Signs And Symptoms Of Herpes
Oral herpes is an infection in the mouth, caused by HSV-1 . Symptoms often include cold sores or fever blisters, but you can have oral herpes without any symptoms.
The herpes simplex virus can be dormant until an active outbreak occurs. The initial infection typically has the worst symptoms, ranging from flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph nodes to headaches. Sores may occur in and around the lips and mouth. Recurring infections are usually milder, and may include redness, itching, or swelling. Painful, fluid-filled blisters can occur and are highly contagious. These blisters often turn into sores , which will then scab over and typically heal in a few days.
Symptoms of genital herpes range from none to more severe manifestations . The majority of genital HSV infections are mild, with little to no symptoms following the initial outbreak. For people who do experience symptoms, the usual course begins with genital inflammation, where the skin may itch or burn. Blister-like sores may appear. The sores may open, scab over, and heal.
Other indirect symptoms that can occur during an active herpes virus infection include fever, headaches, muscle aches, and a burning sensation during urination.
If you think you may have a herpes infection, home testing could be a convenient option for you. If youÃ¢re wondering how to get tested for herpes at home, thereÃ¢s good news: testing for HSV-2 is easy with the Everlywell female STD Test or male STD Test.
Things You Can Do To Help
Antivirals are only designed to stop the virus multiplying and will not help your discomfort in the short term. For this, there are a few simple things you can do to ease the discomfort and speed up the healing process:
- Apply an ice pack or ice cubes in a plastic bag
- Take a cool shower to soothe the blisters
- Apply a local, over-the-counter anaesthetic cream such as lidocaine
- Gently bathe the area with warm salt water
- Carefully pat the area dry
- If weeing is painful, go to the toilet in a warm bath or shower
- Wash your hands before and after touching the infected area to avoid introducing bacteria
- Keep hydrated and drink extra fluids
- Wear loose, cotton clothing
- Use an over-the-counter painkiller to help with pain and discomfort
Avoid washing your genitals too often when you have an outbreak, as this wont help to alleviate the symptoms.
The antivirals are safe to use with hormonal contraception but talk to the person prescribing the treatment to make sure.
Genital herpes can be safely treated during pregnancy. It is important to discuss with your midwife if you have, or have had, herpes infections. The treatment you receive may depend on whether it is your first herpes infection and also where in the pregnancy you are but your midwife will advise you.
It is strongly advised that you do not have any sexual contact before or during an outbreak and for a week after your symptoms have completely gone.
Talking to people about STIs
STIs and Stigma
When To Talk With A Doctor
Talk with a doctor if you notice any sores on or around your genitals. Other STIs, like syphilis, can look like herpes but need different treatment. Treatment is needed to prevent complications and transmission.
Your doctor will let you know whether you should test for herpes or another STI, and they can help you get treatment if needed.
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If You Get A Positive Result Don’t Panic It Really Doesn’t Mean Much
All of this is to say that unless you have symptoms consistent with the herpes virus, why put yourself through the emotional turmoil of getting a blood test that may or may not give you legit results? As Hutcherson notes, if you do get a blood test and it comes back positive but you’re asymptomatic, what does that mean for you if you have nothing to treat? For many, due to the high rate of stigma still surrounding herpes, it can mean feelings of self-contempt, humiliation, and distress, all of which could be avoided if you aren’t experiencing any symptoms.
To recap, while there are some tests for herpes that can prove correct, none are 100 percent perfect, and blood tests are particularly problematic since they can produce false positives and negatives. We also know that the majority of the population has some form of herpes, so IMO it’s a mystery as to why we’re still making a big deal out of it. No one likes blisters or sores, but neither does anyone love having acne, a widespread condition without the same level of attached shame.
What Is Std Screening Exactly
Getting a screening test means that we look for an infection when you may not have any symptoms. Just like you get a mammogram, or screen for colon cancer, its also important to screen for sexually transmitted infections . There are no exact recommended times or tests that we recommend for everyone. These testing recommendations depend on your lifestyle and risk level.
