Limitations Of The Data
Keep in mind that more research is needed. For one, the above study focus on couples who have been together a while. The data for brand new couples could differ. Plus, the Valtrex study above look at HSV-2 specifically. Of course, many cases of genital herpes these days are tied to HSV-1. And finally, there is no data available about same-sex couples. Keep these limitations in mind when looking at the data.
Before You Think About Sex Focus On Treating Your Herpes
While herpes doesnt need to limit your sexual or romantic life in the long term, its best to take a break from sexual activity once you first find out that youre infected.
Most people with an active herpes infection find out about their status during the initial outbreak of the virus. Initial herpes outbreaks usually happen two to three weeks after you become infected with the virus, but may not appear until weeks, months or even years after initial exposure.
During an initial outbreak, the virus undergoes a replication process in your body, taking over cells and spreading at a rapid pace.
Genital herpes eventually spreads to the spinal ganglia, where it stays as a dormant virus in the body. Oral herpes settles in the ganglia behind the cheek bone. It usually takes two to three weeks for herpes to set up camp in your body before an initial outbreak.
During an initial outbreak, youll notice a variety of symptoms, from flu-like fatigue and muscular aching to a fever. The most obvious sign of a herpes infection is the development of sores on the lips or on the genitals, groin, legs and buttocks.
Our guide to the signs and symptoms of a genital herpes outbreak goes into more detail about the symptoms youll notice during an initial outbreak. It also includes symptoms that are shared with the oral form of the virus, making it a useful resource for either type of infection.
Focus on treating the outbreak once its healed, you can refocus on your sex life.
Std Awareness: How Can I Protect Myself If My Partner Has Herpes
ByAnna C.|Sept. 30, 2013, noon
Has your partner, or potential partner, recently informed you that he or she has been diagnosed with genital herpes? After thinking about it, did you decide to continue with the relationship, despite not being infected with the virus that causes genital herpes yourself? Congratulations the two of you are now a discordant couple, which means that one of you has genital herpes and the other doesnt. While you might have come to the conclusion that acquiring a herpes simplex virus infection below the belt wont be the end of the world, you still might want to stay discordant and do everything you can to minimize chances of virus transmission.
Condoms, medication, and abstinence during outbreaks can reduce risk for herpes transmission.
You can read all about herpes elsewhere on this blog, but heres a quick rundown: Genital herpes can be caused by one of two strains of the herpes simplex virus: HSV-1 or HSV-2. While HSV-1 is more commonly associated with cold sores and HSV-2 is more commonly associated with genital herpes, either virus can infect the genital area. One estimate states that 1 out of 6 Americans between 14 to 49 years of age has a genital HSV-2 infection. Since genital herpes infections can also be caused by HSV-1, the number of people with genital herpes is actually higher.
Abstinence During Outbreaks
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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 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.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing.
- Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as topical analgesic
Antiviral medications can prevent outbreaks. They can also lessen symptoms and help symptoms go away faster. You take this medicine as a pill or intravenous injection. When taken daily, antivirals can prevent an outbreak. They lower the chances of spreading the virus to other people.
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General Hygiene Best Practices
Sometimes the simplest acts are the most powerful. Implement these hygiene best practices to ensure you dont accidentally spread the herpes virus to your partner.
- – Keep the infected area clean and dry
- – Avoid touching sores
- – Wash your hands immediately after any possible contact with sores
- – DONT pick at sores since this will cause infection
- – DONT make choices that you know can trigger an outbreak
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How Can I Make Sure I Dont Give Anyone Herpes
If you find out that you have herpes, try not to freak out. There are a few ways that you can stop it from spreading to your partners and other parts of your body.
Talk with your doctor about taking herpes medication every day, which can lower your chances of spreading herpes.
Dont have sex during a herpes outbreak, even with a condom. There may be sores on places the condom doesnt cover.
