Treatment For Genital Herpes
There is no medication to cure your body of the herpes virus. Treatment is aimed at easing symptoms, reducing the frequency of recurrences and reducing transmission.
Symptoms can be improved by:
- ice packs to the affected area
- pain-relieving medication such as paracetamol
- antiviral medication such as acyclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir. These can reduce the severity of an episode if taken early enough . Topical antivirals usually used for cold sores on the lips or face are not suitable for use on the genitals.
Put The Diagnosis In Perspective
Couple it with the data they need to put it in perspective. Tell them the herpes statistics, what herpes is, and perhaps relate a little about how it affects you personally.
For example: Are you one of the lucky ones who has never had an outbreak? Or do you now have symptoms only rarely, or even never, after managing or stopping your outbreaks? What if you only have outbreaks somewhere unusual, like your lower back ? Even if you do have frequent outbreaks, do you take care to know the signs one is coming on and take care of your health in general? Then by all means, include this more flattering information!
Not Such a Huge Deal: Heres a way to put it in perspective: You could mention that there are several types of herpes viruses: chicken pox, cold sores, genital herpes, and shingles. They might realize that its stigmatized yet not life-threatening or really even all that scary. Just about everyone gets chicken pox, and the majority contract oral herpes in their lifetime.
It Happens to the Best of Us: You dont need to tell this new person anything about how you came to contract herpes, or defend your past to them. But if you think it helps to let them know some face-saving circumstance, use your discretion and gauge your trust in this person and the intimacy level. Sometimes mentioning that its possible to contract herpes even if you always use condoms is adequate.
How Often Do Outbreaks Occur
The number of outbreaks someone has varies from person to person. The average number of outbreaks for a person with genital HSV-2 is four to five per year. The average for genital HSV-1 is less than one outbreak per year.
Usually, there are more outbreaks during the first year, and many people find that outbreaks become less severe and less frequent with time.
Herpes triggers are highly individual, but with time, many people learn to recognize, and sometimes avoid, factors that seem to reactivate HSV in their own bodies. Illness, poor diet, emotional or physical stress, friction in the genital area, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light , surgical trauma, and steroidal medication may trigger a herpes outbreak.
The frequency of outbreaks can often be managed through effective stress management, and getting adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise. For people with frequent outbreaks, suppressive therapy with any one of the antiviral treatments can reduce outbreaks by as much as 80%.
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Is It Safe To Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes as long as there isnt an open lesion on your chest or breast. If you have an active outbreak while breastfeeding, its possible to spread the infection to your nipples through touch. Careful hand-washing can prevent this spread. You shouldnt nurse from a breast that has herpes sores. You can pump breast milk until the sores heal. Dont give your baby expressed breast milk if the pump comes into contact with an open sore.
Example Disclosure Of Diagnosis
I like how things are going in our relationship, and Im hoping well end up in bed sometime soon. Before we do, I wanted to let you know that I have genital herpes. I take suppressive therapy and havent had an outbreak in a while, so the risk of passing it to you is low.
Still, its not zero, so I wanted you to have a chance to think about it before we get intimate. You dont need to respond right now. When, and if, youre ready, Im happy to talk with you more or to just send you some information.
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How To Have Sex With Someone With Herpes
This article was co-authored by Carrie Noriega, MD. Dr. Noriega is a Board Certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist and medical writer in Colorado. She specializes in womens health, rheumatology, pulmonology, infectious disease, and gastroenterology. She received her MD from the Creighton School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska and completed her residency at the University of Missouri – Kansas City in 2005.There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 103,202 times.
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection common in the United States. It causes sores, blisters, itching, and irritation on the genitals. There is no cure for genital herpes, which is why people worry about the virus spreading. There are things you can do to reduce your risk of contracting the virus if your partner has genital herpes. Keep in mind, however, there is no 100% foolproof way to keep the virus from spreading.
How Herpes Is Diagnosed
Your first step is to make an appointment with your healthcare provider if you have a lesion on your genitals or believe you were exposed to herpes. “Google really can’t tell you if you have genital herpes or not,” said Dr. Shim. A diagnosis of herpes can be made with an exam, but your healthcare provider will also order a culture swab from the sore to confirm the virus.
