Keep It In Perspective
First and foremost, its important to keep in mind the relative importance of all this. If you were asked to describe yourself and highlight the most important aspects of you and your life, herpes wouldnt make the list. Its something you deal with, but it doesnt define who you are as a person.
In the grand scheme of things, genital herpes is an inconvenience for most couplesnothing more than that. Keep this fact in mind and keep your language positive. Your attitude will also have a lot of influence on how the news is received. If you are positive and upbeat, its more likely your partner will adopt the same attitude. Try not to let the anticipation of a possible negative reaction affect the delivery of your message.
Remember too that this should not be treated as a confession or some kind of admission that you have done something wrong. It is what it isa sexually transmitted infection. The bottom line is that sexual activity is a natural act that most everyone will have at some point in their lives. With sexual activity anywhere by anyone, there is some level of risk.
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.
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 youâre infected with the herpes virus.
If you have genital herpes, your previous sexual partners should get tested.
The doctor or nurse at the clinic can discuss this with you and help you tell your partners without letting them know itâs you who has the virus.
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Your Survival Guide To Dating With Herpes
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Dating with herpes can be a challenging experience. While the virus is very common , finding out that you have herpes can have a significant effect on your self-esteem and interest in meeting new people.
If youve recently found out that you have herpes, or recently found out you might be considering dating someone with HSV-1 or HSV-2, its vital that you stay positive. With the right combination of medication, conversation and understanding, its still very possible to form and maintain normal romantic relationships.
In this guide, well cover the essentials of dating with herpes, from coming to terms with the fact that you have the virus to disclosing herpes to your partner, educating them about the virus and reducing your risk of transmission.
For the most part, well focus on genital herpes , rather than oral herpes. However, the information provided below is relevant regardless of your herpes infection type.
Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should talk to your sex partner and let him or her know that you do and the risk involved. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely. Having sores or other symptoms of herpes can increase your risk of spreading the disease. Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partners.
You may have concerns about how genital herpes will impact your overall health, sex life, and relationships. It is best for you to talk to a health care provider about those concerns, but it also is important to recognize that while herpes is not curable, it can be managed with medication. Daily suppressive therapy for herpes can also lower your risk of spreading genital herpes to your sex partner. Be sure to discuss treatment options with your healthcare provider. Since a genital herpes diagnosis may affect how you will feel about current or future sexual relationships, it is important to understand how to talk to sexual partners about STDsexternal icon.
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How Long Do Sores From Herpes Simplex Last
If youre infected with HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes, you may notice tingling or burning around your mouth in the days before a cold sore appears. These blisters break open and ooze fluid before forming a crust. Usually, sores last for seven to 10 days.
If youre infected with HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes, your first outbreak may last between two to four weeks. Recurrent outbreaks usually last between three to seven days.
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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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.
Preparing To Tell Your Partner
What you say and how you say it is going to depend on your own personal style.
Your attitude will influence how this news is received. Psychologists have observed that people tend to behave the way you expect them to behave, and expecting rejection increases the chances of an unhappy outcome.
When I finally told my partner I had genital herpes, he was relieved, he thought it was something much worse… AH
A straightforward and positive conversation about herpes issues is the best approach and may be helped by forward planning.
How long should you know someone before you tell them? If it appears the two of you could end up in bed on the first date, thats probably a good time.
Ideally, though, its best to give it a few dates before telling. Allow the relationship to develop a little. Its going to be easier if the two of you enjoy a degree of comfort and trust in each others company. Its probably better to wait until you know and trust each other.
There are good and bad times to bring up the topic of herpes. Some of the less appropriate moments include the crowded bar or party scene, travel en route to a romantic weekend, or a talk when youve just finished having sex. Talking just prior to love-making is not a good idea either.
Bring up the issue when you are not already in the mood for sexual intimacy, when youre feeling good about yourself, and when you both have an opportunity to have a discussion.
Is It Safe To Take The Treatment For A Long Time
Aciclovir has been reported to cause no serious side-effects, even after years of use. A few people taking suppressive therapy do experience minor side-effects such as a headache, nausea and diarrhoea. If you have a problem, discuss this with your doctor.
Research to date shows that people with normal immune systems who are on oral antivirals for a long period do not develop virus resistance or clinical breakthrough. Also, there is little interaction with other drugs, e.g. the contraceptive pill is unaffected by Aciclovir.
When Should You Disclose Your Hsv Status
You dont have to bring up herpes the very first time you talk to someone new, but you should at some point before you have sex or exchange body fluids. You are more likely to have a positive reception to that news if you have built some sort of relationship. If you tell too early and theres no reason for this person to be invested in you, then you may get a negative response very quickly, Warren said.
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How Will A Partner React
Some may overreact. Some wont bat an eye. Since many people have genital herpes or have heard about it, many people wont be shocked or surprised. From the stories that weve heard at the Herpes Resource Center, most people will react well, and will appreciate your honesty and respect for the relationship and their wellbeing. While a negative reaction is possible, this doesnt necessarily mean a bad ending. If that person values you as an individual and is interested in a relationship, something as minor as herpes shouldnt stand in the way. If it does, then that person obviously wasnt a good fit in the first place.
