Treatments Your Physician May Prescribe
Most HSV infections are easy for physicians to diagnose. On occasion, however, a swab from the infected skin may be sent to the laboratory to confirm the diagnosis. A blood test may also be performed to determine if you have been exposed to the virus. Your doctor may also recommend a blood test for your partner to determine if he/she has been exposed to herpes in the past, or is at risk for contracting the virus.Untreated HSV infections will go away on their own, but antiviral medications can reduce symptoms, shorten the duration of outbreaks, and decrease the chance of spreading the virus. These medicines are most effective if taken during the first 24 hours of symptoms. If you experience burning and tingling before the appearance of blisters, you can start the medicine as soon as you feel these symptoms. Unfortunately, these medicines do not cure HSV infections.Treatment for primary and recurrent HSV infections are oral antiviral medications, such as acyclovir , valacyclovir , and famciclovir . Each of these medications is equally effective and usually taken for 710 days for primary infections and 15 days for recurrent infections. Talk to your doctor about getting a prescription for these medicines for possible future outbreaks, as they are most effective if taken early on.More severe HSV infections may require additional medications such as:
Complications Of Cold Sores
Cold sores are usually mild, but may cause complications in rare cases. People with weak immune systems caused by illness or treatments such as chemotherapy are particularly at risk of complications.
Dehydration sometimes occurs if drinking fluids becomes painful. Young children are particularly at risk of becoming dehydrated.
The herpes simplex virus can also spread to other parts of your body. Examples of when this can occur include:
- skin infections these often occur if the virus comes into contact with broken skin, such as a cut or graze, or a skin condition such as eczema
- herpetic whitlow this causes painful sores and blisters to appear on and around your fingers
- herpetic keratoconjunctivitis this causes swelling and irritation of your eye area and sores to develop on your eyelids
Left untreated, herpetic keratoconjunctivitis can cause the cornea, the transparent layer at the front of your eye, to become infected, which can eventually lead to blindness.
Itâs therefore important not to touch your eyes if you have an unhealed cold sore. If you must touch your eyes for example, to remove contact lenses wash your hands thoroughly first.
In very rare cases, encephalitis, a condition where the brain becomes inflamed and swollen, can be caused by the cold sore virus spreading to the brain. It can be treated with intravenous injections of antiviral medications, such as aciclovir.
Medically reviewed by Michele Emery, DNP
Can Genital Herpes Be Treated
Your physician can prescribe different medications to help reduce your symptoms and speed up the healing of an outbreak. These medicines work best when you start them soon after an outbreak occurs.
To reduce pain during an outbreak:
- Sit in warm water in a portable bath or bathtub for about 20 minutes. Avoid bubble baths.
- Keep your genital area clean and dry, and avoid tight clothes.
- Take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Avoid aspirin.
Let your physician know if you are worried about your genital herpes. He or she can recommend a support group to help you cope with the virus.
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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 Do I Talk To My Sex Partners
Telling them about your condition can be hard. Take some time to learn what you can and understand your own feelings first. You may be more at ease to talk openly.
Some people you tell might not think its such a big deal. Others will have strong feelings about it.
You cant control how anyone else reacts. All you can do is share what you know, answer questions, and give them time to think about it.
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Cycle And Duration Of A Herpes Outbreak
When an individual is first infected with herpes and exhibit active symptoms, the duration of the primary outbreak will be the worst and most painful and can take 3 to 6 weeks to resolve. Subsequent recurrent outbreaks will be less severe, typically lasting 3 to 14 days and the frequency will become farther and farther apart with each recurring attack.
A typical cycle and duration of a herpes outbreak may look like the following:
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How Can I Protect My Sex Partners
You can take steps to protect others from herpes. Keep in mind that you can spread it even when you dont have symptoms.
Avoid sex during outbreaks: Youre more likely to give your partner herpes while you have an outbreak. Avoid sexual contact from the time you notice the first signs, such as tingling or pain, until the scabs fall off and your skin is back to normal.
Try not to touch your sores: If you do, wash your hands right away. A good cleaning may stop the spread to another part of your body or to your partner.
Use condoms: They wont totally protect your partner, but they can lower the chances of spreading the virus.
Talk to your doctor: They might prescribe a drug to make it less likely youll give herpes to someone else. As with condoms, the medicine wont 100% protect your partner.
