Herpes Symptoms And Signs
In order to diagnose herpes, a health care provider can swab an area of visibly active herpes infection or, if symptoms arent active, a blood test can be given that measures the number of herpes antibodies present in the body. The antibodies dont indicate herpes itself, but rather show the immune systems response to the presence of the virus in the body. Its important to note that sometimes a swab can give false negative results since herpes lesions need to be large enough to yield enough detectable virus and if the outbreak is already healing it also may not be detected in a swab.
The most common herpes symptoms;include:
What You Need To Know
- Herpes simplex virus , also known as genital herpes, is most likely to be spread when an infected person is having an outbreak, but it can also be transmitted without any symptoms being present.
- Medications can help reduce your symptoms, speed up the healing of an outbreak and make you less contagious.
- If you know you have genital herpes before becoming pregnant, your physician will monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy. If you have an active outbreak at the time of delivery,;cesarean section may be recommended.
Myth #: A Blood Test Is The Best Way To Know If You Have Herpes
Blood tests are not always accurate and testing for herpes can be tricky. It can take two weeks to six months after being exposed to herpes before it is detected in the blood. To make matters more complicated, if you are low risk for herpes and asymptomatic, it increases your risk of a false positive result. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against routine testing for herpes unless you or your partner have symptoms. The most accurate test is when you are able to take a swab sample from a new herpes lesion, but often times the diagnosis is made by a clinician based on your history and report of symptoms.
Because the blood test can be expensive and inaccurate, it is not typically included in a sexually transmitted disease evaluation unless you ask your provider for it specifically.
In short, if you dont have symptoms, you dont necessarily need a blood test. If you do experience an outbreak, a skin swab not a blood test is your best bet for confirmation.
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Herpes: What It Is How Its Spread And How To Manage It
Of all the STIs, herpes might be the most misunderstood. From dire warnings and photos of serious infections in high school sex ed to jokes made on sitcoms to passing comments from friends, were constantly getting the message that getting herpes is the worst thing that could ever happen to a person. But thats more about STI stigma than it is about the reality of living with herpes.
In reality, herpes is:1. Much more common than most people realize.2. Manageable, .3. Often symptomless or causing only minor symptoms.
So here are some common questions and the actual factswithout the scare tacticsabout herpes.
Ask Your Partner If They Have Ever Had A Sexually Transmitted Disease
Most people who have genital herpes don’t know they’re infected, so ask whether they have had any other sexually transmitted disease. People with a history of STDs are more likely to have genital herpes.
It may be awkward, but it’s important to be honest with each other. Your partner may be afraid to tell you the truth if they fear;a negative reaction. If your partner feels comfortable talking with you, you’ll be more likely to get straight answers.
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Genital Herpes Symptoms & Treatment
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that causes infected sores or blisters.
Its caused by the herpes simplex virus which can be passed on through close genital contact.
You can reduce your chances of getting genital herpes by using condoms or dental dams during sex.
If you think you have symptoms of genital herpes you should see a healthcare worker, they can take a swab from a blister and test to confirm if its caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Treatment can help with herpes outbreaks, but the virus cannot be cured and will remain in the body. This means that blisters normally come back once in a while.
How Can I Prevent Giving Genital Herpes To My Partner
You can reduce the risk of passing the herpes virus to your sexual partners by taking the following steps:
Tell current sexual partners that you have genital herpes. You also should tell future partners before having sexual contact.
Be alert to the symptoms that signal an outbreak is coming. Avoid sexual contact from the time you feel symptoms until a few days after the sores have gone away.
Wash your hands with soap and water after any possible contact with sores.
Take antiviral medication on a daily basis .
Use male latex condoms.
Its also important to know that you can pass HSV to someone else even when you do not have sores . The virus can be present on skin that looks normal, including right before and after an outbreak.
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What Are The Chances Of Getting Herpes From An Infected Partner
While we think of HSV-2, the virus that most commonly causes gential herpes, as spreading through contact with herpes lesions, transmissions commonly occur when there are no visible lesions or from a partner who doesnt even know that they are infected. In fact, it is estimated that over 87% of people who are infected with HSV-2 never get diagnosed.;
Studies have looked at herpes transmission rates between partners. In 2004, a large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine followed 1,484 heterosexual monogamous couples for 8 months where one partner had an HSV-2 infection and the other didnt. The susceptible partner was evaluated monthly for clinical signs and symptoms of genital herpes. Of the 741 couples who were only educated on using condoms for protection , 27 became infected with the virus, including 16 of whom developed an outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year, over 775,000 people get new genital herpes infections. It tends to be more common in women, possibly because it is more easily transmitted from men to women during sex.;
Other than abstaining from sexual contact, there is no proven way to completely prevent getting infected by your partner. While condoms can help reduce the chance of transmission, they dont completely eliminate the risk. However, another option to further reduce the risk of spread is daily antiviral medication. More on this next.
How Is Genital Herpes Treated
There is no cure for the herpes simplex virus. The blisters usually heal and go by themselves, so you may not always need treatment. There is antiviral medicines for herpes, which can: shorten outbreaks, relieve discomfort and stop symptoms from getting worse.
The antiviral treatment is most effective when you take it within the first five days of symptoms appearing. Avoid touching the blisters as this can also increase the risk of spreading the infection. If your herpes treatment requires you to apply cream to a sore, just gently pat the cream on, being careful not to rub around the surrounding area.
You can ease your symptoms by:
- keeping the affected area clean using plain or salt water to prevent blisters or ulcers from becoming infected
- applying petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to any blisters or ulcers to reduce the pain when passing urine
- asking a healthcare provider to recommend painkilling creams
- avoiding tight clothing because it may irritate the blisters and ulcers.