Your healthcare provider can give you advice on easing symptoms, shortening their duration, and preventing outbreaks in the future. Taking a daily dose of the antiviral drug Valtrex can decrease transmission to a non-infected partner, said Dr. Shirazian. It can also prevent recurrent outbreaks for the person with the infection. Maintaining general healthful habitseating nutritious foods, staying active, and getting enough sleepgo a long way to keeping your immune system able to minimize outbreaks.
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If You Were Infected During Oral Sex
If you are someone who was infected with genital herpes during oral sex, its a good idea to talk to your partner about what happened. Think about educating them, rather than engaging in partner blame.
Its unlikely that they were trying to intentionally give you an STD. Unfortunately, a lot of people with cold sores are unaware of the risk of transmitting herpes during oral sex. Fortunately, this risk can be greatly reduced by using appropriate barriers or suppressive therapy.
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Where Do Symptoms Appear
When a person has genital herpes, the virus lies dormant in the bundle of nerves at the base of the spine. When the virus reactivates , it travels nerve paths to the surface of the skin, sometimes causing an outbreak.
Genital herpes, regardless of whether it is HSV-1 or HSV-2, does not cause symptoms on the mouth or face. For more on oral-facial herpes, see the oral herpes page.
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What Is Neonatal Herpes
Neonatal herpes can be a very serious infection. Babies generally contract the virus from their birthing parent during childbirth even if the parent doesnt have active lesions. They may also get HSV-1 if an adult with an active cold sore kisses them. Breastfeeding babies can also get HSV-1 from the breast if there are lesions present. But babies cant get herpes from breast milk, so its safe to pump and feed.
Herpes simplex can be more dangerous for young babies because they dont have a fully developed immune system. But most babies with neonatal herpes can recover fully with treatment.
The dangers of neonatal herpes are much higher if the infection spreads to the babys organs. If youre pregnant and have herpes, speak with your healthcare provider about how to lower the risk of passing the infection to your baby.
How To Prevent The Spread Of Herpes
Although herpes is a lifelong virus that cant be cured, it goes through periods of dormancy between outbreaks. This means that while the virus is still present, its not actively replicating.
During this time, you may not experience any signs or symptoms of having the disease even if youve had a previous outbreak before.
However, you can still spread the herpes virus to your sexual partners at any time, even if no sores are present. In addition, although rare, its possible to spread oral herpes to the genital region and vice versa.
For this reason, its extremely important to be mindful of the following preventive measures:
- Tell your partners that you have genital or oral herpes. This allows them to make informed decisions about their own sexual health, and its the responsible thing to do.
- If youre experiencing the signs and symptoms of an upcoming outbreak, avoid all sexual contact. Youre most likely to spread the virus to others during an outbreak.
- Its possible to spread the herpes virus even without an outbreak. If youre worried about spreading the disease to a partner, research shows that antivirals are effective at reducing this possibility.
Having oral or genital herpes doesnt mean that you can no longer have sex. However, its your responsibility to prevent the spread of herpes to your sexual partner.
If you have herpes, you can still take care of your sexual health through open communication and safer sex.
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When Both Partners Have Herpes
Congratulations you can skip having the talk! If you and your partner have the same type of herpes, you have more freedom than a couple not trying to infect one partner. If you both have HSV-2, for example, you both already have the antibodies built up and cannot be re-infected. Your outbreaks and symptoms will instead be affected by the strength of your immune system, so keep it strong.
You will also not necessarily have the same need to avoid sex during and around times of outbreaks, but you will probably want to, for the sake of avoiding discomfort or prolonging the outbreak by irritating it.
If you have different strains of herpes i.e. one of you has HSV-1 and one has HSV-2, read on. You are already well-protected by your antibodies. If you have HSV-2, you can still get, but might not be as likely to get, genital HSV-1. If you have HSV-1, however, you are still as susceptible to get HSV-2. Getting tested.
There are dating sites for people with herpes that can help you to meet potential partners with the same type of HSV as you. .
Let Your Partner Think Before Making A Decision
People can react differently to hearing that you have genital herpes. Sometimes, you might be surprised to discover that the person youre coming out to also has herpes, and was dreading the prospect of sharing their status with you.
