What Causes Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex viruses spread from person to person through close contact. You can get a herpes simplex virus from touching a herpes sore. Most people, however, get herpes simplex from an infected person who does not have sores. Doctors call this asymptomatic viral shedding.
How people get herpes around their mouth
A person with HSV-1 can pass it to someone else by:
Touching the persons skin, such as pinching a childs cheek
Sharing objects such as silverware, lip balm, or a razor
How people get herpes on their genitals
You can get genital herpes after coming into contact with HSV-1 or HSV-2. Most people get genital herpes from HSV-2, which they get during sex. If someone has a cold sore and performs oral sex, this can spread HSV-1 to the genitals, and cause herpes sores on the genitals.
Mothers can give the herpes virus to their baby during childbirth. If the baby is born during the mother’s first episode of genital herpes, the baby can have serious problems.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Herpes Simplex
You can reduce your risk of contracting HSV-1 by avoiding physical contact with someone who has a cold sore. People can still spread HSV-1 when cold sores arent present, but its less likely.
If someone has an active HSV-1 infection, avoid:
- Sharing utensils, cups, lip balms or other personal care products.
- Touching the skin near their mouth.
If youre sexually active, you can take these steps to protect yourself and others from the herpes virus and other STIs:
- Be monogamous with one sexual partner or limit your number of partners.
- Get tested for STIs and complete any prescribed treatment.
- Tell your sexual partners if you have genital herpes so they can get tested.
- Use condoms during intercourse and dental dams during oral sex.
Wash your hands often if you have an outbreak or are around someone with symptoms.
If your sexual partner has genital herpes, these actions can lower your risk of getting the virus:
- Dont have sex when your partner has active symptoms. Condoms may not cover all sores, so you may still get the virus.
- Make sure your partner takes antiviral medication as prescribed.
- Wait to have sex until scabs fall off active lesions.
Oral Herpes And Cold Sores
Cold sores are a symptom of oral herpes .
Cold sores are blister-like sores that occur near the mouth or lips. They can also occur on other areas of the face. They typically persist for 2 weeks or more. Because theres no cure for herpes, cold sores can come back.
Genital herpes is quite common.
Although genital herpes is typically caused by HSV-2, the infection can also be caused by HSV-1.
According to the WHOs latest available statistics, it was estimated that 491.5 million people had an HSV-2 infection in 2016. This is over one-tenth of the worlds population ages 15 to 49 years.
The WHO also estimates that 3.7 billion people had an HSV-1 infection in the same year, which accounts for around two-thirds of the worlds population under age 50 years.
CDC does not recommend getting tested for herpes.
However, if there are symptoms of genital herpes, its important to see a doctor. They can make a diagnosis and discuss management strategies for the infection.
Additionally, if theres a potential of having been exposed to HSV, or if theres a desire to get a full STI exam and testing, its recommended to schedule an appointment with a doctor.
If an in-person appointment is not possible, an at-home test kit is another option to consider. However, its important to note that an in-person test done by a doctor may be more accurate.
Treatment can reduce outbreaks, but it cannot cure herpes simplex viruses.
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Is It Possible To Have Unprotected Sex And Not Catch Herpes
If you have unprotected sex with someone who has genital herpes then youre not guaranteed to catch it, but you are playing with fire. Herpes infections are highly contagious and very easy to catch, so although you arent guaranteed to catch it you have a high chance.
OK. Lets get down to it and look at some specifics about how you can catch herpes infections:
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What is the best treatment for me?
- Are there any side effects to my treatment?
- Is it safe to have unprotected sex if I dont have any sores?
- Can I give myself genital herpes if I also have oral herpes?
- Can I give someone else herpes even if Im not having an outbreak?
- What is the best way to prevent herpes outbreaks?
- Can I live a normal life with herpes?
- Am I at risk of developing any other diseases?
- Are there any support groups in my area?
- If I give my baby herpes, what is the treatment?
