Factors That Influence Healing Time
A compromised immune system may take longer to heal a herpes outbreak. If you have influenza or another infectious disease, you could experience a more painful outbreak for a longer period of time. Conditions such as HIV and AIDS, diabetes and leukemia can also result in prolonged and more intense outbreaks.
What you eat can play a role in healing time. Excessive alcohol, sugar and refined carbohydrates may contribute to herpes outbreaks, and a poor diet in general could keep you from healing as quickly as possible. A healthy diet supports good immune function, which is important in the healing of herpes sores.
Research has shown that persistent stress can also lead to recurrence of genital herpes outbreaks. If you experience ongoing anxiety, depression or psychological stress, trying new stress management techniques or seeking help from a professional could provide relief both mentally and physically.
To encourage an HSV-2 outbreak to heal as quickly as possible, follow proper hygiene and other best practices:
Pain And/or Itching In Or Around The Blisters
Lesions are usually very painful to touchespecially during the first herpes outbreak, which tends to be more severe. The main thing that brings women into the office with herpes is pain, says Dr. Shirazian. Bumps that you find just by chance when sudsing up in the shower or toweling off probably arent herpes. Herpes lesions will make themselves known and felt, she says. They can also itch, especially as they begin to scab over and heal.
How Do You Treat Herpes
Theres no cure for herpes, but prescription medications can ease symptoms, end outbreaks sooner, and lower the chances of passing the virus to other people.
You can also help ease the pain caused by herpes outbreaks by taking a warm bath, wearing loose clothing and putting an ice pack on the sores.
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There Are 2 Herpes Simplex Viruses That Can Cause Infection
- One causes most genital herpes.
- The other virus can also cause genital herpes but more often causes blisters of the mouth and lips.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 1 out of 6 people ages 14 to 49have genital herpes.
Women are more easily infected with herpes than men.
What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Simplex
Many people with the infection never experience any herpes symptoms. If you do notice symptoms, youll experience them differently depending on whether youre having your first herpes outbreak or a repeat outbreak. Recurring symptoms are usually milder than the first outbreak. Symptoms dont last as long with later outbreaks. Some people may only have one or two outbreaks during their lifetime. Others may have as many as four or five outbreaks a year.
People who do have herpes symptoms may experience:
- Cold sores around their lips, mouth or tongue. They may look crusty or like fluid-filled blisters.
- Tingling, itching or burning.
- Pain while urinating.
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Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster
Like HSV-1 and HSV-2, shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. The shingles rash usually shows up on the back, side, abdomen , neck and face. It is often only on half of your body, following the pattern of your nerves. See your healthcare provider if you have a new rash and suspect you may have shingles.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Herpes simplex is a virus. Once you have herpes, its a lifelong condition. A herpes infection can lead to outbreaks , but youll also have times when you have no symptoms. The main sign of herpes is sores that appear on the infected skin. Some people choose not to treat herpes, especially if symptoms are mild. Others take antiviral medications to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.
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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What To Do After Diagnosis
If youve been diagnosed with genital herpes, try not to panic. You have time to learn everything you need to know to live well with herpes.
You were probably diagnosed because you experienced an outbreak. It may have been scary and painful, but dont panic. Do some research and learn all you can about the disease.
Once youve had one herpes outbreak, youll probably have several more over the next year. Over time, outbreaks usually become less frequent. You may even stop having symptoms altogether.
You should also talk to your healthcare provider about treatment. Medication and other treatments for genital herpes can help:
- Relieve your symptoms
- Reduce the frequency of outbreaks
- Make it less likely youll transmit the virus to someone else
How Do You Know If You Have Genital Herpes
The only way to know if you have genital herpes is by amedical exam. Your health care provider can examineyou and test for it. Lab samples are taken from a sore,blister, or blood. Your health care provider may ask totest you for other infections at the same time.
Tell current and most recent sex partners of your herpes infection.
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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.
How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Genital herpes doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women with a diagnosis of herpes genitalis are recommended to start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy to prevent outbreaks during time of delivery. If you have an active infection at the time of childbirth, you can pass the herpes virus to your baby. Neonatal herpes puts a baby at risk for blindness, brain damage, skin infections and death. Your healthcare provider will perform a cesarean section to lower this risk.
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Who Might Get Genital Herpes
Genital herpes affects sexually active teens and adults of all genders and races. It can spread if you have multiple sexual partners and dont use condoms, including dental dams.
Women are more at risk. Delicate vaginal tissue can tear, making it easier for the infection to get in. Black women are especially vulnerable. An estimated 1 in 2 Black women between the ages of 14 and 49 is infected with HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes.
