Herpes Is A Common Infection
Herpes is a super-common infection that stays in your body for life. More than half of Americans have oral herpes, and about 1 out of 6 Americans has genital herpes. So chances are a few people you know are living with herpes.
Theres no cure for herpes, but medication can ease your symptoms and lower your chances of giving the virus to other people. And the good news is, outbreaks usually become less frequent over time, and even though herpes can sometimes be uncomfortable and painful, its not dangerous. People with herpes have relationships, have sex, and live perfectly healthy lives.
When To Seek Medical Care
If you develop new painful sores in or around the genitals, see a physician as soon as possible because treatment is much more effective if started early.Recurrent outbreaks of genital HSV usually do not require a visit to the doctor. However, because some people have milder forms of herpes, you should also see a doctor for any recurring rash in the genital area, even if you think it is from bug bites, jock itch, or any other condition.If you have an underlying medical condition such as cancer or HIV, if you have undergone organ transplantation, or if you are pregnant, you are at higher risk for more serious complications from genital herpes. Seek medical advice as soon as possible if you develop any lesions.Genital herpes can also be passed to a newborn baby during delivery through contact with a lesion in the mother’s genital tract. Be sure to speak with your obstetrician about the possible risk to your baby if you have genital herpes.
Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster
Like HSV-1 and HSV-2, shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. The shingles rash usually shows up on the back, side, abdomen , neck and face. It is often only on half of your body, following the pattern of your nerves. See your healthcare provider if you have a new rash and suspect you may have shingles.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Herpes simplex is a virus. Once you have herpes, its a lifelong condition. A herpes infection can lead to outbreaks , but youll also have times when you have no symptoms. The main sign of herpes is sores that appear on the infected skin. Some people choose not to treat herpes, especially if symptoms are mild. Others take antiviral medications to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.
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How Does Genital Herpes Affect A Pregnant Woman And Her Baby
It is crucial that pregnant women infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2 go to prenatal care visits and tell their doctor if they have ever experienced any symptoms of, been exposed to, or been diagnosed with genital herpes. Sometimes genital herpes infection can lead to miscarriage or premature birth. Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child resulting in a potentially fatal infection . It is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy.
A woman with genital herpes may be offered antiviral medication from 36 weeks gestation through delivery to reduce the risk of an outbreak. At the time of delivery a woman with genital herpes should undergo careful examination. If herpes symptoms are present at delivery, a cesarean delivery is usually performed.
Have You Met With Your Doctor Yet
Do you believe you have herpes? Dont live in fear and take action to protect yourself and others.
If you are sexually active, it is important to have a regular sexual health check-up as there is a chance you can pick up an STI. These dont always cause symptoms, but they can put you at greater risk of long-term health problems.
Although your sex life isnt anyone elses business, its important to be honest with your doctor, otherwise, youre doing yourself, and possibly your sexual partners, a disservice.
Need help finding a doctor who is right for you? Check out our doctor profile videos and patient reviews.
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How Common Is Herpes Simplex 1
HSV-1 is extremely common. In 2012 the World Health Organization estimated that a staggering 67% of the population was infected with the virus, and 140 million of those infected were estimated to have genital HSV-1. Oral HSV-1 is most commonly contracted during childhood after receiving kisses from family members who carry the virus. Cases of oral HSV-1 and genital HSV-1 are on the rise.
Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe
Most HSV infections are easy for physicians to diagnose. On occasion, however, a swab from the infected skin may be sent to the laboratory to confirm the diagnosis. A blood test may also be performed to determine if you have been exposed to the virus. Your doctor may also recommend a blood test for your partner to determine if he/she has been exposed to herpes in the past, or is at risk for contracting the virus.Untreated HSV infections will go away on their own, but antiviral medications can reduce symptoms, shorten the duration of outbreaks, and decrease the chance of spreading the virus. These medicines are most effective if taken during the first 24 hours of symptoms. If you experience burning and tingling before the appearance of blisters, you can start the medicine as soon as you feel these symptoms. Unfortunately, these medicines do not cure HSV infections.Treatment for primary and recurrent HSV infections are oral antiviral medications, such as acyclovir , valacyclovir , and famciclovir . Each of these medications is equally effective and usually taken for 710 days for primary infections and 15 days for recurrent infections. Talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for these medicines for possible future outbreaks, as they are most effective if taken early on.More severe HSV infections may require additional medications such as:
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What Is The Link Between Genital Herpes And Hiv
How can genital herpes be prevented?
Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of genital herpes, because herpes symptoms can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom. However, outbreaks can occur in areas that are not covered by a condom.
The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including genital herpes, is to abstain from sexual contact, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.
Persons with herpes should abstain from sexual activity with partners when sores or other symptoms of herpes are present. It is important to know that even if a person does not have any symptoms, he or she can still infect sex partners. Sex partners of infected persons should be advised that they may become infected and they should use condoms to reduce the risk. Sex partners can seek testing to determine if they are infected with HSV.
Counseling and help for those who have genital herpes is often available from local health departments. The American Social Health Association maintains a HerpesResourceCenter. For information on its programs, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to the center at
Where can I get more information?
Illinois Department of Public Health
HIV/STD Hotline 800-243-2437
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention www.cdc.gov/std/ CDC-INFO Hotline
What Else Should I Know
Genital herpes is a lifelong condition, but there are ways to manage it. If your teen has genital herpes, you can help them learn to live with the infection. Talk to your teen about:
- taking medicines to stop outbreaks or make them less frequent and less severe
- learning how to reduce the risk of spreading genital herpes by taking medicines, always using a condom during sex, and avoiding sex during outbreaks
- talking to partners before starting a sexual relationship
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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.
Who Might Get Herpes Simplex
People of any age can contract herpes simplex. You are more likely to get the virus if you:
- Were assigned female at birth.
- Have had multiple sex partners.
- Started having sex at a young age.
- Have a history of any sexually transmitted infection .
- Have a weakened immune system.
- Dont use condoms for intercourse and dental dams for oral sex.
Who gets HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes?
Anyone can get HSV-1. Most people contract HSV-1 during childhood. It spreads when an adult who has the virus has close contact with a child, such as when a family member kisses a child.
Who gets HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes?
Genital herpes affects sexually active teens and adults of all genders and races. It can spread if you have multiple sexual partners and dont use condoms or dental dams.
People assigned female at birth are more at risk. Delicate vaginal tissue can tear, making it easier for the infection to get in. Black people who were AFAB are especially vulnerable, with an estimated 1 in 2 people AFAB between the ages of 14 and 49 infected with HSV-2.
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Use This Treatment To Speed Up Healing
Traditional genital herpes treatment options dont always offer the lasting relief you need, especially during a painful outbreak. Thats why the Luminance RED stands out from other over-the-counter genital herpes treatments.
The Luminance RED is an FDA-registered device you can use to shine medically-optimized wavelengths of light on herpes sores or in areas where sores often form. High-powered, optimized wavelengths of light can shorten the healing time and reduce the pain of genital sores.
For example, clinical data shows that high-powered light treatment reduces healing time from 8.2 days to 1.8 days and extends the time before the next recurrence from 124 days to 455 days!
Treatment with light is a proven and simple way to discreetly take control of your genital herpes.
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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How Is Herpes Simplex Treated
Although there is no cure for herpes, treatments can relieve the symptoms. Medication can decrease the pain related to an outbreak and can shorten healing time. They can also decrease the total number of outbreaks. Drugs including Famvir, Zovirax, and Valtrex are among the drugs used to treat the symptoms of herpes. Warm baths may relieve the pain associated with genital sores.
There Are 2 Herpes Simplex Viruses That Can Cause Infection
- One causes most genital herpes.
- The other virus can also cause genital herpes but more often causes blisters of the mouth and lips.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 1 out of 6 people ages 14 to 49have genital herpes.
Women are more easily infected with herpes than men.
