to take antiviral medication for a longer time including during symptom-free phases. The goal is to prevent further outbreaks and to keep the symptoms from becoming so severe. Also, the antiviral medication reduces the likelihood of infecting others. As preventive treatment, the WHO recommends the following:
- aciclovir: 400 mg two times per day,
- famciclovir: 250 mg two times per day or
- valaciclovir: 500 mg once per day.
Research shows that preventive treatment can considerably lower the risk of further outbreaks. The people participating had four or more herpes outbreaks per year before the start of the studies, and then took an antiviral medication or a fake treatment for up to one year. A comprehensive analysis of the study results shows that
- 96 out of 100 people who took a placebo had at least one further outbreak of genital herpes.
- 46 out of 100 people who were given antiviral medication had at least one further outbreak of genital herpes.
In other words, the medication prevented further outbreaks in 50 out of 100 people within one year.
People with very frequent herpes outbreaks also benefited from preventive treatment: In one study involving people with very frequent outbreaks, the medication lowered the number of episodes in one year from 11 to 2.
Genital Herpes: Symptoms And Treatments
The tell-tale sign of herpes is blisters on or around the genital area . These blisters eventually break and become painful sores. Outbreaks are more frequent during the first year. Although there is no cure, the frequency generally decreases with each passing year.
This condition, unlike a yeast infection, is treated with antiviral medications. These medications will not cure herpes, but they can help make outbreaks shorter, less severe and less frequent.
If genital herpes is not treated, you can touch sores and spread herpes to another part of your body, such as your mouth or eyes, according to the CDC.
Dear Dr. Roach Four years ago, my husband had an abscess. What started as a boil became so deep and hard that he required general anesthesia to remove it. The wound was left open, and we had to change the packing twice a day for eight weeks. It was diagnosed as MRSA, and he was put on Bactrim.
Six months later, an abscess appeared in his armpit, and again he was put on Bactrim. But this time he also broke out with sores in his mouth and genitals. The doctor said he has herpes and would be on Valtrex for the rest of his life. A few months later, the cycle repeated with an abscess, Bactrim and a herpes flareup.
But the doctor refuses to believe that its a Bactrim allergy and wants him to keep taking the Valtrex. I dont think he needs the Valtrex. Is there a blood test for herpes? A.
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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.
How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Herpes simplex virus doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women diagnosed with HSV-2 should start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy as prescribed, to prevent outbreaks during delivery. If you have an active infection at the time of childbirth, you can pass the herpes virus to your baby. Neonatal herpes puts a baby at risk for blindness, brain damage, skin infections and death. Your healthcare provider will perform a cesarean section to lower this risk.
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How Is Herpes Simplex Treated
Some people have few to no herpes outbreaks and choose not to have treatment. But many people prefer to use medications that shorten outbreaks and reduce symptoms.
During an outbreak, you may use an antiviral ointment or cream to help lessen your symptoms and help them go away faster, but it only works if you start it soon after you start an outbreak. Many people with HSV-2 take daily oral medications to keep outbreaks at bay.
Your provider may prescribe a topical medication or oral medication such as:
Is There A Cure Or Treatment For Genital Herpes
There is no cure for genital herpes. However, daily use of antiviral medicines can prevent or shorten outbreaks. Antiviral medicines also can reduce the chance of spreading it to others.
Though several clinical trials have tested vaccines against genital herpes, there is no vaccine currently available to prevent infection. One vaccine trial showed efficacy among women whose partners had HSV-2, but only among women not infected with HSV-1. Efficacy was not observed among men whose partners had HSV-2. Another trial testing the same vaccine showed some protection from genital HSV-1 infection, but none from HSV-2.
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Can Genital Herpes Be Prevented
It is safest to:
- always use condoms and dental dams, even when there are no sores or blisters present
- avoid sex when there are sores or blisters present you are most infectious at this time
- avoid sex with someone who has any blisters, sores or other symptoms of genital herpes
- avoid oral sex when there is any sign of a cold sore
What Does Genital Herpes Look Like
While some people with genital herpes will never have any symptoms, other people can develop symptoms within a few weeks of being infected.
Often, before the lesions appear, patients describe a prodrome, characterized by a tingling or burning sensation in the area where the lesions will develop that can be noticed during urination, along with itching or discomfort in the genital area.
You can also have the following symptoms:
- Blisters on the mouth or lips
- Fever, headache or pain in the joints
- Trouble urinating
The symptoms of genital herpes often go away and come back as recurring outbreaks. For most people, the first outbreak is the worst, and can last from two to three weeks. Future flare-ups are often less severe and do not last as long. Still, some people shed the virus regularly. The following triggers can make outbreaks more likely to occur:
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Menstrual periods
Recurrent genital herpes is most common in the first year after the initial infection and decreases as time goes on.
In many cases, anti-herpes medicine can help patients. When a person experiences a prodrome and suspects a recurrence is going to happen, they begin taking anti-herpes medications that lessen symptoms and shorten the time of the outbreak.
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Can I Treat Herpes Simplex At Home
Avoiding known triggers, such as illness or stress, can help reduce how often you have herpes outbreaks.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-1 ?
- Over-the-counter creams such as L-lysine, benzocaine or docosanol .
- Applying ice to blisters or sores.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-2 ?
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep your genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
- Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as a topical analgesic.
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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Treatment For Genital Herpes
There is no medication to cure your body of the herpes virus. Treatment is aimed at easing symptoms, reducing the frequency of recurrences and reducing transmission.
Symptoms can be improved by:
- ice packs to the affected area
- pain-relieving medication such as paracetamol
- antiviral medication such as acyclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir. These can reduce the severity of an episode if taken early enough . Topical antivirals usually used for cold sores on the lips or face are not suitable for use on the genitals.
How Will My Healthcare Provider Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at any sores that are present. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. If sores are not present, a blood test may be used to look for HSV antibodies.
Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider about herpes testing and other STDs.
Please note: A herpes blood test can help determine if you have herpes infection. It cannot tell you who gave you the infection or when you got the infection.
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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.