Is Genital Herpes Infection Related To Hiv
Herpes and HIV are caused by different viruses. But patients infected with these viruses are more likely to transmit either disease to their sexual partners. Patients with herpes are more vulnerable to HIV infection. People newly diagnosed with herpes should be tested for HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections.
Patients who are infected with both herpes and HIV also may have a higher concentration of HIV viruses in their body because of the interaction between the herpes virus and the HIV virus. When HIV damages a persons immune system, the person may be more likely to shed herpes simplex virus asymptomatically.
How To Know If You Have Herpes
This article was medically reviewed by Lacy Windham, MD. Dr. Windham is a board certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist in Tennessee. She attended medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and completed her residency at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2010, where she was awarded the Most Outstanding Resident in Maternal Fetal Medicine, Most Outstanding Resident in Oncology, and Most Outstanding Resident Overall.There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 842,512 times.
Research shows that around 1 out of every 6 people has some form of herpes.XTrustworthy SourceCenters for Disease Control and PreventionMain public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human ServicesGo to source The herpes simplex viruses are the viruses responsible for oral and genital herpes infections, and they can cause sores, itching, painful urination, and vaginal discharge. Although doctors can treat symptoms, ease pain, and reduce the possibility of spreading the virus, herpes cannot be cured. Studies show that you can find out if you have herpes by examining high risk behaviors, recognizing the symptoms, and getting tested by a medical professional.XTrustworthy SourceFamilyDoctor.orgFamily-focused medical advice site run by the American Academy of Family DoctorsGo to source
Where Does The Herpes Virus Live In The Body
The herpes simplex viruses are latent, meaning they can live in the body without causing symptoms. After the initial infection, the virus gets into the nerve roots and spreads to the sensory nerve ganglia, the junctions where nerves from different parts of the body come together. For the genital area, the ganglia are adjacent to the spinal cord in the lower back. For orofacial herpes , the ganglia are located behind the cheek bone.
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How Is It Treated
Genital herpes can be treated, but it cannot be cured.Anti-viral medicines can make outbreaks:
Living with genital herpes causes some people to:
- Feel embarrassed or ashamed
- Worry about infecting a sexual partner
- Worry that having herpes will affect relationships with sexual partners
- Avoid dating or sexual relationships
Most people with herpes are able to live with the virusand manage their outbreaks. Talking to trusted healthcare providers and friends can help. Your health careprovider can talk to you about medicines that treatoutbreaks and about ways to reduce the chance ofpassing the virus on to a sexual partner.
Medicines can help lower the chance that you will pass the virus to others.
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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How Is Genital Herpes Managed Or Treated
If you have mild symptoms or infrequent outbreaks, you might not need or want treatment. During an outbreak, these steps can ease symptoms:
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep 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.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing.
Antiviral medications can prevent outbreaks. They can also lessen symptoms and help symptoms go away faster. You take this medicine as a pill, intravenous injection or skin cream. When taken daily, antivirals can prevent an outbreak. They lower the chances of spreading the virus to other people.
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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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What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Symptoms of genital herpes often start out very mild. Its easy to mistake them for signs of a small pimple or ingrown hair.
Herpes sores appear as small, red bumps or white blisters. They can pop up in any area of your genitals.
If one of these blisters ruptures, you might notice a painful ulcer forming in its place. It may ooze fluid or cause you pain when urinating.
As the ulcer heals, itll form a scab. Resist the urge to pick at the scab, which will only irritate the area more. When an ulcer heals, a scab will form. Its important not to pick at or irritate a herpes sore.
Other potential symptoms include:
Genital herpes has no cure, but there are treatments that can help control symptoms.
Genital herpes doesnt always cause symptoms. You may not even know you have herpes until you pass it to someone else or get tested.
If youve had herpes in the past and are following a treatment plan, youll have periods of time without any symptoms. These are known as latent periods.
But this doesnt mean you no longer have the virus. And you can still pass the virus to others during a latent period, thought, though the risk is lower.
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.
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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.
How Can I Confirm Whether I Have Genital Herpes
Herpes doesnt always cause symptoms, so your best bet is to make an appointment with a healthcare provider. They might be able to diagnose you just by looking at your symptoms.
They may also take a fluid sample from a blister and test it or have you do a blood test.
Youll likely be asked some questions about your sexual history. Its very important that youre honest in your answers. This will help to determine whether you should be tested for any other STIs while youre there.
