How To Get Rid Of Herpes The Conventional Way
For most people with herpes, the virus typically represents nothing more than an inconvenience however, the real risk is for immuno-compromised patients who cant easily manage infections. In these patients, such as those with HIV/AIDS, herpes simplex infection is associated with increased morbidity and mortality.
As of 2017, there is not currently a herpes vaccine available to prevent HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Doctors sometimes prescribe medications to help keep the herpes virus suppressed or to speed up healing of cold sores by reducing bacteria that can cause infections. Some medications that are now used to control herpes include:
- Nucleoside analogues and antiviral medications
- Creams/ointment to help lower pain and inflammation near the site of sores
- Over-the-counter painkillers to reduce aches, tenderness or fever
However, its important to understand that even with early detection and prescription medications, either form of the herpes virus cannot be totally cured so transmission is always still possible. Medications for viruses dont always work long term and are not a cure-all.
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 Are The Causes Of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the HSV virus, usually during genital or oral sex. It can also be spread through kissing, foreplay or non-penetrative sex.
- HSV1 commonly causes cold sores on the lips or face.
- HSV2 causes most genital herpes.
The HSV virus is most easily spread when there are blisters or sores, but it can still be passed even if a person has no current blisters or sores or other symptoms.
You cannot get genital herpes from things like hugging, swimming pools or toilet seats.
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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.
How Long After A Herpes Outbreak Is It Still Contagious
You are most contagious right before, and during an outbreak, when the viral load is at its highest. It can take a few weeks for sores to completely heal, and for the virus to become dormant. When the virus lays dormant in your body, there is a much lower chance of passing herpes on to sexual partners. Because of the nature of the virus, itâs not possible to know whether you are contagious or not. Even after an outbreak has healed, there is no way to know if another one is on the way. If it is, you will be contagious. If your outbreaks follow a pattern of when they appear, you may have an indication as to whether or not an outbreak is likely. However, this is not accurate. Although you may not be displaying symptoms, you may be contagious. Over time, a person who has had herpes for a long time is less contagious than a person who has recently been infected.
Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.
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Testing For Genital Herpes
If you think you may have genital herpes you should make an appointment with your GP or local sexual health services.
If there are symptoms present such as blisters, sores and ulcers, your doctor or nurse may be able to make a diagnosis straight away.
If you have visible blisters, your doctor or nurse may take a swab for testing, to check if this is herpes and what type. This swab can also test for another STI which causes blisters called syphilis.
The genital herpes swab tests are very reliable, though if the ulcer is too dry then it may be less likely to find a positive result.
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How Long Do Herpes Outbreaks Last
The symptoms of herpes outbreaks can take up to a week to appear after contracting the infection. Once the herpes simplex virus becomes active, it begins to multiply, eventually coming to the surface of the skin along the nerve paths. Due to the nature of the bodyâs neural pathways, recurrences of genital herpes may not always present in the same place â although they will remain in the same area.
Genital herpes usually starts off with redness in the affected area, which is followed by small bumps that progress into fluid-filled blisters. Over time, the blisters will burst and become shallow skin ulcers which will then crust over, healing gradually within a couple of weeks.
The initial genital herpes flare-up is often the most painful, causing fever, fatigue and body aches. It is not uncommon for the first infection to last up to three weeks.
However, subsequent outbreaks tend to present fewer and less intense symptoms, and the frequency of break-outs can vary. A typical herpes outbreak will last between one to two weeks. Some individuals go weeks or months between flare-ups, while others potentially endure back-to-back episodes.
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Understanding Herpes With H Hunter Handsfield Md
Herpes expert H. Hunter Handsfield, MD, explains the basics about genital herpes, including the difference between genital HSV-1 and HSV-2 infection, testing options and the importance of knowing virus type, and the three-prong strategy for prevention. See more herpes videos at sexualhealthTV.com.
Have a question about herpes youd like Dr. Handsfield or our other experts to answer? Visit our Ask the Experts page to learn how.
