Facts And Statistics About Herpes
- According to the World Health Organization, an estimated two-thirds of the global population under 50 years old are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 .
- Estimates for HSV-1 prevalence in the U.S. among people aged 049 years are 178 million women and 142 million men .
- In total, about 75 percent or more of the American adult population has the HSV-1 virus that usually causes oral herpes , and about 20 percent to 30 percent have HSV-2 that usually causes genital herpes.
- Men and women are affected by HSV-1 about equally. Roughly 6 million women in the U.S. become infected with HSV-1 each year, along with 5 million men.
- Slightly more women than men are affected by genital herpes, whether from HSV-1 or HSV-2. Middle-aged women are most likely to acquire genital herpes.
- Transmission of HSV most often occurs without symptoms, so its estimated that 85 percent of people with genital herpes dont know it. Many dont have any symptoms at all after the initial infection, and only about 15 percent ever receive a HSV-2 infection diagnosis in their lifetimes.
- Most primary oral/facial HSV infections are caused by HSV-1 however, facial infection by HSV-2 is increasingly becoming common.
- Less children are becoming infected with HSV-1 than in the past in high-income countries, mostly due to better hygiene and living conditions.
- After someone comes into contact with an active herpes outbreak on another person, the incubation period takes about one week.
Episodic Therapy For Recurrences
For a recurrent episode, treatment takes 1 to 5 days, depending on the type of medication and dosage. You should begin the medication as soon as you notice any signs or symptoms of herpes, preferably during the prodrome stage that precedes the outbreak of lesions.
In order for episodic therapy to be effective, it must be taken no later than 1 day after a lesion appears. If taken during prodrome, episodic therapy may help prevent an outbreak from occurring or reduce its severity. If taken at the first sign of a lesion, it can help speed healing.
What Does Herpes Look Like
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Herpes sores can affect many areas of the body, including the mouth, genitals, and eyes. Knowing what herpes looks like across the body can help people diagnose the condition.
Herpes is a skin condition caused by the herpes simplex virus. The symptoms include sores that come and go over time. Different types of herpes affect different body parts.
This article will explain what herpes is, how people get it, and what herpes looks like with pictures.
Most people with HSV are asymptomatic, meaning they will not experience any symptoms. Others will notice sores or lesions. These sores look like blisters filled with fluid. Over a few days, the sores break open, ooze, and form a crust before healing.
People may also notice a tingling, itching, or burning feeling a few days before the sores appear. Some people may also experience flu-like symptoms, such as:
Someone who has contracted the virus will usually have their first sores, or an outbreak, between 2 and 20 days later. The sores may last up to a week or 10 days.
An outbreak may involve a single sore or a cluster of sores. They often affect the skin around the mouth, the genitals, or the rectum. The blisters can take between 2 and 4 weeks to heal.
The symptoms will usually reappear from time to time, though they do not tend to be as severe as the first time.
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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.
How To Reduce Your Risk Of Contracting Herpes
Because herpes is so common, millions of new people are infected with the virus every year. Often, new infections are asymptomatic, meaning you might not know that you have been infected for months or years after contact with the person responsible.
If you do contract herpes, particularly HSV-1, its important to remember that its a very common virus. Its also easily treatable, with a wide range of highly effective medications available in the event you have an outbreak.
With this said, there are several ways to lower your risk of contracting herpes, particularly HSV-2 :
Avoid risky sexual behavior, such as having sex with multiple partners without the use of protection.
If you want to have unprotected sex with your partner, ask them about their HSV-2 status and, if required, consider asking them to see a physician about getting a herpes test.
If youre not sure about your sexual partners HSV-2 status, use a condom to cover up the potentially infected area and reduce the risk of HSV-2 transmission.
Avoid sexual activity with people that have visible sores on their mouth or genitals, such as lesions that resemble small bumps or pimples.
