Can I Be Treated To Prevent Genital Herpes Transmission To My Partner
Yes. A large study showed that if one partner has herpes and the other partner is uninfected, treating the infected partner with suppressive therapy can prevent transmission of symptomatic herpes in over 90% of cases. This is an option for couples who are interested in having unprotected sex or who are planning to become pregnant.
If you are entering into a new relationship and are aware that you have herpes simplex infection, you owe it to your partner to notify them before having sex.
What Happens After Viral Reactivation
Following a persons primary oral herpes infection What to look for., some of the virus particles that were associated with that event travel along sensory nerve fibers running from the affected area to that regions corresponding nerve ganglion.
Once they arrive, the virions take up permanent residence. And for most of their time in the ganglion, they exist in a dormant state.
The herpes virus lives in association with facial nerve fibers.
When activated, the virus forms a cold sore in the area the nerve services.
- Virus particles exit the ganglion. The virions travel down nerve fibers that run from the ganglion to the skin tissue of the persons perioral area .
The nerve fibers involved are those that actually service this region.
c) Factors influencing herpes reactivation.
Its known that most of us do harbor the herpes simplex virus Statistics, yet not all people experience cold sores. Equally perplexing, of those that do, why do some people have breakouts more frequently than others?
While theres no firm answer to these questions, herpesvirus reactivation is thought to be significantly influenced by the following component factors, each of which varies with each individual.
Herpes Outbreak Triggers: Takeaways
- Stress that is long-term, or stress accompanied by poor coping habits, can cause outbreak recurrences.
- Sun can bring about cold sores, so sun protection can help.
- The friction of sex can exacerbate herpes. Be wary if prodrome signs are present.
- Menstruation correlates with slightly higher rates of prodrome symptoms, but not necessarily outbreaks with sores.
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Herpes Outbreak Frequency: What You Can Expect
Medically reviewed by Michele Emery, DNP
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you or someone you care about may have herpes. Well, first, we want to remind you that HSV-1 and HSV-2 are exceptionally manageable viruses, and that the anxiety and fear you’re experiencing right now, while normal, may be unwarranted. Depending on the type of herpes virus youre infected with and your symptomatic status, your herpes outbreak frequency can become a common occurrence or be something youll rarely, if ever, have to deal with.
In this guide, well look at the statistics for herpes outbreaks. Well also look at how outbreaks can differ between HSV-1 and HSV-2, as well as whether or not people with an asymptomatic herpes infection need to worry about outbreaks at all.
Finally, well cover some of the treatments you can use to make treating and managing herpes outbreaks an easier process.
How Long Does A Genital Herpes Outbreak Last
Since you clicked on an article with “herpes” in the title rather than “cold sore,” you’re probably looking for information on genital herpes. We’ll cover that information first!
The length of time a genital herpes outbreak lasts depends on many factors, but in general, the overall timeline is from one to four weeks.
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What Are The Complications Of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes may cause painful genital ulcers that can be severe and persistent in persons with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV-infected persons. 5 Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also cause rare but serious complications such as aseptic meningitis . 5 Development of extragenital lesions may occur during the course of infection. 5
There are also potential complications for a pregnant woman and her newborn child. See How does herpes infection affect a pregnant woman and her baby? below for information about this.
What Are The Stages Of A Cold Sore
The herpes simplex virus type 1 emerges in five distinct phases that cause painful and unpleasant cold sore outbreaks.
These five stages transition through tingling, blistering, weeping, crusting, and healing:
Though theres no permanent cure for cold sores, its possible to expedite the recovery process and leave your skin looking smooth and attractive once again.
Rarely, leaving cold sores untreated, can lead to complications, especially in people with weak immune systems.
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The Differences Between Hsv
We’ll discuss two main strains of the herpes virus that affect humans: herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 .
While both forms of the virus belong to the herpes family and have certain similarities, they also have a few key differences that are important to understand.
The biggest difference between the two herpes viruses is the location where they most often cause outbreaks. HSV-2 commonly causes genital sores, while HSV-1 more commonly causes cold sores around the mouth.