Dont have sex until you or your partner have finished your treatment, and the blisters or ulcers have gone. If its your first outbreak, its sometimes advised that you check back with a healthcare provider before having sex again, to ensure that your symptoms have gone.
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How Not To Freak Out If Youre Diagnosed With Herpes
When a person is diagnosed with herpes, its unfortunately really common for them to go into a shame spiral. Thats because many of us have been exposed to stigmatizing messages around herpes, and that we may have deeply absorbed those messages.
Youre still you, says Emily. A lot of people lose their identity to what they think herpes means and they start to associate themselves with all of these societal negatives. Youre still you, before diagnosis and after diagnosis.
Emma McGowan is a veteran blogger who writes about startups and sex. Shes Bustles sex ed columnist at Sex IDK and a regular contributor to Bustle and Startups.co. Her work has appeared in Mashable, The Daily Dots The Kernel, Mic, and The Bold Italic. Shes a sex-positive feminist whose hobbies include making patterns and sewing, connecting with other women, and reading at least three books a week.
How Herpes Is Treated
There is no cure for herpes.
- The health care provider may prescribe antiviral medicine to help speed up the healing process. It also shortens the time when the virus can spread from the herpes sores.
- Pain may be treated with medicine such as Tylenol; or Motrin; or by applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the affected area.
- If sores are in the mouth, avoid foods high in acid, like citrus fruits and juices.
- The infected area should be kept clean and dry.
- Wash hands often and avoid touching the sores to prevent spreading the virus.
- It is important to stay healthy by getting enough rest, having proper nutrition and exercise and managing stress well.
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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 Are Other Ways To Prevent Herpes Transmission
Here are some other ways to reduce herpes transmission besides taking medication:
- Condoms are one of the best ways to reduce the risk of transmission. A study from 2016 followed over 900 couples for an average of 18 months. The findings showed that condoms reduced the transmission rate with each act of intercourse from men to women by 96% and from women to men by 65%. It is important to use condoms consistently and correctly when engaging in sexual contact with an infected partner.
- If your partner has an active sore on their genitals, dont have sex until it clears. Even then, youll still want to use a condom.
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Be Conscious About Touching Sores
Herpes sores, especially those in the mouth area, may be touched unconsciously by those suffering from herpes. It is important to be very conscious about not touching the sores, because any area that you touch thereafter can then become infected. The herpes virus could be spread to the nose, inner mouth, eyes, or other regions of the body after only a brief touch to a cold sore.
How Are Cold Sores Spread
The question ‘how are cold sores spread?’ is one of the most frequently asked questions about these painful, fluid-filled blisters that appear around the mouth and lips. Knowing how cold sores are spread, why cold sores are so contagious and when they are serious can help reduce your risk of a cold sore outbreak and prevent spreading cold sores to others.
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What Are The Types Of Herpes Viruses
Herpes is a group of contagious viruses. All of these viruses cause blisters and sores. Some of the more common herpes viruses include:
- Type 1: HSV-1, or oral herpes, causes cold sores to form on lips, gums, tongue and inside the mouth. It can cause genital herpes in some cases This type usually spreads through saliva when you kiss someone with open herpes sores. You can also get HSV-1 by sharing items like toothbrushes, lipsticks or eating utensils.
- Type 2: HSV-2 causes genital herpes.
- Herpes zoster: This virus causes chickenpox and shingles.
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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Wash Hands And Use Antibacterial Hand Gel
Even though a herpes sufferer may be very vigilant about not touching sores and not spreading the virus, there are still times that some incidental contact with the sores may occur. As a safeguard, it is helpful to maintain a routine of regular hand washing with hot water and soap. When hot water and soap is not available, antibacterial hand gel is a good substitute but should never be used exclusively in place of hand washing. After washing hands, do not wipe the hands on a towel that others will then have contact with because it is possible to spread the virus in this way. Always attempt to find a hand dryer or use disposable towels to dry hands.
Avoid Sex During Outbreaks
Although its unlikely that youre going to want to be intimate during an outbreak, its important to know that this is the time when the virus is most active and most likely to be transmissible, Wait until all your symptoms go away, including any sores, itching, and tingling.
If you have thrush or small abrasions from sexual intercourse, often due to insufficient lubrication. It can be helpful to use a lubricant specifically for sexual intercourse and avoid sex if you have thrush. Sexual lubrication is helpful right at the start of sexual activity.
Sores in other areas, such as the buttocks and thighs, can be just as contagious as those in the genital area, and care should be taken to avoid direct contact with such sores during sex.
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Preventing The Herpes Virus From Spreading To Others
Avoid Sexual Contact During Outbreaks
During an outbreak of genital herpes, sexual contact of any type should be avoided. Genital herpes can easily be spread through sexual contact, and the use of prophylactics does not guarantee that the virus will not be spread. Genital herpes can be spread from regions that are not protected by a prophylactic. It is generally recommended by doctors that sexual contact should be avoided for at least one week after the sores from an outbreak have fully healed.
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How Effective Is Medication At Preventing Infection
If you have genital herpes, you will probably be somewhat less likely to infect your partner if you use antiviral medication for prevention. The medications used for this purpose include aciclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir. They must be taken every day over a long period of time, though. One study showed that over a period of eight months,
- 4 out of 100 people became infected when the partner with the virus took a placebo, and
- 2 out of 100 people became infected when the partner with the virus took antiviral medication every day.
These couples were also advised to use condoms as well but many didn’t use them consistently. So its not clear whether taking antiviral medication can lower the risk of infection even further if you always use condoms anyway, or whether using condoms is just as effective on its own.
Whether or not you would like to use preventive medication is ultimately an individual decision. Many factors can play a role, such as how long you or your partner have had the infection, how frequent and severe the outbreaks are, whether you are male or female, the frequency of sexual contact and whether you use condoms.