Concerned About Catching Herpes
Herpes is extremely common, making it completely normal to have some level of concern about being exposed to the virus. The reality is that many people have some form of herpes, whether its the more common HSV-1 form of the virus or the less common HSV-2 form.
Are you interested in learning more about how herpes spreads from person to person, as well as what you can do to minimize your risks? Our guide to herpes types covers the process in more detail, with specific tips on how to reduce your herpes exposure risk. Looking for herpes treatment? We have you covered there, too.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standardshere.
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Can Genital Herpes Cause Other Problems
For most women, genital herpes does not usually cause serious health problems.
Women with HIV can have severe herpes outbreaks that are long-lasting. Herpes also may play a role in the spread of HIV. Herpes sores can make it easier for HIV to get into your body. Also, herpes can make people who are HIV-positive more likely to spread the infection to someone else.
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 Is A Common Infection
Herpes is a super-common infection that stays in your body for life. More than half of Americans have oral herpes, and about 1 out of 6 Americans has genital herpes. So chances are a few people you know are living with herpes.
Theres no cure for herpes, but medication can ease your symptoms and lower your chances of giving the virus to other people. And the good news is, outbreaks usually become less frequent over time, and even though herpes can sometimes be uncomfortable and painful, its not dangerous. People with herpes have relationships, have sex, and live perfectly healthy lives.
How Can I Best Learn To Cope With Herpes Simplex
Some people feel distressed or embarrassed about their herpes simplex infection. Its important to understand that the herpes virus is common. For most people, herpes doesnt significantly interfere with daily life.
To cope with negative feelings, you may consider:
- Connecting with others through support groups or online forums.
- Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one.
- Speaking with a therapist.
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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 There A Link Between Genital Herpes And Hiv
It is easier for a person with genital herpes to get or transmit HIV infection.
If a person with a herpes infection is genitally exposed to HIV, their risk of acquiring HIV is than someone without genital herpes. This is because genital herpes can cause breaks in the skin and make a person more vulnerable to HIV infection.
A person with HIV and genital herpes is more likely to transmit HIV to sex partners.
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How Is Herpes Simplex Treated
Although there is no cure for herpes, treatments can relieve the symptoms. Medication can decrease the pain related to an outbreak and can shorten healing time. They can also decrease the total number of outbreaks. Drugs including Famvir, Zovirax, and Valtrex are among the drugs used to treat the symptoms of herpes. Warm baths may relieve the pain associated with genital sores.
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Herpes Can Transmit From One Part Of The Body To Another
You can spread herpes to other parts of your body if you touch a herpes sore and then touch your mouth, genitals, or eyes without washing your hands first. You can also pass herpes to someone else this way.
This phenomenon is called autoinoculation. Autoinoculation almost always occurs during the first outbreak when the immune system has not yet produced a competent immune response to the herpes. Autoinoculation is quite uncommon, or many more children would have genital herpes as a result of touching their cold sores and then touching their genitals, as children seem to do.
One specific area of concern is the transmission of the virus from the mouth to the eyes. If someone has a cold sore, it is important that they wash their hands carefully between touching a sore and rubbing their eyes. Saliva should not be used to wet contact lenses. HSV 1, not HSV 2, causes the majority of ocular HSV. However, having said all of that, the group of nerves that innervates the mouth and lips also supplies nerves to the eye so it is possible to have herpes of the eye simplybecause the virus from oral herpes travels along the eye nerve
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Weird Ways You Can Get Hpv Without Having Sex
HPV is the most common STD in the United States. About 80 percent of sexually active people will have the infection at some time in their life. Being an STD, the vast majority of HPV cases stem from sexual intercourse. But several non-sexual behaviors can contain risks too. Touching or kissing a person with HPV can also cause the virus to pass on to others. In fact, 14 million new cases of HPV are diagnosed in the U.S every year. Although sexual contact is a common way to contract HPV, you still can get the disease by other ways. Here are several weird ways in which you can get HPV without having sex.
How Is This Possible
Sexually transmitted infectious particles dont hide in the way back of your holes .
Instead, these infectious particles can live on any internal or external skin or in bodily fluids, explains Dr. Felice Gersh, author of PCOS SOS: A Gynecologists Lifeline To Naturally Restore Your Rhythms, Hormones, and Happiness.
For this reason, certain STIs can be spread anytime theres skin-to-skin contact or when body fluids are spread, she says.
Important: Not every STI can be passed on through contact with every single section of skin or every single bodily fluid.
What segments of skin or which bodily fluids can transmit the STI depends on the particular STI. It also depends on where the STI is located, or if its considered a full-body STI.
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How To Prevent An Outbreak
Some people only take their medications if they feel the itching and tingling that means an outbreak is coming on — or when sores show up — to stop it from getting worse. Your doctor may suggest you take an antiviral every day if you:
- Have lots of outbreaks
- Want to prevent more outbreaks
- Want to lower the risk of spreading it to your partner
What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- What is the best treatment for me?
- What are the side effects of antiviral medications?
- How can I reduce the risk of future outbreaks?
- Whats the best way to prevent getting another STI?
- How can I protect my partner from getting genital herpes?