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Can Genital Herpes Come Back
Yes. Genital herpes symptoms can come and go, but the virus stays inside your body even after all signs of the infection have gone away. The virus becomes “active” from time to time, leading to an outbreak. Some people have outbreaks only once or twice. Other people may have four or five outbreaks within a year. Over time, the outbreaks usually happen less often and are less severe.
Experts do not know what causes the virus to become active. Some women say the virus comes back when they are sick, under stress, out in the sun, or during their period.
Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Many people who have genital herpes are unaware that they have the virus because they have no symptoms, mild symptoms, or mistake the symptoms for other conditions such as jock itch, yeast infections, razor burn or allergic reactions to detergents. The infection can be diagnosed by taking a swab from the sores or through blood tests. Those with symptoms may experience a tingling sensation or itching in the genital area within a few days of having sex with an infected person. A cluster of blisters may appear and burst, leaving painful sores often lasting two to three weeks. A fever, headache and muscular pain may occur during the first attack.
After the sores from the first attack heal, the virus goes into a dormant stage, but recurrent outbreaks can occur. Some people have only one or two recurrences in a lifetime, while others have them frequently. Recurrences are typically shorter in duration and less severe than the first episode. Stress, menstrual cycle, illness, fever, surgery, exposure to sun, having sex, pregnancy, and the use of some medications can play a role in the frequency and severity of outbreaks. Herpes can continue to be transmitted to others, even between recurrences when the infected person has no symptoms.
Womens symptoms can include:
- tender lumps in the groin
Mens symptoms can include:
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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.
Herpes infection doesnt usually pose a serious health risk. The risk of a health complication due to herpes is higher in infants and if you have HIV/AIDS, cancer or an organ transplant.
Treatment If The Blisters Come Back
Go to a GP or sexual health clinic if you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and need treatment for an outbreak.
Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by 1 or 2 days if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.
But outbreaks usually settle by themselves, so you may not need treatment.
Recurrent outbreaks are usually milder than the first episode of genital herpes.
Over time, outbreaks tend to happen less often and be less severe. Some people never have outbreaks.
Some people who have more than 6 outbreaks in a year may benefit from taking antiviral medicine for 6 to 12 months.
If you still have outbreaks of genital herpes during this time, you may be referred to a specialist.
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Who Is To Blame For My Herpes
We have been helping herpes-positive patients for more than 17 years.
Once a herpes diagnosis is made, itâs typically followed by embarrassment, frustration, and even anger. This article will explain why a newly diagnosed person shouldnât jump to the conclusion that infidelity by their current partner is to blame for their STD.
How herpes is transmitted from one person to another is complex.
People tend to scrutinize their life and especially their current relationship. They have a lot of questions.
- I was always careful how could I get it?
- Is my partner cheating on me?
- Who gave it to me?
Itâs outside the scope of this short article to discuss these questions in great detail, but we can explain the most common scenarios that weâve seen in our practice.
Dr. Fuzayloff will briefly explain some possibilities.
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.
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Herpes Might Not Have Any Symptoms
You or your partner may not have any herpes symptoms that you can see or feel, or the signs of herpes may be so mild you dont even notice them. Sometimes people confuse herpes symptoms with other things, like pimples, ingrown hairs, and the flu.
Herpes symptoms come and go, but that doesnt mean the infection goes away or that you cant spread it to other people. Once you have herpes, it stays in your body for life.
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Can I Treat Herpes Simplex At Home
Avoiding known triggers, such as illness or stress, can help reduce how often you have herpes outbreaks.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-1 ?
- Over-the-counter creams such as L-lysine, benzocaine or docosanol .
- Applying ice to blisters or sores.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-2 ?
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep your genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
- Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as a topical analgesic.
