Signs And Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Many people with genital herpes have mild symptoms or no herpes symptoms at all. In addition, people often mistake mild symptoms for another skin condition, such as a pimple or an ingrown hair.
You should be examined by your doctor if you notice possible herpes symptoms or if your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD. Look out for symptoms such as unusual sores, burning when urinating, or, for women, bleeding between periods.
Genital herpes sores sometimes cause severe pain and are more likely to do so in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or the fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another part of your body, such as your eyes.
If you do touch the sores or fluids, immediately wash your hands well to help prevent the spread of your infection.
Some people have only one herpes outbreak. Others have many outbreaks. Repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first one. Although the infection stays in the body for life, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years.
Women most frequently experience blistering sores on these parts of the body:
Precautions Against Genital Herpes
The best ways to avoid genital herpes are to practice abstinence or maintain a monogamous relationship with your partner. If youre not in a monogamous relationship, try to have as few sexual partners as possible. If your partner has a lesion in his or her genital area, avoid vaginal or if he or she has a cold sore in the mouth, refrain from having oral sex.
You can get yourself and your partner tested for genital herpes if you want to. There are blood tests that can detect the presence of HSV antibodies, but they are hard to interpret and may have false positive or false negative results. The best way to know if you or your partner has genital herpes is to visit your doctor when you notice even just one small lesion in your genital area or when you experience the signs and symptoms mentioned above.
What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Ii
Typically, the first signs of herpes II is a cluster of blister-like lesions in the genital area which spread and merge, break and crust over within four to 15 days. The fluid from these itching, painful sores is highly infectious. Other frequent symptoms are painful urination, urethral or vaginal discharge and swollen lymph nodes. The first exposure or primary episode consists of headache, fever, chills and muscular weakness. Recurrent episodes are less severe and are limited to the affected area.
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The Health Risks Of Genital Herpes
Pain and discomfort are the main health effects of genital herpes, but the virus can also cause emotional and social problems for those infected. Although it cannot be cured, genital herpes can be managed with antiviral medication that may help control the recurrences. On rare occasions, genital herpes may cause serious complications such as blindness and inflammation of the brain.
Genital herpes can sometimes be passed from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or birth. The infection can be life-threatening to the child or result in skin lesions or brain damage. Antiviral medication and a cesarean delivery can reduce the risk of infecting the child.
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What Should I Do If I Have Genital Herpes
If you have genital herpes:
- See a doctor or nurse as soon as possible for testing and treatment.
- Take all of the medicine. Even if symptoms go away, you need to finish all of the antiviral medicine.
- Tell your sex partner so they can be tested and treated if necessary.
- Avoid any sexual contact while you are being treated for genital herpes or while you have an outbreak.
- Remember that genital herpes is a lifelong disease. Even though you may not have a genital herpes outbreak for long periods of time, you can still pass the virus to another person at any time. Talk with your doctor or nurse about how to prevent passing the virus to another person.
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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.
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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Genital Herpes And Pregnancy
Women with herpes before pregnancy can usually expect to have a healthy baby and a vaginal delivery.
If you have genital herpes during pregnancy, theres a risk your baby could develop a serious illness called neonatal herpes.
This can be fatal, but most babies recover with antiviral treatment.
The risk of your baby getting neonatal herpes is low if you have had genital herpes before.
Its higher if you get genital herpes for the first time in pregnancy.
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How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Most people with genital herpes have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms. Mild symptoms may go unnoticed or be mistaken for other skin conditions like a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people do not know they have a herpes infection.
Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. This is known as having an outbreak. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. Flu-like symptoms also may occur during the first outbreak.
People who experience an initial outbreak of herpes can have repeated outbreaks, especially if they have HSV-2. However, repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although genital herpes is a lifelong infection, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time.
Ask a healthcare provider to examine you if:
- You notice any symptoms or
- Your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD.
STD symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly genital discharge, burning when peeing, or bleeding between periods .
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What Is Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex is a virus that causes skin infections. The infection lasts your lifetime, and it causes painful or itchy sores and blisters that come and go. Herpes simplex virus typically doesnt cause severe problems. But it can be dangerous in infants and people with weakened immune systems. There are two types of herpes simplex:
- Herpes simplex 1 tends to affect your mouth or face. It causes cold sores. HSV-1 spreads through contact with saliva .
- Herpes simplex 2 is a sexually transmitted disease . It causes sores on skin that comes in contact with the genitals of an infected person.
Sometimes a herpes infection can affect other parts of your body, such as your eyes or other parts of your skin.
