What Should I Do If I Have Genital Herpes
If you have genital herpes:
- See a doctor or nurse as soon as possible for testing and treatment.
- Take all of the medicine. Even if symptoms go away, you need to finish all of the antiviral medicine.
- Tell your sex partner so they can be tested and treated if necessary.
- Avoid any sexual contact while you are being treated for genital herpes or while you have an outbreak.
- Remember that genital herpes is a lifelong disease. Even though you may not have a genital herpes outbreak for long periods of time, you can still pass the virus to another person at any time. Talk with your doctor or nurse about how to prevent passing the virus to another person.
How Do I Know If I Have Herpes
If a person has an active herpes outbreak with visible sores, a physician or specialist such as a dermatologist can make a diagnosis based on a physical examination. If the physical symptoms alone are not enough, a doctor may take a swab of the sore and send it to a lab for analysis.
If a person does not have physical sores but is concerned, blood tests are available.
People can also take at-home herpes tests, though they should seek a consultation with a doctor to confirm a diagnosis and seek treatment.
How Can Herpes Be Prevented
Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of transmitting or acquiring genital herpes because herpes virus shedding can occur in areas that are not covered by a condom.25,26
The surest way to avoid transmission of STDs, 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 for STDs and is known to be uninfected.
Persons with herpes should abstain from sexual activity with partners when herpes lesions 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.
Daily treatment with valacyclovir decreases the rate of HSV-2 transmission in discordant, heterosexual couples in which the source partner has a history of genital HSV-2 infection. 27 Such couples should be encouraged to consider suppressive antiviral therapy as part of a strategy to prevent transmission, in addition to consistent condom use and avoidance of sexual activity during recurrences.
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Pain And/or Itching In Or Around The Blisters
Lesions are usually very painful to touchespecially during the first herpes outbreak, which tends to be more severe. “The main thing that brings women into the office with herpes is pain,” said Dr. Shirazian.
Bumps that you find just by chance when sudsing up in the shower or toweling off probably aren’t herpes. “Herpes lesions will make themselves known and felt,” said Dr. Shirazian. They can also itch, especially as they begin to scab over and heal.
The Different Types Of Herpes
Herpes, or the herpes simplex virus, is a highly contagious and common virus that causes cold sores and genital herpes. You may become infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 or herpes simplex virus type 2 . Each type of virus causes unique symptoms, so its important to understand their differences.
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Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Many people who have genital herpes may not be aware they have the infection, because they may not have any symptoms.
The first episode of herpes can cause considerable pain and distress. Symptoms of the first episode may include:
- flu-like symptoms such as feeling unwell, headaches and pains in the back and legs, with or without enlarged glands in the groin
- small blisters around the genitals these break open to form shallow, painful ulcers, which scab over and heal after one to two weeks
- small cracks in the skin with or without an itch or tingling
- redness or a distinct rash
- some people also have considerable pain and swelling in the genital area, and hence may have additional pain and difficulty passing urine.
You Can Get Herpes From Oral Sex
When someone has a cold sore on their mouth or simply an oral infection with no sores present, and is the giver of oral sex to someone else, the virus can be spread from the mouth to the genitals. The receiver of the oral sex might then get genital herpes type 1. The virus type doesn’t change ,but the cold sore virus will simply live, and possibly recur, in the area of the genitals.
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Local Planned Parenthood Health Center
Planned Parenthood health centers also offer STI testing. They receive government reimbursements and grants from public programs, such as Medicaid and Title X, which means people can get STI testing and treatment for free or at a very low cost, depending on their income, demographics, and eligibility.
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Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should talk to your sex partner about their risk. 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 health, sex life, and relationships. While herpes is not curable, it is important to know that it is manageable with medicine. Daily suppressive therapy can lower your risk of spreading the virus to others. Talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns and treatment options.
A genital herpes diagnosis may affect how you will feel about current or future sexual relationships. Knowing how to talk to sexual partners about STDs is important.