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Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Primary Genital Herpes Outbreak
For people with symptoms, the first outbreak usually occurs in or around the genital area 2 days to 2 weeks after sexual exposure to the virus. The first signs are a tingling sensation in the affected areas and groups of small red bumps that develop into blisters. Over the next 2 to 3 weeks, more blisters can appear and rupture into painful open sores. The lesions eventually dry out, develop a crust, and heal rapidly without leaving a scar. Blisters in moist areas heal more slowly than those in dry areas. The sores may sometimes itch, but itching decreases as they heal.
About 40% of men and 70% of women develop other symptoms during initial outbreaks of genital herpes, such as flu-like discomfort, headache, muscle aches, and fever. Swollen glands may occur in the groin area or neck. Some women may have difficulty urinating and may, occasionally, require a urinary catheter. Women may also experience vaginal discharge.
Recurrent Genital Herpes Outbreak
In general, recurrences are much milder than the initial outbreak. The virus sheds for a much shorter period of time compared to an initial outbreak of 3 weeks. Women may have only minor itching, and the symptoms may be even milder in men.
Herpes Causes And Risk Factors
Causes of herpes include acquiring the virus through sexual contact, coupled with immune system suppression and sometimes nutritional deficiencies.
HSV-1 is primarily transmitted by oral-oral contact. On the other hand, HSV-2 is considered a sexually transmitted disease and usually passed during oral or vaginal sex.
A scary finding is that more cases of genital herpes than ever before are now being caused by HSV-1 , and about 85 percent of people with genital herpes dont even know it. Studies show that about 50 percent of the new genital herpes infections in young adults are due to HSV-1 and about 40 percent in older adults. The fact that most people dont ever find out theyre infected is one of the reasons that transmission rates are steadily climbing.
Risk factors for acquiring herpes include:
- Kissing someone who has symptoms of an active herpes virus
- Engaging in any form of unprotected sex
- Having sex with multiple partners
- Spreading the virus through contact with cold sores on the eyes, secretions on the fingers, or ulcers/sores on buttocks and upper thighs
- Having certain other illnesses that lower immune function, such as HIV/AIDS, an autoimmune disorder or hepatitis
- Eating a poor diet that causes nutrient deficiencies and lowered immunity
- Smoking cigarettes, drinking high amounts of alcohol or abusing drugs
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How To Get Rid Of Herpes Naturally
Not every person with a herpes infection actually experiences breakouts of cold sores throughout his or her lifetime or even after initially becoming infected. How often someone has a herpes cold sore outbreak, how severe the outbreaks are, how contagious someone is after infection and how long the sores take to heal all depend on someones individual immune response.
1. Boost Nutrient Intake
If youre going to keep the herpes virus from frequently causing outbreaks, the first step in how to get rid of herpes is to improve immune function by boosting nutrient intake. Include these healing foods in your diet to keep the virus dormant as much as possible:
2. Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Certain foods can raise inflammation, weaken immune defenses and make skin irritation even worse. Avoid the following foods as much as possible to limit outbreak severity and duration.
3. Consider Supplements
- Antiviral herbs: These include elderberry, calendula, echinacea, garlic, astragalus and licorice root.
- L-lysine : Can help treat and prevent outbreaks.
- Lemon balm extract: Apply as a topical cream for healing.
- Vitamin C : Vitamin C boosts immune function improving herpes.
- Zinc : Zinc benefits include supporting immune function, keeping viruses dormant and rebuilding skin tissue to speed up healing.
- B-complex : B vitamins help your body deal with stress and can prevent outbreaks.
4. Try Essential Oils
5. Ease Cold Sore Pain Naturally
Related: How to Use Witch Hazel to Clear Up Your Skin Fast
How Does Herpes Simplex Spread
Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.
People may get HSV-1 through
- Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
- Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
- If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.
People may get HSV-2 through
- Oral sex with someone whos infected.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.
You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.
