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.
Youtube video on how to differentiate herpes from other skin conditionsPractical tips by expert STD doctor – Dr.Fuzayloff
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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Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe
Most herpes simplex virus infections are easy for physicians to diagnose. On occasion, however, a swab from the infected skin may be sent to the laboratory for viral culture, which takes a few days to grow. Blood tests may also be performed.Untreated herpes simplex virus infections will go away on their own, but medications can reduce the symptoms and shorten the duration of outbreaks. There is no cure for herpes simplex virus infection.Treatment for primary herpes simplex virus infection includes the following oral antiviral medications:
- Acyclovir pills
- Oral antibiotic pills if the areas are also infected with bacteria
- Oral antifungal pills if the areas are also infected with yeast
- Topical anesthetic cream, such as lidocaine ointment, to reduce pain
- Acyclovir pills
- Valacyclovir pills
- Famciclovir pills
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Pimples Test Negative For All These Tests
What do I do now?
Once you successfully identify the nature of your sores, which should be an easy task now that you know what herpes looks like, the management is not that complex either. Since pimples are a hygiene issue, it only means a more thorough cleaning with effective products such as acne ointments, antibacterial soap and creams, oil ointments for inflammation, and patting with a warm, wet cloth a few times a day.
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On the contrary, if you have even a little doubt that your sores may be herpes, you should visit your primary care physician and get an anti-viral prescription. Herpes may be incurable but anti-viral is more than enough to stop it from affecting your quality of life at all. Early identification is the key to a better life.
I am Jeannette, the medical writing specialist here at Family Medicine Austin. I have over five years of experience working with a range of medical and healthcare across the U.S.
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Why Genital Herpes Comes Back
Genital herpes is caused by a virus called herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, it stays in your body.
It will not spread in your body to cause blisters elsewhere. It stays in a nearby nerve and causes blisters in the same area.
If you can, avoid things that trigger your symptoms.
Triggers can include:
- surgery on your genital area
- a weakened immune system for example, from having chemotherapy for cancer
Can I Get Genital Herpes More Than Once
There isnt a cure for HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes. Infections can come back . 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.
After infection, the virus moves from skin cells to nerve cells. In the nerve cells, it becomes inactive . Certain things may reactivate the virus, such as:
- Illness or fever.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Ii
Typically, the first signs of herpes II is a cluster of blister-like lesions in the genital area which spread and merge, break and crust over within four to 15 days. The fluid from these itching, painful sores is highly infectious. Other frequent symptoms are painful urination, urethral or vaginal discharge and swollen lymph nodes. The first exposure or primary episode consists of headache, fever, chills and muscular weakness. Recurrent episodes are less severe and are limited to the affected area.
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 Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Genital herpes doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women with a diagnosis of herpes genitalis are recommended to start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy to prevent outbreaks during time of 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.
Recurrent Episodes Of Genital Herpes
Recurrences are usually less painful and shorter in duration than the first episode of genital herpes. Over time, episodes usually become less frequent and may eventually stop altogether. Infections caused by HSV1 are less likely to recur in the genital area than infections caused by HSV2.
Recurrences may be triggered by:
- no apparent reason noted.
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When It Is Clearly Not Genital Herpes
Youtube video that helps distinguishing the herpes infectionfrom other similar-looking skin conditions:
Practical tips by expert doctor on our YouTube channel.
The following are some conditions that cause skin imperfections around the genital area. They do not necessarily look like genital herpes or pose a diagnostic problem. However, they are common conditions and many patients ask if their skin lesions are related to herpes.
Recurrent Herpes Simplex Labialis
Recurrent herpes simplex labialis, also known as oral herpes, is a condition of the mouth area caused by the herpes simplex virus. Its a common and contagious condition that spreads easily.
According to the World Health Organization , an estimated two out of three adults in the world under age 50 carry this virus.
The condition causes blisters and sores on the lips, mouth, tongue, or gums. After an initial outbreak, the virus stays dormant inside the nerve cells of the face.
Later on in life, the virus can reactivate and result in more sores. These are commonly known as cold sores or fever blisters.