Learn how to tell when an outbreak is coming, and stop having sex right when you notice these signs. You may feel a burning, itching, or tingling feeling that lets you know youre about to get sores.
Dont have sex until your sores are totally gone, and the scabs heal and fall off.
Dont touch your herpes sores, because you can spread the infection to other parts of your body or other people. If you touch a sore, wash your hands with soap and water right after.
Dont wet contact lenses with spit this might spread your oral herpes to your eye.
If you have a cold sore on your mouth, don’t kiss anyone especially babies, children, or pregnant women.
Always tell your sexual partners that you have herpes before you have sex, so you can work together to prevent it from spreading. Telling someone you have an STD can be hard, but herpes is super common and doesnt lead to serious health problems. So try not to be too embarrassed or stressed out about it.
Im Pregnant How Could Genital Herpes Affect My Baby
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, it is very important for you to go to prenatal care visits. Tell your doctor if you have ever had symptoms of, or have been diagnosed with, genital herpes. Also tell your doctor if you have ever been exposed to genital herpes. There is some research that suggests that genital herpes infection may lead to miscarriage, or could make it more likely for you to deliver your baby too early.
Herpes infection can be passed from you to your unborn child before birth but is more commonly passed to your infant during delivery. This can lead to a potentially deadly infection in your baby . It is important that you avoid getting herpes during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, you may be offered anti-herpes medicine towards the end of your pregnancy. This medicine may reduce your risk of having signs or symptoms of genital herpes at the time of delivery. At the time of delivery, your doctor should carefully examine you for herpes sores. If you have herpes symptoms at delivery, a C-section is usually performed.
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If Someone With Herpes Has No Sores Can It Still Be Passed On
If someone has herpes but no sores, can it still be passed on to another person? Spence*
Yes. Even when no sores are present, the herpes is still active in the body and can spread to others.
If you or your partner has herpes, reduce the risk of spread by:
- using a condom every time you have sex . The herpes virus can live outside of the area that a condom covers, though, so a condom may not always prevent the spread.
- avoiding sex during outbreaks
- making sure the infected person takes antiviral medicine every day as prescribed by the health care provider
- *Names have been changed to protect user privacy.
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What Are The Chances Of Getting Herpes From An Infected Partner
While we think of HSV-2, the virus that most commonly causes gential herpes, as spreading through contact with herpes lesions, transmissions commonly occur when there are no visible lesions or from a partner who doesnt even know that they are infected. In fact, it is estimated that over 87% of people who are infected with HSV-2 never get diagnosed.
Studies have looked at herpes transmission rates between partners. In 2004, a large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed 1,484 heterosexual monogamous couples for 8 months where one partner had an HSV-2 infection and the other didnt. The susceptible partner was evaluated monthly for clinical signs and symptoms of genital herpes. Of the 741 couples who were only educated on using condoms for protection , 27 became infected with the virus, including 16 of whom developed an outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year, over 775,000 people get new genital herpes infections. It tends to be more common in women, possibly because it is more easily transmitted from men to women during sex.
Other than abstaining from sexual contact, there is no proven way to completely prevent getting infected by your partner. While condoms can help reduce the chance of transmission, they dont completely eliminate the risk. However, another option to further reduce the risk of spread is daily antiviral medication. More on this next.
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If You Have Genital Herpes Already Can It Be Spread To Other Parts Of The Body Such As The Arms Or Legs
No. Genital herpes cannot be transmitted to another part of your body such as your arm, leg or hand after the first infection occurs. If you have genital HSV II, you will not get HSV II at another site in your body. The immune system produces antibodies that protect other parts of your body from infection. However, there are cases where a person has multiple site infections from the same virus. This is usually acquired at the time of the first infection. For example, if someone has never had herpes but then has oral and genital sex with an infected partner, they can acquire the infection at both sites.
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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Talking To Your Partner
Talking to your partner about your herpes condition helps to develop trust, improves the relationship, and makes regular use of condoms more likely.
