Facts About Cold Sores
Cold sores are usually caused by herpes simplex virus-1 , the cousin of HSV-2, which is primarily associated with genital herpes. About 67% of the world’s population under 50 has HSV-1.
Cold sores affect roughly three of every thousand people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Of these, 33% will experience subsequent attacks triggered by stress, fever, and other causes.
Cold sores usually appear as a single watery blister on the lip or mouth or several blisters that consolidate into one. They can be painful and may take up to 14 days before active healing begins. Cold sores are typically spread by direct, non-sexual contact.
What Is Herpes Ii
Herpes II is a sexually transmitted viral infection, which often produces painful sores, usually in the genital area. Once infected, an individual may carry the virus and be subject to recurrent bouts of infection. Some estimate that as many as 20 percent of the adult population in the United States has been exposed to the virus.
My Partner Doesnt Have Genital Herpes So How Can I Have Caught It
Your partner could be one of the two out of three people with herpes simplex who have it so mildly they do not realise. So they could have sex when the virus is active. Mild symptoms can appear as a pimple, a little cut or an itchy bit of skin and yet these are very infectious. When people with these mild symptoms learn to recognise them, then they can avoid sex at these times. Another possibility is that your partner does not have herpes simplex and you caught it from a previous partner. It is possible to have a first outbreak many years after first catchin it.
Also Check: How To Reduce Herpes Outbreaks
What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Most individuals infected with HSV are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for another skin condition. 9 When symptoms do occur, herpes lesions typically appear as one or more vesicles, or small blisters, on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The average incubation period for an initial herpes infection is 4 days after exposure. 10 The vesicles break and leave painful ulcers that may take two to four weeks to heal after the initial herpes infection. 5,10 Experiencing these symptoms is referred to as having a first herpes outbreak or episode.
Is It Pimples Herpes Or Razor Burns
Razor burns also have the symptoms of red skin and itchiness and can also create small bumps that resemble pimples or herpes blisters. Small cuts when shaving the face or the genital region can irritate the skin increase the risk of an infection. This is made worse by the possibility of ingrown hairs. To combat the irritation or infection, the body may respond with inflammation and recruitment of white blood cells, resulting in the formation of small, pus-filled bumps. If you notice these bumps, and you recently shaved, that’s most likely what caused them.
As mentioned, the small cuts increase the risk of an infection. Practice good hygiene and disinfect the area immediately after shaving help reduce skin irritation and prevent an infection from occurring.
Don’t Miss: Can You Test Yourself For Herpes
Herpes Myths To Stop Freaking Out About
A surprising number of people you know probably have herpes.
Shocked? You shouldnt be, since the virus is very common. According to the World Health Organization, 3.7 billion people under age 50 have herpes simplex virus type 1 thats 67 percent of the global population in that age bracket. Another 417 million people between ages 15 and 49 worldwide have herpes simplex virus type 2 .
Many people consider HSV-1 more benign, but it turns out theres not much difference between the two types of virus. While its true that HSV-2 is a sexually transmitted disease and can cause genital sores or blisters, type 1 can do the same thing.
One big misconception is that cold sores are caused by HSV-1 and genital herpes are always type 2, but thats not always the case, says Sarah Vensel, a physician assistant in San Francisco. Cold sores are so common theyve been normalized at this point. But genital herpes is sometimes the exact same virus just in a different location.
Not only is herpes incredibly common its also totally manageable. Allow us to set your mind at ease and debunk three widespread herpes myths:
What Are The Different Types Of Herpes
There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV I and HSV II. HSV I commonly causes oral herpes, or cold sores. This virus can show up as an upper respiratory tract infection during early childhood. HSV II is the cause of most cases of genital herpes. However, it is possible for HSV I to cause genital herpes and HSV II to cause oral herpes.
Clinicians cannot tell the difference between the two types by physical examination alone, but there are differences between the two viruses. For example, genital herpes caused by HSV II is much more likely to recur. This diagnosis can be helpful in establishing a health care plan.
You May Like: Does L Lysine Help Genital Herpes
Useful Methods Include Testing An Actual Lesion
Keep in mind that there’s no such thing as “safe” sex, only safer sex, which means using protection and being open and honest with your partner. “It can definitely happen,” Friedman says of the chances of transmitting the virus to a partner without a visible outbreak. “Its called asymptotic shedding there are studies showing that the rates of transmission of HSV-2 are the same for symptomatic and asymptomatic.” He adds that this is why using protection during sexual contact is so important, regardless of what blood tests say. Unfortunately, you can never ensure your risk of transmission will be zero, whether or not you know you have herpes, but using a condom or dental dam will get you closer to it.