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What Do The Results Mean
Your HSV test results will be given as negative, also called normal, or positive, also called abnormal.
Negative/Normal. The herpes virus was not found. You may still have an HSV infection if your results were normal. It may mean the sample didn’t have enough of the virus to be detected. If you still have symptoms of herpes, you may need to get tested again.
Positive/Abnormal. HSV was found in your sample. It may mean you have an active infection , or were infected in the past .
If you tested positive for HSV, talk to your health care provider. While there is no cure for herpes, it hardly ever causes serious health problems. Some people may only have one outbreak of sores their whole lives, while others break out more often. If you want to reduce the severity and number of your outbreaks, your provider may prescribe a medicine that can help.
Learn more about laboratory tests, reference ranges, and understanding results.
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
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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.
Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic
You can see a GP, but they’ll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital herpes.
Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.
Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment.
They’ll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.
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What Are Symptoms Of Herpes
Some people with herpes may never have any symptoms, or may only have mild symptoms. Other people may develop symptoms within a few weeks of being infected with the herpes virus.
Symptoms of genital herpes include:
- Blisters in the genital area
- Blisters may become painful open sores, which crust over as they heal
Washing The Genital Area Before And After Sex Can Help Prevent The Transmission Of Genital Herpes
Washing the genital area doesnât help prevent any sexually transmitted disease , including genital herpes. The best way to prevent any STD is to abstain from sex or engage in sex only with someone you know is not infected. Condoms are not guaranteed to prevent infection, but research has shown that they provide some protection.
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Preparing For The First Visit
Working with a medical team to find a diagnosis can be a long process that will require more than one appointment. Make better health decisions by being prepared for the first visit with each member of the medical team.
Make informed decisions about health care:
- Prepare a list of questions and concerns before the appointment
- List the most important questions first, not all questions may be answered in the first visit
- Ask questions about symptoms, possible diagnoses, tests, and treatment options
For future appointments:
- Discuss what was not addressed at the last visit
- Discuss changes in the quality of life for the patient, family, and caregivers
- Discuss health goals and other issues in the patientâs and familyâs life that may affect the health care decisions
What Are The Recurring Symptoms
HSV-1 is a latent and lifelong virus. This means it lies dormant in the system, only to appear sporadically throughout the course of its hosts lifetime. Recurring outbreaks of HSV-1 are much less severe than the initial outbreak and only include the fluid-filled blisters or cold sores. After the blisters form, they eventually break and the fluid oozes out. A yellow scab crusts over the broken blister. Once the scab falls off, theres new skin underneath. These lesions tend to appear in clusters either on the face or in the genital region, and they can last anywhere from 7 days to 3 weeks. Recurring symptoms appear months or even years after the initial outbreak and can continue to occur randomly throughout the infected persons life. Symptoms can surface every month, every year, and sometimes they may never appear at all . Unfortunately, there is no way to identify exactly when the HSV-1 symptoms will emerge. Outbreaks tend to decrease in frequency and severity as time goes on because the body builds up more antibodies to fight off the virus.
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How To Get Rid Of Herpes The Conventional Way
For most people with herpes, the virus typically represents nothing more than an inconvenience however, the real risk is for immuno-compromised patients who cant easily manage infections. In these patients, such as those with HIV/AIDS, herpes simplex infection is associated with increased morbidity and mortality.
As of 2017, there is not currently a herpes vaccine available to prevent HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Doctors sometimes prescribe medications to help keep the herpes virus suppressed or to speed up healing of cold sores by reducing bacteria that can cause infections. Some medications that are now used to control herpes include:
- Nucleoside analogues and antiviral medications
- Creams/ointment to help lower pain and inflammation near the site of sores
- Over-the-counter painkillers to reduce aches, tenderness or fever
However, its important to understand that even with early detection and prescription medications, either form of the herpes virus cannot be totally cured so transmission is always still possible. Medications for viruses dont always work long term and are not a cure-all.