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Treatment For Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Patients who have a bacterial STD such as gonorrhea or chlamydia will receive a prescription for antibiotics. It is critical to follow the instructions so the antibiotics kill the infection. Patients should undergo a second round of testing three months after finishing the antibiotics to ensure the infection did not reappear. If it reoccurs, patients must undergo a second round of treatment.
Genital herpes is a viral STD and cannot be cured. However, antiviral drugs limit the number of outbreaks and also reduce the symptoms. These drugs also make infected patients less likely to pass the disease to sexual partners. Antiviral drugs do not completely eliminate the risk, though, so safe sex is necessary.
HIV is also a virus, but instead of antiviral drugs, the doctor will likely treat it with antiretroviral therapy. The patient will take a series of HIV medications. The medications reduce symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Antiretroviral therapy also reduces the risk of transmitting the disease to others, although it is still possible.
When To See A Doctor
Because a person might not have symptoms even if they have herpes, it can be difficult to know when to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.
Planned Parenthood recommends that a person see a healthcare professional as soon as they notice sores on or around their genitals. Other STIs, such as syphilis, can have similar symptoms but require different treatment. The American Sexual Health Association also recommends seeing a doctor to get a culture of any lesion or cold sore a person notices.
People may wish to take an at-home STI test before seeing a doctor. However, at-home tests should not replace professional diagnosis and treatment.
- applying aloe vera gel to sores
- applying petroleum jelly to the affected areas
- wearing loose clothing to avoid irritation
- refraining from sexual activity, even with protection, until symptoms have gone
- applying a cream or lotion to the urethra before urinating, such as one that contains lidocaine
Some people find that using ice packs help. However, never apply ice directly to the skin wrap it in a cloth first.
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Which Std Tests Should I Get
If you are sexually active, getting tested for STDs is one of the most important things you can do to protect your health. Make sure you have an open and honest conversation about your sexual history and STD testing with your doctor and ask whether you should be tested for STDs. If you are not comfortable talking with your regular health care provider about STDs, there are many clinics that provide confidential and free or low-cost testing.
Below is a brief overview of STD testing recommendations. STD screening information for healthcare providers can be found here.
You can quickly find a place to be tested for STDs by entering your zip code in the form below.
Find an STD testing site near you.
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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How Is Genital Herpes Spread
- Saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection
- Genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection
- Skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes or
- Skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes.
You also can get genital herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or is unaware of their infection. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a partner with oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools. You also will not get it from touching objects, such as silverware, soap, or towels.
If you have more questions about herpes, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
What About Mental Health
We also know that due to the stigma, learning that you are positive for herpes can impact your mental health. Research shows that people diagnosed with herpes are more likely to become depressed, withdraw socially, and experience reduced self-esteem. The shame associated with contracting herpes can make a big impact on a persons quality of life. This is despite the fact that its a common virus that affects people of all walks of life, all social circles, and all socioeconomic classes. It not only affects people who have casual sex partners but also people who limit their sexual behavior to monogamous relationships. It can even affect people who have only had one partner.
I can almost guarantee you know multiple people who have genital herpes even if no one has ever told you. Also, many cases of genital herpes occur as a result of oral sex from someone who has a history of cold sores .
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Scientists Learn Why Even Treated Genital Herpes Sores Boost The Risk Of Hiv Infection
New research helps explain why infection with herpes simplex virus-2 , which causes genital herpes, increases the risk for HIV infection even after successful treatment heals the genital skin sores and breaks that often result from HSV-2.
Scientists have uncovered details of an immune-cell environment conducive to HIV infection that persists at the location of HSV-2 genital skin lesions long after they have been treated with oral doses of the drug acyclovir and have healed and the skin appears normal. These findings are published in the advance online edition of Nature Medicine on Aug. 2.
Led by Lawrence Corey, M.D., and Jia Zhu, Ph.D., of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Anna Wald, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of Washington, both in Seattle, the study was funded mainly by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases with support from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, both part of the National Institutes of Health.