Like Hutcherson, Friedman also doesn’t recommend blood tests for herpes in the absence of symptoms. “The;tests;that are useful involve sampling the actual blister or cold sore,” he says, which can involve smearing scrapes of skin cells from the sore onto a slide, targeting the infected cells. As with some of the blood tests, though, this sampling test still won’t tell you what type of herpes virus is present. A viral culture, on the other hand, will tell you which virus you have, though it takes some time to come back. “Direct fluorescent antibody is by far the best,” Friedman says, “as you can get a result in a matter of hours which can be as useful as a culture.” Not all hospitals have access to this method, however.
Could I Have Genital Herpes And Not Know
Unless no one has ever kissed you, and unless you’ve never had sex, it is possible that you’ve picked up a herpes virus.
Oral herpes, usually caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 , shows up as cold sores or fever blisters on the mouth. Even a casual peck on the lips from someone with a cold sore can give you the virus. That’s why it’s so common: As many as 50% to 80% of adults in the U.S. have oral herpes.
Genital herpes, most often caused by the second type of herpes virus , is less common, but plenty of people still have it. Roughly one in five U.S. adults has genital herpes. But up to 90% of those who have it don’t know they are infected. You could be one of them.
Don’t Miss: Is Herpes And Cold Sores The Same Thing
Should You Be Tested For The Herpes Virus
The CDC does not recommend herpes testing for people who have no symptoms. They point out that diagnosing genital herpes in someone lacking any symptoms does not lead to them making changes in their sexual choices. They are no more likely to use condoms or to refrain from having sex than if they hadnt been tested.
Also, false-positive test results can happen. A false positive is a test result saying you have herpes when actually you do not.
Even if you have no symptoms of herpes or of any other sexually transmitted disease, though, you should talk frankly with your doctor or another healthcare provider about your sexual activities to see if you should be screened for STDs, including herpes.
There are some situations where herpes blood tests can be useful, says the CDC:
- If you have genital symptoms that could be related to herpes
- If you now have, or have had, a sex partner with genital herpes
- If you want a complete STD exam, especially if you have multiple sex partners
If You Have Zero Symptoms Getting Tested Won’t Help You
The problem is that blood tests for herpes when no lesions or symptoms are present are often bullshit. I realize that’s a pretty strong word, but after speaking with doctors who have administered these tests, it’s become more and more apparent to me how misunderstood and in some cases, just plain wrong the results they give are.
Part of the reason they’re flawed has to do with the fact that most people have been exposed to HSV-1 or oral herpes. “For HSV-1, close to 100 percent of people in the U.S. are antibody-positive because they have been exposed at some point in their lives, though only a percentage of these individuals will actually get cold sores,” says Adam Friedman, the residency program director at the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences in Washington, D.C. He adds that blood tests can be misleading because they usually don’t detect the herpes virus itself and instead look at the level of antibodies against the virus, which is merely a sign of immune response to it.
Recommended Reading: How Quickly Does Herpes Show Up
Stage : Bursting And Crusting
A few days after the blisters form, they will burst on their own, releasing the fluid along with the virus. This may also cause some bleeding and subsequent scabbing. The sore will then dry out and begin to heal. As new skin starts to form over the next few days, the affected area may be very itchy.
What Does Herpes Look Like
- Itchy rash
- Sensitive, reddish, inflamed skin
- Clusters of small, blisters filled with clear fluid
The first occurrence of herpes is usually the most painful and lasts about two weeks. Subsequent episodes are less likely to occur, although some people may have recurrent episodes. It is estimated that about 40% of American adults get reoccurring cold sores. Those infected with HSV-2 are more likely to experience recurring herpes outbreaks. These subsequent outbreaks are generally milder than the first and last about a week. This is because the body has created antibodies against the virus and is therefore more prepared to fight off the infection. Those infected with HSV-2 are more likely to experience recurring herpes outbreaks than those infected with HSV-1.
Herpes tend to form in irregular clusters of blisters.
Also Check: Can You Pass Herpes When Not Having An Outbreak
How Common Is Infection With Hsv
Infection with either HSV-1 or HSV-2 is remarkably common. In fact, the majority of people in the world are infected with one of the two herpes viruses.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , more than 1 in 6 people living in the United States has genital herpes.
However, U.S. rates of infection with HSV-1 and HSV-2 declined between 1999 and 2016, according to the;CDC. In 2016, among people between ages 14 and 49, the prevalence of HSV-2 was 12 percent, compared with 18 percent in 1999. This means that about 1 in 8 people in this age range had HSV-2.
