What Causes Genital Herpes How Does It Spread
The herpes viruses enter the skin or mucous membrane through tiny, even microscopic, breaks in the tissue when there is skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Because an infected person may spread the disease even when he or she does not have signs or symptoms of herpes, avoiding sexual contact with someone with active blisters does not guarantee protection against the infection. Even normal appearing skin can spread the infection. Clothing that touches genital skin ulcers may transmit herpes simplex virus to others that wear the clothing.
The average incubation period after exposure is 4 days, but symptoms may develop anywhere from 2 to 12 days after you have been exposed to the virus.
Individual outbreaks of herpes vary among affected people in terms of their frequency and severity. Outbreaks can be related to the function of the immune system and are typically worse in cases in which the immune system is suppressed. For example, at times of physical or emotional stress, during illness, or when taking certain medications, genital herpes outbreaks may be more likely.
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What Are The Signs Of Herpes In Children
The herpes virus can be spread to babies and children if they are kissed by someone that is infected and has active cold sores. Although rare, it is also possible to spread herpes to a child or infant by touch if a person touches their cold sore and then touches the baby or child.
Precautions can be taken to protect infants and other children from getting the virus. Avoid kissing children if you have a cold sore and ask other people not to as well. Wash your hands frequently if you have a cold sore and you are around children.
What Is The Treatment For Genital Herpes
Similar to oral herpes, genital herpes sores are known to clear up on its own but the right medication can stop the symptoms from getting worse as well as ease any pain . If you have genital herpes, you may be prescribed:
- Antiviral medication
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How Long Youve Been Infected
Yourexposure time to the virus can explain why your herpes outbreaks are gettingworse. In fact, the number, the severity and the duration of herpes outbreakstend to decrease as time goes on. This is because, over time, antibodies areproduced to fight herpes virus. Thus, people with the infection will have lesssevere and/or less frequent outbreaks.
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How Far Away Is A Cure For Herpes
Theres currently no cure for herpes, but that might change in the future.
According to 2020 research published in Nature, scientists from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center removed 90 percent of the HSV-1 virus from cells in mice using gene editing.
However, it takes time to transition potential treatments from animals to humans. In a 2020 news article, one of the researchers that authored the Nature paper estimated that it would be at least 3 years before human trials.
Scientists are also researching the possibility of creating a vaccine to prevent herpes. A 2022 study outlined a new approach to developing an mRNA vaccine for herpes. The vaccine mentioned in the study worked well in mice and guinea pigs.
The researchers say that theyre aiming to conduct human trials before the end of 2022, and the vaccine could be available within the next 10 years.
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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.
Complications Of Genital Herpes
Likewise, theres no current cure for genital herpes. These infections can also be mild and harmless. Even so, theres the risk of complications.
Minor complications with genital herpes include inflammation around the bladder and rectum area. This can lead to swelling and pain. If swelling prevents emptying the bladder, you may need a catheter.
Meningitis is another possible, though unlikely, complication. It occurs when the viral infection spreads and causes inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
Viral meningitis is typically a mild infection. It may clear on its own.
Like oral herpes, encephalitis is also a possible complication of genital herpes, but its even more rare.
Keep in mind that having genital herpes increases the risk of other STIs. Blisters can cause breaks in the skin, making it easier for certain microbes to enter the body.
Even though genital herpes doesnt have serious complications for most people, the HSV-2 virus that causes it is dangerous to babies born to a mother who has it.
Neonatal herpes is a complication of genital herpes. An infection that passes to a child during pregnancy or childbirth can cause brain damage, blindness, or even death to a newborn baby.
Treatment typically consists of antivirals to suppress the virus.
HSV-1 and HSV-2 are common types of herpes. However, other types of the virus can also have potentially serious complications.
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How Do I Know If I Have Herpes Or Something Else
If you do develop symptoms, your first outbreak will most likely start 2 to 20 days after you get infected. In some people, though, a first outbreak occurs years after that first infection. Generally, first outbreaks last two to four weeks. Then the sores and symptoms fade away, but the virus remains in your body in a dormant or quiet state much of the time. That lingering virus can cause later outbreaks, but usually the first is the worst.
During a primary outbreak of genital herpes, you may experience symptoms that mimic the flu, such as:
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Can You Get Herpes On Your Tongue
While you may associate herpes type 1 with cold sores on your lips, it is possible to suffer from the symptoms of herpes on your tongue. This is referred to as oral herpes and usually affects more of your mouth than just your tongue. More than half of all adults in the United States are thought to have oral herpes.
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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.
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.
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What Happens If I Dont Receive Treatment
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another body part like your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, quickly wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading the infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your unborn fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? for information about this.
What Are The Types Of Herpes Viruses
Herpes is a group of contagious viruses. All of these viruses cause blisters and sores. Some of the more common herpes viruses include:
- Type 1: HSV-1, or oral herpes, causes cold sores to form on lips, gums, tongue and inside the mouth. It can cause genital herpes in some cases This type usually spreads through saliva when you kiss someone with open herpes sores. You can also get HSV-1 by sharing items like toothbrushes, lipsticks or eating utensils.
- Type 2: HSV-2 causes genital herpes.
- Herpes zoster: This virus causes chickenpox and shingles.
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When Is Genital Herpes Most Contagious
During active outbreaks, your viral load is heavier, and at those times you are most likely to infect a sexual partner, says Dr. Baill. Without an outbreak, the viral load is usually insufficient to infect a normal, healthy partner.
Remember, some people with HSV infections never have signs or symptoms of genital herpes at all. Although you are most contagious during outbreaks when sores are visible, you can also be contagious at times when you are free of any visible sores.
How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
Often, your doctor can diagnose genital herpes by looking at visible sores. Your doctor or nurse may also use a cotton swab to take a fluid sample from a sore to test in a lab.