When you talk to your partner, youâll find out if theyâre one of the people who understand the risk of getting herpes and are OK with it or if theyâre in the group of people who want the most protection possible.
You should ask your partner to get tested for herpes. Most people have never been tested for herpes because this isnât a routinely ordered test even if a âfull STD panelâ is requested.
A type-specific herpes test is necessary. If your partner is positive for the same virus type, you wonât need to use protection.
How Is Genital Herpes Treated
Herpes has no cure. But antiviral medicines can prevent or shorten outbreaks during the time you take the medicine. Also, daily suppressive therapy for herpes can lower your chance of spreading the infection to your partner.
Your doctor will either give you antiviral medicine to take right after getting outbreak symptoms or to take regularly to try to stop outbreaks from happening. Talk to your doctor about treatment options.
During outbreaks, you can take the following steps to speed healing and prevent spreading herpes to other parts of your body or to other people:
- Keep sores clean and dry.
- Try not to touch the sores.
- Wash your hands after any contact with the sores.
- Avoid all sexual contact from the time you first notice symptoms until the sores have healed.
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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.
Doctors Dont Advise Getting A Blood Test For Herpes Without Any Symptoms
Hilda Hutcherson, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, is one of those doctors. I usually dont do tests for herpes someone has a lesion or a sore, something I can see, I will do a swab and take it to a culture or check the DNA on the materials I removed, she says. If theres nothing there and I do a blood test and the blood test comes back positive, lets say its positive for type 1, what does that really mean? Most people are positive for type 1. She adds that someone could be HSV-1-positive and either have or not have genital herpes. The result doesnt mean much, and it makes people go crazy.
Hutchersons motto is pretty simple: Why stress yourself over something if you havent seen anything especially when its something as common as herpes? Lets say they have a blood test come in positive but theyve never had a lesion. Now what? You may never get a lesion, she says. Its for this reason that she recommends people do not get tested for herpes unless they have a visible lesion that can be cultured and sent to a lab. Lets say you get tested anyway and it comes back positive, despite the fact that you have no symptoms. What do you do?
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Why Does It Take So Long To Get Blood Test Results
Sometimes, how quickly the blood tests take depends on how common the blood test is. Blood tests performed more often, such as a CBC or metabolic panel, are usually available more quickly than tests for rare conditions. Fewer laboratories may have the testing available for these conditions, which could slow results.
Myth #: People Cannot Spread Herpes To Others Unless They Have Sores Or Blisters
Fact: People can spread herpes to others at any time, including when they do not have any symptoms.
People with herpes may experience outbreaks and remissions. During an outbreak, a person has active sores or blisters, but in remission, they may have no symptoms at all.
The virus is usually more contagious when a person has an outbreak, but it can also spread when it is in remission.
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So Cold Sores Are Only Caused By Hsv
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can cause cold sores on the mouth and face.
Although its more common for HSV-1 to cause cold sores, it isnt impossible for HSV-2 to cause them, too.
- are caused by the herpes simplex virus
- usually develop near the outside of the mouth, such as below your nostrils or on your lips
- cause redness and fluid-filled blisters
- usually appear in groups
- eventually break and ooze, forming a crust-like scab
- may take 2 to 4 weeks to completely heal
- may be caused by food or chemical sensitivities, dietary deficiencies, minor injury, or stress
- may develop anywhere inside your mouth, such as at the base of your gum line, inside your lip, or under your tongue
- are shaped like a circle or oval
- are typically yellow or white with a red border
- may appear solo or in groups
- usually take 1 to 2 weeks to completely heal
HSV-1 is spread through direct contact with the virus, which can be present in or around cold sores, in oral secretions , and in genital secretions .
Some of the ways it can be transmitted include:
- kissing someone on the mouth
- sharing eating utensils or cups
- sharing lip balm
The herpes virus usually affects the area where it first made contact with the body.
Some of the ways HSV-2 can be transmitted include:
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