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Myth #: A Blood Test Is The Best Way To Know If You Have Herpes
Blood tests are not always accurate and testing for herpes can be tricky. It can take two weeks to six months after being exposed to herpes before it is detected in the blood. To make matters more complicated, if you are low risk for herpes and asymptomatic, it increases your risk of a false positive result. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against routine testing for herpes unless you or your partner have symptoms. The most accurate test is when you are able to take a swab sample from a new herpes lesion, but often times the diagnosis is made by a clinician based on your history and report of symptoms.
Because the blood test can be expensive and inaccurate, it is not typically included in a sexually transmitted disease evaluation unless you ask your provider for it specifically.
In short, if you dont have symptoms, you dont necessarily need a blood test. If you do experience an outbreak, a skin swab not a blood test is your best bet for confirmation.
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How Does Herpes Simplex Spread
Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.
People may get HSV-1 through
- Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
- Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
- If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.
People may get HSV-2 through
- Oral sex with someone whos infected.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.
You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.
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Meet Nearby People With Herpes
PositiveSingles is the largest online dating and support community for people with herpes. Online since 2001, it has the largest user base among all the STD dating sites and APPs. You will find out there are plenty of people around you.
Thank you Positive Singles for providing me the avenue to meet my life long Soul Mate, the Love of my Life. It has been a wonderful year since we met and I am looking forward to spending the rest of my life with Lisa.
It started as a long distance relationship for 6 months but after that we moved in together. Wishing the same for everyone else searching for their mate.
How Can I Prevent Genital Herpes
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting genital herpes:
- Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who does not have herpes.
- Using condoms the right way every time you have sex.
Be aware that not all herpes sores occur in areas that a condom can cover. Also, the skin can release the virus from areas that do not have a visible herpes sore. For these reasons, condoms may not fully protect you from getting herpes.
If your sex partner has/have genital herpes, you can lower your risk of getting it if:
- Your partner takes an anti-herpes medicine every day. This is something your partner should discuss with his or her healthcare provider.
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When To Call The Doctor
Even though HSV sores can hurt and be unsightly, most cases of herpes do not cause serious illness. The sores go away in a few days. Contact the health provider if:
- Sores are present and you think it might be a first herpes infection. The diagnosis is usually made by examining the sores. If the sores have not healed, sometimes a laboratory test is done.
- Sores do not heal by themselves or show signs of infection such as pus, spreading redness or fever.
- Sores are near the eyes.
- You have another health condition with a weakened immune system.
Has My Partner Been Unfaithful
If you are in a relationship and you or your partner have just been diagnosed with herpes it does not necessarily mean that either of you have been unfaithful. It is possible to be monogamous in a relationship AND have an outbreak or diagnosis occur for the first time.
The infection might be old, but this could be the first sign of symptoms
The herpes virus can lay in a dormant, sleep like state and not cause any outbreaks or symptoms sometimes for years. Then, once in a blue moon it may decide to show itself.
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Herpes Outbreak Frequency: How Often Do They Occur
People with symptomatic HSV-1 can have anywhere from several outbreaks per year to one every couple years or so, depending on the individual. Outbreaks tend to be worst during the initial herpes outbreak, as the body hasnt had time to produce its own immune response to herpes.
Oral HSV-1 outbreaks usually involve the development of cold sores around the lips and mouth. The sores usually begin as an itching, burning sensation before forming into small blisters over several days.
When cold sores caused by HSV-1 are open, they can weep out infectious fluid, leading to a high risk of transmission. Its best to abstain from kissing or sexual activity if you have an open cold sore, as theres a risk of infecting your partner with HSV-1 through direct oral contact. If your question is, When is herpes contagious? the answer is, All the time.Open cold sores are highly contagious, but even if youre not experiencing an outbreak, its still possible to transmit herpes.
Our guide to kissing and cold sores goes into more detail about how you can reduce your HSV-1 transmission risk during an outbreak.
By acting quickly and treating a cold sore in the early stage, you may be able to limit its development and speed up the healing process. Our guide to how to get rid of a cold sore as quickly as possible and the list of foods to avoid during herpes outbreak covers simple tactics that you can use to quickly control an HSV-1 outbreak.
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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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