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The Bottom Line: Tests For Herpes Are More Worry Than Theyre Worth
If you do have symptoms, donât fret: If you know your status, youâre at an advantage in that you can talk with your doctor and find an antiviral drug that works for you. Medication can curtail the severity of your symptoms, as well as the number of outbreaks you get. Additionally, taking an antiviral daily will greatly reduce your chances of transmitting the virus to someone else. In case you missed it, thereâs also a very promising new drug for herpes on the horizon, which researchers say could be the most effective one yet.
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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When Should I Get Tested
The best time to get tested for herpes if you havent had an initial outbreak is 12 days after exposure. This is because your body will have had time to produce antibodies that can be detected on a test.
A blood test can determine whether you have these antibodies.
Swabs, on the other hand, can detect the virus directly from an active herpes lesion.
Testing With No Symptoms
Blood tests can be used when a person has no visible symptoms but has concerns about having herpes. Blood tests do not actually detect the virus instead, they look for antibodies in the blood.
IgM vs. IgG
When an individual contracts herpes, the immune system responds by developing antibodies to fight the virus: IgG and IgM. Blood tests can look for and detect these antibodiesnot the virus itself. IgG appears soon after infection and stays in the blood for life. IgM is actually the first antibody that appears after infection, but it may disappear thereafter.
IgM tests are not recommended because of three serious problems:
The accurate herpes blood tests detect IgG antibodies. Unlike IgM, IgG antibodies can be accurately broken down to either HSV-1 or HSV-2. The challenge here is that the time it takes for IgG antibodies to reach detectable levels can vary from person to person. For one person, it could take just a few weeks, while it could take a few months for another. So even with the accurate tests, a person could receive a false negative if the test is taken too soon after contracting the virus.
For the most accurate test result, it is recommended to wait 12 16 weeks from the last possible date of exposure before getting an accurate, type-specific blood test in order to allow enough time for antibodies to reach detectable levels.
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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.
Best Affordable Herpes Test: Healthlabs
HealthLabs offers laboratory-based herpes tests. These may be the best option for people who do not have health insurance and those working with small budgets.
|does not require appointments and accepts walk-ins|
|Con||requires a visit to a laboratory for a healthcare professional to collect the sample|
After placing an order, the person receives a laboratory requisition form, which they need to print out and present at a laboratory. The company claims it has 4,500 laboratory locations, and individuals should receive their test results within 23 business days.
HealthLabs has three herpes tests available for purchase:
- a test for HSV-1, which costs $45
- a test for HSV-2, which costs $45
- a test for HSV-1 and HSV-2, which costs $79
People may also order at-home tests for other STIs, including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and HIV.
|offers tests for early detection of herpes|
|Con||requires a visit to a laboratory|
To order either herpes test, a person must access the company website and enter their ZIP code to find their nearest testing center.
The company claims it has over 4,000 private test centers across the United States.
After ordering the herpes test, a person can walk into their local center to receive the testing. An appointment is not necessary.
The test procedure involves a simple blood test and urine sample, which typically takes a matter of minutes. A person can expect to receive their online test results within 13 days.
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Whats The Difference Between Hsv
There are two types of HSV. HSV-1 is transmitted through oral contact. You can catch HSV-1 through mouth-to-mouth contact or through oral contact with the genitals. The sores associated with HSV-1 are often referred to as cold sores. Though they typically appear around the mouth, HSV-1 can also cause genital herpes.
HSV-2 is a sexually transmitted infection that primarily impacts the genitals. HSV-2 is spread through contact with the genitals, skin, fluids, or sores of someone with the virus. If HSV-2 comes into contact with the oral membranes, it may also cause sores on the mouth. Both types of herpes may spread even when symptoms are not evident and are lifelong viruses with no cure.
What Abnormal Results Mean
A positive test means you have been infected with HSV recently or at some point in the past.
Tests can be done to help determine if you have a recent infection.
About 70% of adults have been infected by HSV-1 and have antibodies against the virus. About 20% to 50% of adults will have antibodies against the HSV-2 virus, which causes genital herpes.
HSV stays in your system once you have been infected. It may be “asleep” , and cause no symptoms, or it may flare up and cause symptoms. This test cannot tell whether you are having a flare-up.