Recurrent herpes simplex labialis usually isnt serious, but relapses are common. Many people choose to treat the recurrent episodes with over-the-counter creams.
The symptoms will usually go away without treatment in a few weeks. A doctor may prescribe medications if relapses occur often.
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Genital Herpes Is Spread By Skin
The virus can be spread when someone with HSV has an episode or an outbreak characterised by having a sore, blister, ulcer or skin split . It can also be spread between episodes, when there is no sore, blister, ulcer or skin split present called asymptomatic viral shedding.
During viral shedding the virus is on the skin surface and can be spread through genital skin-to-skin contact, or from the mouth or face to genital skin during contact.
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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Is Genital Herpes Related To Shingles
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella zoster virus , which causes chickenpox earlier in life. The natural history of varicella zoster infection is similar to genital herpes infection in that VZV also becomes latent in the sensory nerve roots. Later in life the virus may exit, causing shingles.
Recurrences in shingles cause blister lesions in a single area of skin called a dermatome. Shingles is not a sexually transmitted infection and is independent from genital herpes.
Protecting Your Partner And Preventing Herpes Transmission
Research shows that the single greatest fear is the fear of transmission to partners, says Dr. Handsfield.
The main ways to avoid transmitting herpes are:
- Learn to recognize how you feel when an outbreak is on the way, and stop having sex immediately.
- Dont have sex during active outbreaks.
- Always use condoms but dont rely on them during outbreaks. They dont completely cover infectious areas.
- Only after all sores have scabbed over and healed should you have sex again.
- Avoid touching your herpes sores, because you can spread them to other places on your body that way. Whenever you touch a sore, wash your hands immediately.
- Dont kiss people or have sex if you have a cold sore.
- Tell potential partners about having herpes before having sex with them, even though it may be hard.
- Ask your doctor about taking antiviral drugs regularly.
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What Are Genital Herpes Outbreaks Like
Lots of people who have been infected with either HSV-1 or HSV-2 donât know it because they have never noticed any signs or symptoms.
People often mistake a herpes outbreak for another problem. You may think you have the flu, another STD, or that you have pimples or ingrown hairs, when in fact you have genital herpes symptoms.
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Sex And Physical Irritation
Friction from intercourse can irritate tissue and trigger a herpes outbreak.
Obviously, that doesnt mean to avoid having sex forever or that youll break out if you do.
But it does mean if youre having early warning signs that an outbreak is coming on, like sensitivity or tingling, then wait for them to pass.
They may be prodrome symptoms that signal contagiousness and an impending outbreak. And making them worse might encourage the outbreak to happen.
So since sex can sometimes trigger outbreaks, just be careful to minimize irritation. Try using a water-based lubricant. However, lubricants that contain the spermicide nonoxynol-9 can irritate soft tissue of the vaginal walls.
Other physical irritations can cause herpes outbreaks:
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What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Most individuals infected with HSV are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for another skin condition. 9 When symptoms do occur, herpes lesions typically appear as one or more vesicles, or small blisters, on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The average incubation period for an initial herpes infection is 4 days after exposure. 10 The vesicles break and leave painful ulcers that may take two to four weeks to heal after the initial herpes infection. 5,10 Experiencing these symptoms is referred to as having a first herpes outbreak or episode.
Why Does Genital Herpes Come Back
There are many different things that may trigger herpes recurrences. Sometimes, a person can learn to recognise why outbreaks appear but for other people there does not seem to be any particular reason for it.
Between recurrences the virus travels from the skin along the nerve to the nerve ganglion where it remains. Once you have been infected, the virus remains in the body, just as chickenpox and some other viruses do. Recurrent symptoms occur when the virus is reactivated or triggered. The symptoms normally appear in the same area as the first time. For some people they may move a short distance, e.g. from genitals to buttocks, but always within the same dermatome .
Some people feel aching, tingling, burning or sharp pains in the area affected preceding a recurrence. These are called prodromal symptoms or prodromes. They are a sign that the virus is trying to reactivate and there may be virus on the skin surface. Sometimes they last for a few days then disappear without any symptoms appearing on the skin.
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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.
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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.
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