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Human Papillomavirus In Women
42% of US population aged 18-59 had genital herpes , most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV. There are over 100 varieties of HPV, some strains cause warts while others may lead to an increased risk of certain cancers. The HPV vaccine can help prevent more serious and high risk strains of HPV.
That said, many women do not experience symptoms and can be diagnosed with a regular Pap test by a doctor.
Unfortunately, HPV cannot be cured but the body is typically able to fight it off and in most cases symptoms will go away on their own. When HPV does not go away, it can cause more serious health problems including:
- Cervical cancer
- Oropharyngeal cancer
- Recurrent respiratory papillomatosis
If you think you have HPV, schedule an appointment with a PlushCare physician who can order you an HPV test.
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Suppressive Therapy For Recurrent Hsv
Suppressive therapy reduces frequency of genital herpes recurrences by 70%80% among patients who have frequent recurrences . Persons receiving such therapy often report having experienced no symptomatic outbreaks. Suppressive therapy also is effective for patients with less frequent recurrences. Long-term safety and efficacy have been documented among patients receiving daily acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir . Quality of life is improved for many patients with frequent recurrences who receive suppressive therapy rather than episodic treatment . Providers should discuss with patients on an annual basis whether they want to continue suppressive therapy because frequency of genital HSV-2 recurrence diminishes over time for many persons. However, neither treatment discontinuation nor laboratory monitoring is necessary because adverse events and development of HSV antiviral resistance related to long-term antiviral use are uncommon.
Valacyclovir 500 mg orally 2 times/day for 3 daysOR
Valacyclovir 1 gm orally once daily for 5 days
*Acyclovir 400 mg orally 3 times/day is also effective, but are not recommended because of frequency of dosing.
What Happens At A Sexual Health Clinic
The doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic will:
- ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners
- use a small cotton bud to take some fluid from 1 of your blisters or sores for testing
The test cannot:
- be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores
- tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from
Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after you’re infected with the herpes virus.
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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 it’s 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 don’t 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.
What To Look Out For
“Genital herpes outbreaks can differ in severity. While some people encounter multiple painful blisters, some only have one single sore.” – Dr Zenon Andreou
“Genital herpes outbreaks can differ in severity. While some people encounter multiple painful blisters, some only have one single sore.”
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Can Genital Herpes Cause Other Problems
For most women, genital herpes does not usually cause serious health problems.
Women with HIV can have severe herpes outbreaks that are long-lasting. Herpes also may play a role in the spread of HIV. Herpes sores can make it easier for HIV to get into your body. Also, herpes can make people who are HIV-positive more likely to spread the infection to someone else.
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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Does A Cold Sore On My Mouth Mean I Have Genital Herpes
No, a cold sore on your mouth usually means you have herpes simplex virus type 1 . You can get HSV-1 by kissing someone or sharing utensils, towels, razors, or lipstick with someone who has HSV-1.
HSV-1 cannot turn into HSV-2 , but you can get a cold sore on your mouth from HSV-2 if you give oral sex to someone with HSV-2. Cold sores caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2 are contagious. You can spread it to other people or other parts of your body if you touch an open sore and then touch another part of your body. That means if you have a cold sore and give oral sex to someone, that person will get the herpes virus on his or her genitals.
Avoid touching your cold sore as much as possible. If you touch your cold sore, wash your hands right away to avoid spreading the infection to other parts of your body or other people.
Remember: The Stigma Is Out Of Proportion
The stigma surrounding genital herpes is far more intense than the infection deserves. Genital herpes has been around for millennia, and HSV-2 is the most common STI in the United States. In fact, according to the WHO, genital herpes affects over 400 million people worldwide.
The genital herpes stigma prevails largely because people don’t understand it. Many assume they can catch genital herpes from a toilet seat or other common surfaces. They aren’t educated about how HSV-2 spreads or affects the body. Others don’t know that genital herpes remains dormant for months or years at a time, allowing those infected with the herpes virus to live completely normal lives.
Overall, genital herpes can be a highly manageable condition, with few physical side effects and no fatalities to date. In fact, you may not even notice the virus at all if your outbreaks are infrequent or mild. Some people find that they don’t experience symptoms until years after their first outbreak!