Whatever happens, try to be flexible. Give your partner time to respond, think about what youve said and absorb the information. Remember when you first found out? It took you time to adjust, too.
You dont have to be overly concerned about protecting a partners feelings. And, you may want to reconsider a relationship where you have to do all the emotional work. A safer sex discussion might help you find out if this partner is a good candidate for your love and attention.
A few people are going to react negatively. It wont matter what you say or how you say it. Remember, these people are the exception not the rule. If a partner decides not to pursue a relationship with you because you have herpes, it is best to know this now. There are many people who will be attracted to you for who you arewith or without herpes.
Some Important Facts Affecting The Risk Of Herpes Transmission
- Herpes is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact
- The first outbreak is the most contagious
- There is a greater statistical chance of passing herpes when youâve been recently diagnosed whether you have symptoms or not
- Herpes infects skin areas that are thin and moist because itâs easier for the virus to penetrate those areas. For that reason, females are three times more likely to be infected than males
- Younger people having casual sex are more likely to contract herpes
- HSV-1 in the genital area recurs less often than HSV-2
- Being positive for HSV-2 gives some protection against getting HSV-1. The opposite is not true
- If a person with one type of herpes acquires a different type, the flare-up symptoms are milder
- Sex toys should not be shared. But if they are shared, they should be cleaned with water and soap before being used
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Lowering Partner Transmission Risks
Itâs entirely possible to enjoy sex and date around, while also managing your herpes condition. Youâve just got to pivot a little bit to make room for new considerations. Whoâs a stranger to a little course correction, eh?
Here are 3 of the best ways to lower the risk of passing herpes to your new partner.
â#1. Use condoms or dental dams even if you arenât having an outbreak.
âDoctors agree condoms are probably the best way to prevent herpes. Even if you arenât experiencing an HSV1 or HSV2 outbreak, you can still transmit the virus via asymptomatic shedding. So itâs best to use condoms at all times to lower your risks of partner-to-partner transmission.
â#2. Consider the use of suppressive therapy to lessen the recurrence of outbreaks and transmission risks.
âThere are studies that suggest the use of antiviral drugs as a suppressive therapy may lower recurrences and lower the risks of partner-to-partner transmission. The CDC states that suppressive therapy can lower recurrences by 70-80 percent.
âCombine #1 and #2 to cover your bases With the use of antiviral suppressive therapy and condoms combined, your chances of transmitting the herpes virus to your partner are pretty low.
Pay Attention To What You Eat
ASHA reports that some people believe foods containing the amino acid arginine, such as legumes and whole grains, can contribute to outbreaks. A few older studies, conducted in 1981 and 1987, showed a possible connection, but ASHA states there is no clinical evidence to support these studies. However, because triggers may vary based on the individual, keep track of the foods you eat to determine if there is a connection.
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How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Most people who have genital herpes have no symptoms, or have very mild symptoms. You may not notice mild symptoms or you may mistake them for another skin condition, such as a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people who have herpes do not know it.
Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. These symptoms are sometimes called having an outbreak. The first time someone has an outbreak they may also have flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, or swollen glands.
People who experience an initial outbreak of herpes can have repeated outbreaks, especially if they are infected with HSV-2. Repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although the infection stays in the body for the rest of your life, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time.
You should be examined by your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD. STD symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly genital discharge, burning when urinating, or bleeding between periods.
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Are Any Other Treatments Effective Against Genital Herpes
The antiviral drug Aciclovir was the first therapy which had been shown conclusively to be effective in treating genital herpes. New antiviral drugs have become available which work in a similar way to Aciclovir, are more effective and require less frequent dosing to treat or suppress the recurrence.
These are not available in New Zealand. Recent studies using an HSV-2 vaccine are showing some promise in both the prevention and transmission of HSV-2. However, these are still in the developmental research stage and will not be available commercially for some years.
Many people find that having a healthy diet, eating regularly and getting enough sleep are helpful in preventing recurrences.
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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 during oral sex and avoid sexual activity during an outbreak.
What Is Genital Herpes
As many as 1 in 8 sexually active Australian adults have genital herpes.
If you think you have genital herpes, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible to confirm the diagnosis and start treatment.
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What Is Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex is a virus that causes skin infections. The infection lasts your lifetime, and it causes painful or itchy sores and blisters that come and go. Herpes simplex virus typically doesnt cause severe problems. But it can be dangerous in infants and people with weakened immune systems. There are two types of herpes simplex:
- Herpes simplex 1 tends to affect your mouth or face. It causes cold sores. HSV-1 spreads through contact with saliva .
- Herpes simplex 2 is a sexually transmitted disease . It causes sores on skin that comes in contact with the genitals of an infected person.
Sometimes a herpes infection can affect other parts of your body, such as your eyes or other parts of your skin.