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 Is Herpes Simplex Treated
Some people have few to no herpes outbreaks and choose not to have treatment. But many people prefer to use medications that shorten outbreaks and reduce symptoms.
During an outbreak, you may use an antiviral ointment or cream to help lessen your symptoms and help them go away faster, but it only works if you start it soon after you start an outbreak. Many people with HSV-2 take daily oral medications to keep outbreaks at bay.
Your provider may prescribe a topical medication or oral medication such as:
How Is Genital Herpes Spread
- 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.
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How Painful Is Herpes Simplex
Some people experience very mild genital herpes symptoms or no symptoms at all. Frequently, people infected with the virus dont 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.
What Happens At A Sexual Health Clinic
The doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic will:
- ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners
- use a small cotton bud to take some fluid from 1 of your blisters or sores for testing
The test cannot:
- be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores
- tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from
Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after youre infected with the herpes virus.
If you have genital herpes, your previous sexual partners should get tested.
The doctor or nurse at the clinic can discuss this with you and help you tell your partners without letting them know its you who has the virus.
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How Will My Doctor Know If I Have Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at your symptoms. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. In certain situations, a blood test may be used to look for herpes antibodies. Have an honest and open talk with your health care provider and ask whether you should be tested for herpes or other STDs.
Please note: A herpes blood test can help determine if you have herpes infection. It cannot tell you who gave you the infection or how long you have been infected.
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How Is Herpes Transmitted
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
What is herpes, and how is herpes transmitted? Those are the questions on the menu today, and as usual, we’re here with answers. Herpes is a contagious virus thats transmitted in a variety of ways, from kissing to direct sexual contact. Its also one of the most common viral infections, affecting up to 67% of people aged 14-49 in the United States and 16% of all adults .
Although herpes infection rates are declining, its still an extremely common virus. Part of this is due to the ease at which herpes can be transmitted from one person to another through normal activity that most of us dont think of as risky.
In this guide, we’ll discuss how HSV-1 and HSV-2 can spread from one person to others, and share simple precautions that you can take to reduce your risk of exposure to herpes from friends, family members and sexual partners.
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Faqs About Cold Sores Answered
Most cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-2. Since sexual contact is the major means by which genital herpes is transmitted, the illness does not usually arise before adolescence. When a child develops genital herpes, healthcare providers must consider the possibility of abuse. This is true whenever a person contracts a sexually transmitted disease prior to the teen years.
People at heightened risk for HSV-2 infection include those who have multiple sexual partners, women, people with low incomes, and those infected with human immunodeficiency virus . In fact, among people who tested positive for HIV, one study found that the prevalence of HSV-2 infections ranged from 70 to more than 90 percent.
- A herpes sore on any part of the body
- Saliva, if your partner has oral herpes, or genital fluids, if your partner has genital herpes
- Skin around the mouth if your partner has an oral herpes infection, or the skin in the genital region of a partner who has genital herpes
You can catch genital herpes from a partner who has no visible sores, or from a partner who doesnt know that they have the infection. But a person is most infectious during their first outbreak of herpes, when they have sores, and during later outbreaks that produce sores.
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What Can A Person Or Community Do To Prevent The Spread Of Herpes Ii
Avoidance of sexual contact with symptomatic individuals is an immediate, but only partial answer because herpes virus may be shed while the infected individual remains asymptomatic. Cesarean section is often recommended when primary or recurrent herpes II lesions occur in late pregnancy.
Sexual relations should be approached responsibly.
- Limit the number of your sex partners.
- Use a male or female condom.
- If you think you are infected, avoid any sexual contact and visit the local STD clinic, a hospital or your doctor.
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How Does Genital Herpes Affect A Pregnant Woman And Her Baby
Neonatal herpes is one of the most serious complications of genital herpes.5,16 Healthcare providers should ask all pregnant women if they have a history of genital herpes.11 Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, or babies may be infected shortly after birth, resulting in a potentially fatal neonatal herpes infection. 17 Infants born to women who acquire genital herpes close to the time of delivery and are shedding virus at delivery are at a much higher risk for developing neonatal herpes, compared with women who have recurrent genital herpes . 16,18-20 Thus, it is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. Women should be counseled to abstain from intercourse during the third trimester with partners known to have or suspected of having genital herpes. 5,11
Where Can I Get Tested For Herpes
You can get tested for herpes and other STDs at your doctors office, a community health clinic, the health department, or your local Planned Parenthood health center.
STD testing isnt usually part of your regular checkup or gynecologist exam you have to ask for it. Be honest with your nurse or doctor so they can help you figure out which tests are best for you. Dont be embarrassed: Your doctor is here to help you, not to judge you.
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