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What Is Life Like For Someone Who Has Genital Herpes
The virus that causes genital herpes stays inside your body forever. While many people carry this virus, some dont know that they have it because they never have an outbreak.
If you have an outbreak, taking an antiviral medicine can shorten the outbreak and relieve symptoms. Some people have several outbreaks. For most people, the outbreaks become less severe and occur less often with time.
Anyone who has been infected with the virus, however, can spread the virus to others during sex. Even if you never have an outbreak, you can still spread the virus.
Related AAD resources
Centers for Disease Control. Genital Herpes – CDC Fact Sheet . Last accessed December 19, 2016.
Fatahzadeh M and Schwartz RA. Human herpes simplex virus infections: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, symptomatology, diagnosis, and management. J Am Acad Dermatol 2007 57:737-63.
Madkan V Sra K, et al. Human herpesviruses. In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. . Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:1075-6.
Marques AR, Straus SE, Herpes simplex. In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatricks Dermatology in General Medicine . McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 1199-1204.
US Preventive Task Force. Serologic screening for genital herpes infection: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2016 316:2525-30.
Learn How To Manage Outbreaks
While there’s no cure for genital herpes, there is a lot that can be done to reduce the length and severity of outbreaks.
A number of proven medications speed up the healing process and reduce discomfort. Antiviral medications like acyclovir and valacyclovir offer a simple way to control and minimize herpes outbreaks.
Start taking acyclovir as soon as you notice the first signs of an emerging outbreak. This medication stops the herpes virus from growing and spreading during an outbreak, though it can’t remove the virus from your body completely. Most people experience relief within just a few days.
Improving lifestyle habits may also prevent future herpes outbreaks:
- Stay rested to support a strong immune system
- Eat nutritious foods to support your body’s innate healing response
- Use the Luminance RED
The Luminance RED nourishes the skin with red light, which is metabolized to accelerate the body’s healing process and to strengthen its defenses against future attacks. Regular use of the Luminance RED not only shortens the healing time of active outbreaks, but can also prevent future outbreaks altogether!
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How Do I Talk To My Sex Partners
Telling them about your condition can be hard. Take some time to learn what you can and understand your own feelings first. You may be more at ease to talk openly.
Some people you tell might not think its such a big deal. Others will have strong feelings about it.
You cant control how anyone else reacts. All you can do is share what you know, answer questions, and give them time to think about it.
When To Call A Doctor
Check in with your doctor or healthcare provider if you notice or experience any of the following:
- Worsening outbreak symptoms in spite of medicine or proper management
- Sores that do not heal after 2-4 weeks
- Frequent outbreaks
- An outbreak during pregnancy
If you have never had genital herpes before, see a medical provider for an accurate diagnosis and treatment options.
Subsequent outbreaks of herpes do not always require medical care unless you notice any complications, problems healing, or become pregnant.
While there is no cure for genital herpes, a medical provider can recommend OTC and other treatments that may speed the healing time of sores, reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and relieve discomfort.
Genital herpes may feel like an embarrassing problem, but you deserve to be comfortable.
A medical doctor will not shame you, but will help you to get proper care and find relief.
You can even chat with a K Health doctor right in the app, without leaving your home.
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Can Women Who Have Sex With Women Get Genital Herpes
Yes. It is possible to get genital herpes, or any other STI, if you are a woman who has sex only with women.
Talk to your partner about her sexual history before having sex, and ask your doctor or nurse about getting tested if you have signs or symptoms of genital herpes. Use a dental dam during oral sex and avoid sexual activity during an outbreak.
What Do Genital Herpes Symptoms Look Like
Other symptoms can include:
- tingling or burning around the genitals
- feeling unwell, with aches, pains and flu-like symptoms
- unusual vaginal discharge in women.
Many people with genital herpes wont get any symptoms, or may get symptoms for the first time months or even years after they were infected.
For most people, the blisters go away within one to two weeks. Although the outbreaks clear-up by themselves, the virus stays in the body. This means that people usually get blisters again which is called having a recurrent outbreak. Outbreaks usually become shorter and less severe over time.
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