HSV-1 prevalence also declined during those years, from 59 percent in 1999 to 48 percent in 2016.
Taking a global look at the numbers, in 2016, 67 percent of the people in the world who were younger than 50 had an infection caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 , says the World Health Organization . That adds up to more than 3.7 billion people.
What Does A Herpes Outbreak Feel Like
Symptoms usually appear within 2 weeks of exposure.
The first outbreak is usually the worst. At first, you might develop some flu-like symptoms. Then you might feel itchy or have an uncomfortable feeling around your genitals or mouth before the lesions appear.
Future outbreaks are likely to be milder and resolve faster.
You may have heard that herpes is only contagious during an outbreak. However, it can be transmitted even though there are no visible signs. You can have herpes and not know it.
For those reasons, its important to try to talk with your sexual partners before assuming or blaming.
It can be a challenging situation to cope with. Learning you have herpes can stir a variety of emotions. Its normal to have mixed feelings and wonder what to expect.
Its important to make an appointment with your healthcare provider as quickly as possible. If you have herpes, your healthcare provider can provide important information about managing your condition.
Make a list of questions before you go, which can help you get the most out of your visit. Let your healthcare provider know if youre having trouble understanding the information.
The more you know and understand about herpes, the better prepared youll be to manage your symptoms and condition. Your healthcare provider will help you create a treatment plan that works best for your medical needs.
Don’t Miss: What Does Oral Herpes Look Like
Myth: Ive Never Had An Outbreak So I Definitely Dont Have Herpes
Unfortunately, the lack of a visible outbreak doesnt mean youre herpes-free. Many people infected with the virus never experience an outbreak, Mary Rosser, MD, PhD, director of obstetrics and gynecology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, tells Health. And when they do, it frequently isnt recognized. This explains why, according to the US;Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , 87.4% of infected individuals have no clue.
Outbreaks can be very mild and even confused with things like heat rash, jock itch, yeast infections, allergic reactions, Fred Wyand, director of communications for the American Sexual Health Association , tells Health. So while some cases do involve pronounced symptoms, most never do.
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.
Recommended Reading: How Do I Get Rid Of Herpes On My Lip
How Can I Tell If It’s Scabies Or Herpes
Scabies is caused by tiny eight-legged mites that burrow into the skin to live, feed, and lay their eggs. There are millions of cases of scabies worldwide each year.
Herpes may be confused with scabies because both conditions can cause a skin rash of small, itchy bumps and blisters that spread through person-to-person contact. As with herpes, the scabies skin rash is sometimes seen in the genital area. It can be transmitted through close physical or sexual contact because the mites can move from one body to another. If you’ve never had scabies before, it can take two to six weeks to develop symptoms after the mites move in.
Unlike herpes, you can also get scabies from bedding, clothes, or furniture that’s infested with mites, since the mites can live for about three to four days without being on a human.
Also unlike herpes, scabies is most commonly found on the hands, arms, and legs, and the most common symptom is severe itching that occurs mainly at night.
Your dermatologist can tell if you have scabies by examining your skin or looking at a small piece of skin under a microscope, notes the American Academy of Dermatology.
Scabies is easily treated with a medicated cream or lotion that kills the mites.
How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Genital herpes doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women with a diagnosis of herpes genitalis are recommended to start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy to prevent outbreaks during time of delivery. If you have an active infection at the time of childbirth, you can pass the herpes virus to your baby. Neonatal herpes puts a baby at risk for blindness, brain damage, skin infections and death. Your healthcare provider will perform a cesarean section to lower this risk.
You May Like: Can You Pass Herpes Through Birth
Myth: Without A Visible Outbreak Herpes Isn’t Contagious
Since outbreaks arent always obvious, its not always clear when youre contagious. There are a few days a year when herpes is active;and possibly transmitted without any symptoms present, explains Wyand. This is known as viral shedding. This doesn’t happen on most days, but it’s tricky, because there’s no real way to know.
All this sounds really scary, but what it boils down to is the importance of practicing safe sex. While the risk of transmission will never be zero, there are some steps you and your partner can take to significantly reduce the risk of transmission: avoiding sex during an outbreak, using condoms. The partner with herpes can also go on;suppressive therapy .
Dr. Rosser agrees that condoms are your best friends;for any kind of sex.;”People still look at me like I have two heads when I suggest condoms for oral sex,” she says.;”But if there’s any question, then;use them.”
Communication is not only essential when it comes to having great sex, adds Dr. Rosser, but also when;preventing the spread of herpes.;If you’re infected, be honest and consideratelet your partner know.