- Should I look out for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people are living with the herpes virus that causes genital herpes. Its a common STI. You shouldnt be embarrassed or put off seeking medical care if you develop symptoms. Treatments can ease symptoms, reduce outbreaks and protect sexual partners from infection. Having the virus shouldnt affect your relationships or sexual health. However, you do need to tell your sexual partners that you have the virus. Your healthcare provider can discuss ways to prevent spreading this STI.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/23/2020.
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How To Reduce Shame And Stigma When You Have An Std
Its important to recognize and deal with feelings, worries, and fears you may have. Talking to your doctor or another healthcare provider can help you normalize your experience and move forward. If you are in a committed relationship, it may be helpful for you to make an appointment to see a healthcare provider with your partner.
Engaging in open conversations with your provider and any sexual partners may help to put your mind at ease. You will find out about the right precautions to take in light of your own personal situation.
The Emotional Side Of Herpes
Many people feel embarrassed and ashamed upon learning that they have genital herpes, or theyre worried about getting it from a sexual partner or prospective sexual partner.
If either case describes you, take the time to educate yourself about the causes and symptoms of herpes, treatments, and steps you can take to stop the spread of herpes, such as using condoms.
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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.
Who Response To Herpes
As well as increasing awareness about HSV infection and its symptoms, improved access to antiviral medications and heightened HIV prevention efforts for those with genital HSV symptoms are needed globally.
In addition, development of better treatment and prevention interventions is needed, particularly HSV vaccines. WHO and partners are working to accelerate research to develop new strategies for prevention and control of genital and neonatal HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections. Such research includes the development of HSV vaccines and topical microbicides. Several candidate vaccines and microbicides are currently being studied.
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What Are Signs Of Genital Herpes In Women
Women who have the herpes virus may have nooutbreaks or signs of infection. Many do not know theyhave the virus. Once you are infected, the virus staysin your nerve cells for life. When the virus is not active,there is no sign of infection. When the virus becomesactive, a herpes outbreak occurs. Some womenmay not have any outbreaks or may have only oneoutbreak, while others may have multiple outbreaks.
Can Herpes Be Passed To Baby
If a woman with genital herpes has virus present in the birth canal during delivery, herpes simplex virus can be spread to an infant, causing neonatal herpes, a serious and sometimes fatal condition. Neonatal herpes can cause an overwhelming infection resulting in lasting damage to the central nervous system, mental retardation, or death.
Women who acquire genital herpes before they become pregnant have a very low risk of transmitting the virus to their babies. This is because their immune systems make antibodies that are temporarily passed to the baby through the placenta.
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Different Ways To Contract Herpes
Herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2 affect both the mouth and genital regions. These viruses produce painful sores that typically go away after a few weeks and occasionally recur at irregular intervals. Herpes rarely produces any medically serious conditions, but can cause great discomfort. Understanding the basics of how herpes is contracted can help to prevent the spread of this virus.
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.
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Who Gets Genital Herpes
About one-fifth of all people ages 12 and up in the U.S. are infected with the HSV-2 virus that causes genital herpes, but as many as 90% dont know it.
More women than men are infected one in four women compared with one in five men. One reason may be that the virus can infect a womans genitals more easily than it can a mans. Genital herpes becomes more common as people age. The more sex partners people have, the more common it is, too.
Prevention Of Genital Herpes
The best protection against STIs is to always use barrier protection such as condoms, female condoms and dams . Because herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact, condoms will reduce the risk of transmission, but it will not protect sexual partners completely as condoms do not cover the entire genitals.
Using lubricant with a condom during sex will also reduce the risk of trauma to the genital skin. This has been shown to reduce HSV transmission, especially in the first six months of a sexual relationship. Silicone-based lubricants are recommended.
Remember that herpes transmission can occur when symptoms are present , but may also occur even if there are no genital symptoms through asymptomatic viral shedding.
For people who have frequent episodes of genital herpes, antiviral medication, taken daily, helps to reduce transmission of herpes to a sexual partner.
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Im Pregnant How Could Genital Herpes Affect My Baby
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, prenatal care visits are very important. Some research suggest that a genital herpes infection may lead to miscarriage or make it more likely to deliver your baby too early. You can pass herpes to your unborn child before birth, but it more commonly passes during delivery. This can lead to a deadly infection in your baby . It is important that you avoid getting genital herpes during pregnancy. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had a genital herpes diagnosis or symptoms. Also tell them about any possible exposure to genital herpes.
If you have genital herpes, you may need to take anti-herpes medicine towards the end of your pregnancy. This medicine may reduce your risk of having signs or symptoms of genital herpes when you deliver. At the time of delivery, your healthcare provider should carefully examine you for herpes sores. If you have signs or symptoms of genital herpes at delivery, a C-section is likely to occur.
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 its 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 dont 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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Causes And Risk Factors Of Genital Herpes
Two types of viruses cause genital herpes herpes simplex type 1 and herpes simplex type 2 .
Usually, HSV-1 causes oral herpes, which becomes visible in the form of cold sores, or fever blisters, on the face, close to the mouth. Most people contract an oral herpes infection during their childhood or young adult years from nonsexual contact with the saliva of an infected person.
HSV-1 mainly spreads through direct contact with cold sores or saliva. Having oral herpes, or cold sores, does not mean that you have genital herpes. But if you have oral herpes, you can spread it from your mouth to another persons genitals if you perform oral sex on them.