Both herpes viruses spread through close contact with an infected person, especially if they’re experiencing an active outbreak. HSV-1 spreads mostly through activities like kissing, sharing a cup or straw, or sharing lip balm or lipstick. HSV-2, on the other hand, is classified as a sexually transmitted infection and spreads primarily through sexual contact.
There is no cure for herpes, so both strains of the virus are lifelong diseases. Outbreaks of both types also share certain triggers, such as lack of sleep, stress, poor diet, hormonal changes, menstruation and illness.
Other triggers differ between the two types of herpes. For example, chewing on the lips, harsh sunlight, or injury around the mouth can irritate the mouth and cause an oral herpes outbreak.
Similarly, irritation to the genitals caused by frequent sexual activity, irritating products, or tight clothing can trigger a genital herpes outbreak.
Is There A Cure Or Treatment For Herpes
There is no cure for herpes. Antiviral medications can, however, prevent or shorten outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication.11 In addition, daily suppressive therapy for herpes can reduce the likelihood of transmission to partners.11
There is currently no commercially available vaccine that is protective against genital herpes infection. Candidate vaccines are in clinical trials.
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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.
Can Genital Herpes Be Prevented
The only sure way to keep from getting genital herpesor any other sexually transmitted infection is to not have sex. If you do have sex, practice safer sex.
- Before you start a sexual relationship, talk with your partner about STIs. Find out whether he or she is at risk for them. Remember that a person can be infected without knowing it.
- If you have symptoms of an STI, don’t have sex.
- Don’t have sex with anyone who has symptoms or who may have been exposed to an STI.
- Don’t have more than one sexual relationship at a time. Having several sex partners increases your risk for infection.
- Use condoms. Condom use lowers the risk of spreading or becoming infected with an STI.
- Don’t receive oral sex from partners who have cold sores.
Taking medicine for herpes may lower the number of outbreaks you have and can also prevent an episode from getting worse. It also lower the chances that you will infect your partner.
If you are pregnant, you should take extra care to avoid getting infected. You could pass the infection to your baby during delivery, which can cause serious problems for your newborn. If you have an outbreak near your due date, you probably will need to have your baby by caesarean section. If your genital herpes outbreaks return again and again, your doctor may talk to you about medicines that can help prevent an outbreak during pregnancy.
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How Is Genital Herpes Transmitted
HSV is transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact with an HSV lesion and it can also be spread through contact with a partners infected oral or genital area. When the virus is shed from infected skin it can be present in genital or oral secretions. Transmission can occur when the infected partner has no visible lesions and, in many cases, is not aware of the infection. HSV can be spread through sexual contact.
Genital HSV-1 or HSV-2 can be passed to a fetus or newborn during pregnancy or childbirth. The risk of transmission is higher if the pregnant person is experiencing a first HSV outbreak.³,,,,
Psychological Impact Of Recurrent Genital Herpes
Although genital herpes does not typically result in severe physical disability in immunocompetent patients, it can have a devastating psychological impact. The relationship between recurrent genital herpes and psychological morbidity has been well documented in the literature. Patients frequently worry about the social implications of having a chronic sexually transmitted disease. Furthermore, the risk of transmitting herpes to partners or loved ones and the fear of revealing their condition to new partners often leads to depression and social isolation. Patients also experience a loss of self-esteem and feel less sexually desirable. Finally, one study suggests that many patients feel that the disease significantly hampers their performance at school or at work.
Although these studies clearly demonstrate the negative impact of genital herpes on QOL, an assessment scale specific to herpes was not developed until recently .
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Timeline Of Genital Herpes Outbreak
The first herpes outbreak typically occurs about two weeks after contracting the virus from an infected person. In rare cases, it can take months or years for you to develop symptoms of an infection.
The first outbreak is usually the worst flare-ups generally lessen in severity over time. The herpes virus will never leave your body once you’re infected but will go through periods of remission and outbreak.
When you experience a herpes outbreak, symptoms could last for two to four weeks. Outbreaks usually become less frequent after your first infection, although people with a weak immune system may have more severe outbreaks more often.
How Can You Avoid Genital Herpes
Most women get genital herpes through sexual contactwith a person who has herpes sores. You can get thevirus without having sex. To avoid infection:
- Avoid skin-to-skin and sexual contact.
- Have safer sex:
- Reduce the number of sexual partners.