The findings of this study mark an important step toward understanding why HSV-2 infection increases the risk of acquiring HIV and why acyclovir treatment does not reduce that risk, says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. Understanding that even treated HSV-2 infections provide a cellular environment conducive to HIV infection suggests new directions for HIV prevention research, including more powerful anti-HSV therapies and ideally an HSV-2 vaccine.
How To Prevent Herpes
Since herpes is commonly spread from sexual contact with an infected person, the most effective prevention method is abstinence.
However, many people engage in sex at some point in their lives. Therefore, having safe sex is essential. You can use protection, such as dental dams or condoms. Make sure you use protection even when you don’t have symptoms or sores.
Herpes is also found on body areas not protected by condoms like labia, butt cheeks, and upper thighs. Do not engage in sexual contact during an outbreak.
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How Painful Is Herpes Simplex
Some people experience very mild genital herpes symptoms or no symptoms at all. Frequently, people infected with the virus don’t even know they have it. However, when it causes symptoms, it can be described as extremely painful. This is especially true for the first outbreak, which is often the worst. Outbreaks are described as aches or pains in or around the genital area or burning, pain, or difficulty urinating. Some people experience discharge from the or .
Oral herpes lesions usually cause tingling and burning just prior to the breakout of the blisters. The blisters themselves can also be painful.
How Herpes Outbreaks Occur
Once it enters a human cell, the HSV virus penetrates the cell’s nucleus and begins the process of replication. Even though cells may be infected, you probably will not experience any symptoms at this stage.
During the initial infection, the virus is transported through nerve cells to nerve-branching points, known as ganglia. There, the virus will stay in an inactive, dormant state, neither replicating nor presenting any signs that it’s even there.
On occasion, the dormant virus may suddenly reactivate, starting the replication process anew. When this happens, the virus will travel back through the nerve to the surface of the skin. With this, many of the infected skin cells are killed, causing blisters to form. The eruption of these blisters creates the characteristic ulcers that are recognized as cold sores or genital herpes.
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How Do I Get Tested
Thats simple. If you are experiencing symptoms, speak to your doctor or visit your local sexual health centre to test for herpes. The doctor will need to do a swab of the blisters or sores and usually offer a complete STI screen. If your test returns a positive diagnosis it is important to seek treatment immediately.
How Long Does An Std Take To Show Up
If you might have been exposed to an STD, you might be thinking when does symptoms of STDs start? When symptoms start can vary, depending on the illness. Most will appear within 2 to 3 weeks of transmission, but some can take up to 6 weeks. This is why STD testing is recommended around 2 to 4 weeks after potential exposure.
Keep in mind even if you do not have symptoms, you may still be able to transmit the disease to others, so you may want to take precautions or avoid sexual contact until you can get tested.
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Can I Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes, you can breastfeed if you have genital herpes, but not if you have a herpes sore on one of your breasts. If you have genital herpes, it is possible to spread the infection to any part of your breast, including your nipple and areola.
If you have any genital herpes sores on one or both of your breasts:
- You can keep breastfeeding as long as your baby or pumping equipment does not touch a herpes sore.
- Do not breastfeed from the breast with sores. Herpes is spread through contact with sores and can be dangerous to a newborn baby.
- Pump or hand-express your milk from the breast with sores until the sores heal. Pumping will help keep up your milk supply and prevent your breast from getting overly full and painful. You can store your milk to give to your baby in a bottle for another feeding. But if parts of your pump also touch the sore while pumping, throw the milk away.
Is It Safe To Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes as long as there isnt an open lesion on your chest or breast. If you have an active outbreak while breastfeeding, its possible to spread the infection to your nipples through touch. Careful hand-washing can prevent this spread. You shouldnt nurse from a breast that has herpes sores. You can pump breast milk until the sores heal. Dont give your baby expressed breast milk if the pump comes into contact with an open sore.
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