Remember, theres no cure for herpes. But antiviral medication can help to prevent the virus from reproducing and reduce the number of outbreaks you have. This can also reduce your risk of passing the virus to others.
Common antiviral medications used for herpes include:
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How Is Genital Herpes Spread
- A herpes sore
- 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.
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
- Manage stress
- 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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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.
Follow Easy Hygiene Best Practices
Several hygiene best practices serve as easy preventative measures to avoid accidentally spreading the virus to your partner.
- Keep the infected area clean and dry
- Avoid touching sores
- Wash your hands immediately after any possible contact with sores
- DON’T pick at sores since this will cause infection
- DON’T make choices that you know can trigger an outbreak
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How Often Do Outbreaks Occur
The number of outbreaks someone has varies from person to person. The average number of outbreaks for a person with genital HSV-2 is four to five per year. The average for genital HSV-1 is less than one outbreak per year.
Usually, there are more outbreaks during the first year, and many people find that outbreaks become less severe and less frequent with time.
Herpes triggers are highly individual, but with time, many people learn to recognize, and sometimes avoid, factors that seem to reactivate HSV in their own bodies. Illness, poor diet, emotional or physical stress, friction in the genital area, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light , surgical trauma, and steroidal medication may trigger a herpes outbreak.
The frequency of outbreaks can often be managed through effective stress management, and getting adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise. For people with frequent outbreaks, suppressive therapy with any one of the antiviral treatments can reduce outbreaks by as much as 80%.
What Causes Genital Herpes How Does It Spread
The herpes viruses enter the skin or mucous membrane through tiny, even microscopic, breaks in the tissue when there is skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. Because an infected person may spread the disease even when he or she does not have signs or symptoms of herpes, avoiding sexual contact with someone with active blisters does not guarantee protection against the infection. Even normal appearing skin can spread the infection. Clothing that touches genital skin ulcers may transmit herpes simplex virus to others that wear the clothing.
The average incubation period after exposure is 4 days, but symptoms may develop anywhere from 2 to 12 days after you have been exposed to the virus.
Individual outbreaks of herpes vary among affected people in terms of their frequency and severity. Outbreaks can be related to the function of the immune system and are typically worse in cases in which the immune system is suppressed. For example, at times of physical or emotional stress, during illness, or when taking certain medications, genital herpes outbreaks may be more likely.
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Before You Tell Them Practice
The one person youll definitely need to have the chat with is your sexual partner/s. This is very important even if you rarely experience herpes outbreaks, as genital herpes can be spread from an infected person into an uninfected person even without any visible outbreak symptoms.
Coming out as herpes positive can feel stressful and difficult, especially when its directed at a person you care about and with whom youd like a romantic or sexual future. Luckily, dating with herpes doesnt have to be such a big deal if you know how to address it.
One way to get over the nervousness of telling a partner you have herpes is to practice ahead of time. Make note of the key points you want to include and practice the script a few times in front of the mirror until you feel comfortable talking about.
Choose The Right Moment
Its good to initiate this conversation when you and your partner are alone and free from distractions. There may not be a perfect time, but some moments are better than others. Avoid times when other major conflicts or stressors are occurring.
Once youre alone and comfortable, broach the subject with your partner. Stay focused and use the following techniques to help you share the information clearly and succinctly.
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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.
Whats The Outlook For Someone With Either Condition
You can easily treat genital pimples at home. But if they dont go away in a week or more, see your doctor in case another condition is causing your pimples to appear.
Herpes cant be cured, but it can be successfully managed with prescription antibiotics and OTC pain relievers. Researchers are working to find a cure or vaccine.
Pimples can appear suddenly for a number of reasons, so its hard to fully prevent them. Keeping the area clean with a gentle cleanser is usually sufficient.
You can take quick, easy action each time you have sex to prevent yourself from getting herpes.
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Can You Pop Herpes Blisters
Like pimples, you may be tempted to pop a cold sore or a herpes blister, but by popping, you are only doing more harm. Popping a cold sore, a genital herpes blister, or a pimple increases the risk that you will worsen the existing infection, introduce a secondary infection, or irritate your skin further. Popping can also make it more likely to form a scar.
It is best to leave the pimples or blisters alone to heal on their own, but if they are too uncomfortable or painful, talk to your doctor.
Dont Risk It!
Although you can likely tell herpes sores and pimples apart just by looking at them, a medical diagnosis will let you know for sure.