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Genital Herpes Treatment In Pregnancy
You may be offered antiviral treatment:
- to treat outbreaks in pregnancy
- from 36 weeks to reduce the chance of an outbreak during birth
- from diagnosis until the birth if you first get herpes after 28 weeks of pregnancy
Many women with genital herpes have a vaginal delivery. You may be offered a caesarean, depending on your circumstances.
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.
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Where Do Symptoms Appear
When a person has genital herpes, the virus lies dormant in the bundle of nerves at the base of the spine. When the virus reactivates , it travels nerve paths to the surface of the skin, sometimes causing an outbreak.
Genital herpes, regardless of whether it is HSV-1 or HSV-2, does not cause symptoms on the mouth or face. For more on oral-facial herpes, see the oral herpes page.
Herpes Simplex Virus 1
Herpes Simplex Virus 1 is a strain of the herpes simplex virus. People may believe that HSV-1 is the same thing as oral herpes, and that it always causes cold sores to appear on the mouth or facial region, but thats not always true. HSV-1 can be acquired in the genital region, creating genital HSV-1.
Similarly, HSV-2 is popularly known as genital herpes, but HSV-2 can be acquired in the facial region creating oral HSV-2. Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are nearly identical they share 50% of their DNA and produce almost indistinguishable symptoms. This is why its important to get tested for both strains of the disease.
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How Can You Get Hsv
All strains of the herpes virus are extremely contagious and can be spread through saliva, sores, and skin-to-skin contact where the outbreaks occur. The herpes virus sheds, releasing traces of the virus periodically, even without visible symptoms. This means that its able to be contracted even when sores are not present. However, the virus is most contagious when sores are present.
Im Pregnant How Could Genital Herpes Affect My Baby
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, prenatal care visits are very important. Some research suggest that a genital herpes infection may lead to miscarriage or make it more likely to deliver your baby too early. You can pass herpes to your unborn child before birth, but it more commonly passes during delivery. This can lead to a deadly infection in your baby . It is important that you avoid getting genital herpes during pregnancy. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had a genital herpes diagnosis or symptoms. Also tell them about any possible exposure to genital herpes.
If you have genital herpes, you may need to take anti-herpes medicine towards the end of your pregnancy. This medicine may reduce your risk of having signs or symptoms of genital herpes when you deliver. At the time of delivery, your healthcare provider should carefully examine you for herpes sores. If you have signs or symptoms of genital herpes at delivery, a C-section is likely to occur.
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Suppressive Therapy For Recurrences
To suppress outbreaks, treatment requires taking pills daily on a long-term basis. Acyclovir and famciclovir are taken twice a day for suppression. Valacyclovir is taken once a day. The doses for these antiviral drugs are reduced in people with impaired renal function.
Suppressive treatment can reduce the frequency of outbreak recurrences by 70% to 80%. It is generally recommended for people who have frequent recurrences . Because herpes recurrences often diminish over time, you should discuss annually with your provider whether you should stay with drug therapy or discontinue it.
There is some evidence that valacyclovir may help prevent herpes transmission, particularly in situations where one heterosexual partner has HSV-2 and the other partner does not. However, this drug does not completely prevent transmission. While taking any suppressive therapy for genital herpes, it is still important to regularly use latex condoms and to avoid any sexual activity during recurrences.
Genital Herpes: Frequently Asked Questions
What is genital herpes?
How common is genital herpes?
World Health Organization estimates that in 2012, 19.2 million new cases of HSV-2 infection happened among adults and youth aged 1549 years worldwide, with around 417 million cases already existing. The highest number of cases are found in WHO African Region and the WHO Region of the Americas. The reason the number of existing cases is so high is because there is no cure for herpes. In the region of the Americas there were around 2.2 million new cases of HSV-2 infections among females and 1.3 million among men in 2012, adding to the already around 45.2 million existing cases for females and 25.1 million existing cases for males.
How is genital herpes spread?
How is genital herpes prevented?
What are the symptoms of genital herpes?
What are the problems of genital herpes?
How does having genital herpes affect a pregnant woman and her baby?
How is genital herpes diagnosed?
What is the treatment for genital herpes?
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