Genital herpes can be hard to diagnose, especially between outbreaks. Blood tests that look for antibodies to the herpes virus can help diagnose herpes in women without symptoms or between outbreaks.
A Pap test is not used to detect genital herpes.
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How Can I Avoid Getting Genital Herpes
No vaccine can protect you from HSV infection, but you can do some things to prevent getting infected:
Limit the number of sexual partners you have in your lifetime.
Make sure that you and your sexual partner use condoms every time you have sex.
Consider sexual abstinence .
Don’t have any kind of sex with someone who has herpes sores, itching or scabs, and remember that genital herpes can be spread even when there is no sign of a sore.
Always wash your hands after touching a cold sore.
Is There A Cure For Herpes Simplex
There is no cure for herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, its a lifelong infection.
What is the outlook for people with herpes simplex?
For many people, the first herpes outbreak is the most severe. Many outbreaks are less frequent and milder after the first year of infection. Some people may have only one outbreak and never have another again.
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How Do People Get Genital Herpes
People can get infected with genital herpes when:
- They receive oral sex from a partner who has oral herpes .
- They touch a herpes sore and then touch their own genitals.
- Their genitals touch the skin in the genital area of someone who is infected .
Genital herpes can spread even if there are no sores because the virus is still in the body. The virus sometimes sheds in the skin near the genitals. When the virus is shedding, it can infect another person.
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.
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How Do You Get Herpes
There are two different herpes viruses: Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 and Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 .
While rare, a mother can pass genital herpes to the baby during vaginal childbirth.
Herpes is most easily transmitted when sores are open and wet, because fluid from herpes blisters easily spreads the virus. But herpes can also shed and be passed to others when there are no sores and the skin looks totally normal. Most people get herpes from someone who does not have any sores. When used consistently and correctly, condoms help protect against herpes and many other STDs.
Risks And Side Effects
The three main treatments for herpes acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir are all FDA-approved drugs, though there are side effects and interactions to be aware of.
Common side effects of these antiviral drugs include headaches and nausea. Famciclovir can cause dizziness, confusion, or sleepiness.
Acyclovir and valacyclovir, which are very similar to each other, can cause your kidneys to stop working. If you have kidney problems, your doctor may prescribe a lower dose. These medications may interact with other drugs such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen, which may weaken kidney function.
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Complications Of Oral Herpes
Theres no current cure for oral herpes . The virus remains in your system once its transmitted.
Blisters can disappear and reappear throughout your life. When you dont have visible symptoms, it means the virus is inactive, but you can still transmit it to others. Many people dont develop visible symptoms.
For the most part, oral herpes is a mild infection. Sores usually clear up on their own without treatment.
In rare cases, complications can occur. This is more likely to happen in people who have a weakened immune system, perhaps due to age or a chronic illness.
Possible complications can include dehydration if drinking becomes painful due to oral blisters. If left untreated, dehydration can lead to serious problems. This certainly isnt likely to occur. Just make sure youre drinking enough, even if its uncomfortable.
Another incredibly rare complication of oral herpes is encephalitis. This occurs when the viral infection travels to the brain and causes inflammation. Encephalitis isnt usually life-threatening. It may only cause mild flu-like symptoms.
Minor complications of oral herpes include a skin infection if the virus comes in contact with broken skin. This can occur if you have a cut or eczema. It can sometimes be a medical emergency if cold sores cover widespread areas of skin.
Children with oral herpes may develop herpes whitlow. If a child sucks their thumb, blisters can form around the finger.
How Is Genital Herpes Treated
There is no cure for the herpes simplex virus. The blisters usually heal and go by themselves, so you may not always need treatment. There is antiviral medicines for herpes, which can: shorten outbreaks, relieve discomfort and stop symptoms from getting worse.
The antiviral treatment is most effective when you take it within the first five days of symptoms appearing. Avoid touching the blisters as this can also increase the risk of spreading the infection. If your herpes treatment requires you to apply cream to a sore, just gently pat the cream on, being careful not to rub around the surrounding area.
You can ease your symptoms by:
- keeping the affected area clean using plain or salt water to prevent blisters or ulcers from becoming infected
- applying petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to any blisters or ulcers to reduce the pain when passing urine
- asking a healthcare provider to recommend painkilling creams
- avoiding tight clothing because it may irritate the blisters and ulcers.
Dont have sex until you or your partner have finished your treatment, and the blisters or ulcers have gone. If its your first outbreak, its sometimes advised that you check back with a healthcare provider before having sex again, to ensure that your symptoms have gone.
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Myth: You Always Get A Herpes Outbreak Soon After Becoming Infected
Herpes is a sneaky infection. It can exist in the body for months or even years without showing symptoms, but itâs still contagious nonetheless.
If you do develop an outbreak, it will most likely happen two to twelve days after initial exposure to the virus. After the blisters break, they can take up to four weeks to heal.
Fortunately, subsequent outbreaks tend to be less intense. Recurring outbreaks are common but donât last nearly as long. These sores tend to heal within three to seven days, and the number of outbreak periods may even decrease over time.
Can You Get Rid Of Herpes Yourself
As mentioned above, the herpes virus cannot be completely cured but it can be treated. And while there is no way to treat the virus yourself from home, the blisters can sometimes heal and clear up on their own without treatment.
If you are experiencing discomfort from herpes sores, and you have been diagnosed with herpes by your doctor, according to the NHS there are a handful of ways to help relieve herpes symptoms, these include:
- Keep the area clean to avoid the blisters becoming infected
- Apply petroleum jelly or painkilling cream to ease any pain when using the toilet
- Avoid wearing tight clothing that could irritate the blisters
- Dont apply ice directly to the blisters
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