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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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What Is Oral Herpes
Oral herpes is primarily caused by HSV-1, although it is also possible to have an HSV-2 infection around the mouth.
A person with an oral herpes outbreak may first feel itching, burning, or tingling around the mouth, lips, or tongue. Later, cold sores or small blisters may develop in these areas or anywhere on the skin.
Roughly four to six days after these cold sores start leaking, they start healing by forming a crust. Outbreaks of oral herpes can last for two to three weeks, which can be shorter than the two to six weeks of a genital herpes outbreak.
People who develop symptoms of herpes may first experience tingling, itching, or burning, then notice sores or blisters forming around the mouth or genitals.
Symptoms tend to develop 220 days after exposure to the virus.
Subsequent Genital Herpes Outbreaks
Subsequent HSV-2 outbreaks typically last about a week from onset of symptoms to complete healing of sores. People sometimes experience symptoms that warn of an impending outbreak. These include an itching, burning or tingling sensation in the genital area where the sores form.
Over time, many people say they experience fewer and less severe genital herpes outbreaks than they did after first contracting the virus, though they are still infected.
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.
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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Treatment The First Time You Have Genital Herpes
You may be prescribed:
- antiviral medicine to stop the symptoms getting worse you need to start taking this within 5 days of the symptoms appearing
- cream for the pain
If you have had symptoms for more than 5 days before you go to a sexual health clinic, you can still get tested to find out the cause.
Can Genital Herpes Come Back
Yes. Genital herpes symptoms can come and go, but the virus stays inside your body even after all signs of the infection have gone away. The virus becomes “active” from time to time, leading to an outbreak. Some people have outbreaks only once or twice. Other people may have four or five outbreaks within a year. Over time, the outbreaks usually happen less often and are less severe.
Experts do not know what causes the virus to become active. Some women say the virus comes back when they are sick, under stress, out in the sun, or during their period.
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Sometimes There Are No Symptoms
Some people who contract herpes can go for years before having their first outbreak. Its even possible to have no symptoms at all but still pass on the virus. For some reason, male carriers of herpes seem to have no symptoms but still be infectious more often than females.
But why? Everyones body and immune systems is different. Plus, some strains of the virus are less aggressive than others. Studies also suggest that people who already have HSV-1 are less likely to show symptoms of genital HSV-2 as quickly as those who dont.
Interestingly, the CDC doesnt recommend herpes testing without the presence of symptoms. One reason is that a potential false positive result would have undue psychological costs for the patient. They also dont believe routine tests would have a large enough impact to curb the spread of the infection.
Without symptoms, how do you know if you have herpes thats dormant? Talk to your physician and decide if your symptoms or history warrant a check-up. If you know that you have been exposed to the virus by sexual or other physical contact, you may decide you have a valid reason to be concerned. Remember that herpes can spread even while using a condom. Whats more, oral herpes can be spread to the genitals from oral sex.
Is Genital Herpes Related To Shingles
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella zoster virus , which causes chickenpox earlier in life. The natural history of varicella zoster infection is similar to genital herpes infection in that VZV also becomes latent in the sensory nerve roots. Later in life the virus may exit, causing shingles.
Recurrences in shingles cause blister lesions in a single area of skin called a dermatome. Shingles is not a sexually transmitted infection and is independent from genital herpes.
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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.
What Happens If Herpes Is Not Treated
Herpes can be painful, but it generally does not cause serious health problems like other STDs can.
Without treatment, you might continue to have regular outbreaks, or they could only happen rarely. Some people naturally stop getting outbreaks after a while. Herpes typically does not get worse over time.
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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 #: If Someone Has Herpes Theyre Probably Promiscuous
One of my favorite myths is that only promiscuous or slutty people get herpesI just want to shout from the rooftops that this is absolutely not the case, says Hawkins. Herpes is something thats super easily transmitted. This is especially true of type 1 oral herpes, as you may have contracted it from, say, your grandmother as a kid. If this is the case, 15 years later you could perform oral sex on your partner and accidentally transmit your type 1 to his or her genitalsits that easy.
For this and all the reasons outlined abovethe fact that its difficult to test for, most people dont know they have it, it can be contracted non-sexually, etcyou can catch genital herpes from your first love, your long-term partner, someone who has been STD tested and shows you a clean bill of health, etc. Your number of sexual partners and your sexual proclivities are irrelevant.
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Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic
You can see a GP, but theyll 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.
Theyll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.