- Condoms, when used correctly, can reduce therisk of getting genital herpes. Each time you have sexuse a condom :
- Before vaginal sex
- Before oral sex
For more information, see Safer Sex.
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Where Does The Herpes Virus Live In The Body
The herpes simplex viruses are latent, meaning they can live in the body without causing symptoms. After the initial infection, the virus gets into the nerve roots and spreads to the sensory nerve ganglia, the junctions where nerves from different parts of the body come together. For the genital area, the ganglia are adjacent to the spinal cord in the lower back. For orofacial herpes , the ganglia are located behind the cheek bone.
Recognizing The Signs: The Prodrome
Early in the phase of reactivation , many people experience an itching, tingling, or painful feeling in the area where their recurrent lesions will develop. This sort of warning symptomcalled a prodromeoften comes a day or two before lesions appear. To be on the safe side, its best to assume virus is active during these times.
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Initial Outbreaks Of Hsv
If youve been infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2, youll usually go through an initial outbreak. Your first herpes outbreak is also referred to as the primary outbreak, which usually happens one to two weeks after your virus exposure, and tends to be the most severe physical experience from the virus.
Not everyone with HSV-1 or HSV-2 will have an initial outbreak. Some people are completely asymptomatic, which means they can be infected with the virus without experiencing any real herpes symptoms.
During a first herpes outbreak, most people experience the physical effects of herpes , plus additional flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, sore throat and general body aches.
Herpes outbreaks usually start within several days of exposure. If youre worried that youre going through an initial outbreak of herpes, the best thing to do is check your symptoms and talk to your doctor about testing and treatment options.
Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Primary Genital Herpes Outbreak
For people with symptoms, the first outbreak usually occurs in or around the genital area 2 days to 2 weeks after sexual exposure to the virus. The first signs are a tingling sensation in the affected areas and groups of small red bumps that develop into blisters. Over the next 2 to 3 weeks, more blisters can appear and rupture into painful open sores. The lesions eventually dry out, develop a crust, and heal rapidly without leaving a scar. Blisters in moist areas heal more slowly than those in dry areas. The sores may sometimes itch, but itching decreases as they heal.
About 40% of men and 70% of women develop other symptoms during initial outbreaks of genital herpes, such as flu-like discomfort, headache, muscle aches, and fever. Swollen glands may occur in the groin area or neck. Some women may have difficulty urinating and may, occasionally, require a urinary catheter. Women may also experience vaginal discharge.
Recurrent Genital Herpes Outbreak
In general, recurrences are much milder than the initial outbreak. The virus sheds for a much shorter period of time compared to an initial outbreak of 3 weeks. Women may have only minor itching, and the symptoms may be even milder in men.
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What Happens During An Outbreak
Genital herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. You catch it by having intimate contact with someone who has the virus.
In between episodes, most people donât know they have been infected by it. The virus remains in your nervous system and can be reactivated from time to time to give you symptoms. Outbreaks can occur in the genital area if the first infection was in the genitals. They cause crops of small painful blisters in the genital area and back passage . Herpes can also cause recurrent cold sores if the primary infection was around the mouth.
No one knows why outbreaks occur, although sunlight, physical illness, excess alcohol, and stress are all thought to be trigger factors. They often do become less frequent over time.
Recurrent episodes of genital herpes generally donât last as long as the first outbreak. They are sometimes preceded by itching or tingling in the genital area. Recurrent outbreaks usually last about 7-10 days, shorter than the primary infection which can last up to two weeks. They are also often milder than a primary infection but as R35506 found, the shallow ulcers left when the blisters break can still be quite painful.
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How Is Herpes Simplex Diagnosed
Healthcare providers may diagnose herpes simplex based on how the sores look. Your provider may take a sample from the sore. Laboratory analysis of the sample can confirm or rule out the herpes virus.
If you dont have sores, your healthcare provider can use a blood test to check for HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibody, a marker showing youve been exposed to the virus. The blood test doesnt show an active infection . But it informs your provider whether youve been exposed to the herpes virus in the past. If this is your first infection, you may not test positive for herpes if there hasnt been enough time for your body to develop antibodies. The HSV-1and HSV-2 antibody test may be repeated in eight to 12 weeks.
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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.