Sometimes, your partner might be well informed about herpes and willing to take a test to check if they also have the virus before having a relationship. Some people might simply not care and feel comfortable having a relationship with you even knowing about your HSV-2 status.
On the other hand, some people even people who might have been highly interested in you might not feel comfortable having a sexual or romantic relationship after finding out about your genital herpes. The reasons can differ, but for many people, any STD is a hard no.
The key point here is that you cant expect everyone to react the same way. One way to make it easier for your partner is to give them time. Suggest that they take a day or two to think about it before contacting you to see how they feel.
If someone is seriously interested in you, they might want to take a day or two to research the facts about herpes before giving you a yes. Or, they could just need an hour to double-check the data before inviting you back over for a cup of coffee.
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How Soon Can You Be Tested
The incubation period for herpes is 2 to 12 days, which means that the best time to get tested for the herpes virus if you havent had an initial outbreak is after 12 days. If youre worried that youve been exposed to herpes but have not yet been diagnosed, here are some steps you can take:
- If youre currently sexually active, stop all sexual activity until you can receive a formal diagnosis.
- Reach out to your doctor and schedule an appointment for once the incubation period is up.
- If youre having an outbreak, you dont have to wait to get tested. Its possible to receive a diagnosis based on the lesions.
When To Call The Doctor
Even though HSV sores can hurt and be unsightly, most cases of herpes do not cause serious illness. The sores go away in a few days. Contact the health provider if:
- Sores are present and you think it might be a first herpes infection. The diagnosis is usually made by examining the sores. If the sores have not healed, sometimes a laboratory test is done.
- Sores do not heal by themselves or show signs of infection such as pus, spreading redness or fever.
- Sores are near the eyes.
- You have another health condition with a weakened immune system.
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Choose The Right Moment To Chat
One of the hardest aspects of telling someone you have genital herpes is choosing the right moment. Perfect, distraction-free one-on-one conversations rarely play out like they do in the movies, meaning you might need to improvise a little in this category.
If you need to tell a romantic and potential sexual partner that you have herpes, its essential that you do this before you have any sexual contact. Herpes can spread easily, and theres a real risk of transmission even if you arent experiencing an outbreak.
Generally, the best time to explain to your partner that you have herpes is when you start to think that sexual contact is on the horizon. After a date, your partner might invite you to their home, sending an obvious signal that theyre open to the idea of escalating the relationship.
Once youre alone and comfortable, its generally the best time to get the herpes conversation out of the way. In the next sections, weve provided some techniques that you can use to help make the conversation a little more manageable.
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How Will My Healthcare Provider Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at any sores that are present. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. If sores are not present, a blood test may be used to look for HSV antibodies.
Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider about herpes testing and 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 when you got the infection.
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Can I Treat Herpes Simplex At Home
Avoiding known triggers, such as illness or stress, can help reduce how often you have herpes outbreaks.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-1 ?
- Over-the-counter creams such as L-lysine, benzocaine or docosanol .
- Applying ice to blisters or sores.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-2 ?
- 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.
- Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as a topical analgesic.
Make It A Conversation Not A Monologue
A great way to freak out the person youre dating is to say you need to talk about something serious and launch into an emotional confession. Instead of taking the I have something important to tell you route, treat this as an opportunity to discuss how you want to approach sex and dating. Ive used the disclosure conversation to discuss what I want in the relationship more generallyam I looking for something exclusive, or would I prefer to keep things casual? This is also a good time to ask how recently they were last tested for STIs, and to discuss what forms of protection and birth control you want to use together. Saying I would rather we use condoms if we have sex because I have HPV and want to keep you safe, is much more reassuring than I hate to tell you this, but I have HPV.
Dont be surprised if opening up about your STI invites them to do the same with whatever it is they struggle to tell new partners. Disclosing that you have an STI demonstrates youre an honest, nonjudgmental soul, and that will often encourage your partner to lower some of his or her walls too. Some of my best relationships were built on that first conversation when I let my guard down and my partner followed me to that place of emotional vulnerability. These are the moments of trust and vulnerability that become the foundation of the best relationships.
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