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What Is The Process Of Testing For Herpes
If you have a blister or sore, your local healthcare provider will test for herpes by taking a swab of fluid from the sore. Your doctor will send this sample to a laboratory for a viral culture to determine whether you have herpes. Its best to get the sore tested within 48 hours of its appearance.
If you dont have sores, your doctor can take a blood sample to test for herpes. This test looks for herpes simplex virus antibodies which let your healthcare provider know that you have had a past herpes infection.
Nurx offers prescription cold sore and genital herpes treatment for as little as $0 with insurance or $15 per month without insurance.
Another way to test for herpes is with a polymerase chain reaction test. This test uses PCR to make a copy of your DNA using blood, spinal tissue, a tissue sample from a suspected herpes sore. This test can then examine your DNA for the presence of HSV and identify which type of HSV is present.
If You Get A Positive Result Dont Panic It Really Doesnt Mean Much
All of this is to say that unless you have symptoms consistent with the herpes virus, why put yourself through the emotional turmoil of getting a blood test that may or may not give you legit results? As Hutcherson notes, if you do get a blood test and it comes back positive but youre asymptomatic, what does that mean for you if you have nothing to treat? For many, due to the high rate of stigma still surrounding herpes, it can mean feelings of self-contempt, humiliation, and distress, all of which could be avoided if you arent experiencing any symptoms.
To recap, while there are some tests for herpes that can prove correct, none are 100 percent perfect, and blood tests are particularly problematic since they can produce false positives and negatives. We also know that the majority of the population has some form of herpes, so IMO its a mystery as to why were still making a big deal out of it. No one likes blisters or sores, but neither does anyone love having acne, a widespread condition without the same level of attached shame.
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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.
Treatment For Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Patients who have a bacterial STD such as gonorrhea or chlamydia will receive a prescription for antibiotics. It is critical to follow the instructions so the antibiotics kill the infection. Patients should undergo a second round of testing three months after finishing the antibiotics to ensure the infection did not reappear. If it reoccurs, patients must undergo a second round of treatment.
Genital herpes is a viral STD and cannot be cured. However, antiviral drugs limit the number of outbreaks and also reduce the symptoms. These drugs also make infected patients less likely to pass the disease to sexual partners. Antiviral drugs do not completely eliminate the risk, though, so safe sex is necessary.
HIV is also a virus, but instead of antiviral drugs, the doctor will likely treat it with antiretroviral therapy. The patient will take a series of HIV medications. The medications reduce symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. Antiretroviral therapy also reduces the risk of transmitting the disease to others, although it is still possible.
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Can Herpes Simplex Virus Cause Serious Infections
Yes. The most serious, or life-threatening, HSV infections can occur in newborns who are infected during birth and in individuals with weakened immune systems , such as organ transplant recipients and people with HIV/AIDS. Neonatal herpes is a serious condition, but also very rare. While 25-30% of pregnant women have genital herpes, less than 0.1% of babies born in the U.S. each year get neonatal herpes. This means that most women with genital herpes give birth to healthy babies.
HSV lesions tend to be more extensive and persist longer in newborns and immunocompromised people than in individuals who have healthy immune systems.
What Does The Test Result Mean
Direct detection of the virus
- A positive HSV DNA test or culture indicates that you have an active herpes infection, and the result may indicate if it is HSV-1 or HSV-2.
- A negative PCR test or culture indicates that the herpes simplex virus was not detected, but this does not definitely rule out an infection. False negatives can occur if there is not enough active virus in the sample. This may happen if the lesion is cultured more than 48 hours after the symptoms appear. If suspicion of herpes remains high, repeat testing may be done.
Antibody blood tests
- A positive HSV-1 or HSV-2 IgG antibody test means antibodies are present in your blood, which means you have had an infection in the past even if you haven’t noticed any symptoms. The type of antibody detected indicates the type of HSV infection.
- Negative HSV antibody results mean that it is unlikely that you have been exposed to HSV or it may mean that your body has not had time to begin producing HSV antibodies.
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