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Reduce The Chances Of Spreading Herpes
Ifyou know someone who has herpes, avoid coming in direct contact with them.Never share lipsticks, foods, drinks, or utensils. Never touch or kiss someonewith an open sore. Be sure to wash your hands frequently. Abstain from sexduring an active outbreak. Avoidoral sex and always remember to use condoms.
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How Is Herpes Simplex Diagnosed
Healthcare providers may diagnose herpes simplex based on how the sores look. Your provider may take a sample from the sore. Laboratory analysis of the sample can confirm or rule out the herpes virus.
If you dont have sores, your healthcare provider can use a blood test to check for HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibody, a marker showing youve been exposed to the virus. The blood test doesnt show an active infection . But it informs your provider whether youve been exposed to the herpes virus in the past. If this is your first infection, you may not test positive for herpes if there hasnt been enough time for your body to develop antibodies. The HSV-1and HSV-2 antibody test may be repeated in eight to 12 weeks.
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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.
How To Cope After Diagnosis
Many posters were occupied with the issue of passing on the infection. Yolandayw points out that you can minimise the risk of transmission by postponing sex until all the sores have healed. She also mentioned that condoms should be used. They wonât completely prevent transmission but they will help.
Ending on a positive note, many posters emphasised that there was light at the end of the tunnel. Learning of the diagnosis may feel stressful at first, but itâs a manageable condition and certainly nothing to be ashamed of. Lucy03934 has had genital herpes for 25 years. Sheâs been married for 18 years and has two sons â living proof that there is life after herpes.
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Can Herpes Outbreaks Be Prevented
Herpes outbreaks have a high risk of being spread through frequent sexual contact. These herpes outbreaks last longer if one continues to aggravate the condition. It is recommended that one abstain from sexual contact during an outbreak or if you suspect the onset of an outbreak.
The use of medication is the best way to lessen the effects of the virus once it has been contracted. Consult with your doctor about which medication will work best for you.
Through the help of herpes medication, the frequency of a herpes outbreak can be controlled as long as one is diligent in taking the medication and adheres to their prescribed treatment plan. The disease cannot be cured therefore the best treatment is always prevention. For those who have contracted the virus and must live with it, medication offers the best long term treatment.
Understanding Herpes With H Hunter Handsfield Md
Herpes expert H. Hunter Handsfield, MD, explains the basics about genital herpes, including the difference between genital HSV-1 and HSV-2 infection, testing options and the importance of knowing virus type, and the three-prong strategy for prevention. See more herpes videos at sexualhealthTV.com.
Have a question about herpes youd like Dr. Handsfield or our other experts to answer? Visit our Ask the Experts page to learn how.
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Do Condoms Help Prevent The Spread Of Genital Herpes
Yes. To prevent transmission of herpes, we recommend that condoms be used 100% of the time. Many patients will shed the virus and be contagious when they dont have symptoms. Studies have shown that asymptomatic shedding occurs between 1% and 3% of the time in patients with HSV II genital infections. Many new herpes infections occur from partners who are shedding the virus asymptomatically, so condoms are highly recommended.
Condoms may not be an attractive option for monogamous couples or for couples who desire to become pregnant. Couples may opt to have serological tests to determine if either partner has an asymptomatic infection. In close monogamous relationships, the risks of transmission can be weighed against other relationship issues, such as intimacy and pregnancy.
Symptoms Of Utis And Herpes
In many cases, the symptoms experienced by a patient with genital herpes resemble those of a UTI at first, which can lead to the mistaken conclusion that herpes has caused the UTI. Rather, the initial symptoms that tend to occur one or two days before the sores of an outbreak appear may mimic those of a UTI. These include:
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Painful urination
- Frequent and urgent need to urinate, as well as difficulty urinating
However, as the symptoms progress, patients with genital herpes also experience:
- Numbness nad tingling or even burning in the genital area
- Watery blisters in and around the genitals
- Tenderness and sores near the rectum
These additional sores, once burst, can take up to four weeks to heal. Throughout this time, hygiene is of the utmost importance to assure that bacteria dont settle into these sores or transfer bacteria from them to the urethra.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Virus
The symptoms of herpes are exceptionally easy to recognize and unlike many other STDs, it is hard to mistake it for some other condition. The tell-tale signs include blisters and sores on the site of the infection . The blisters usually burst a couple of days after they originally manifested, leaving painful sores behind. In the case of HSV-1, non-genital herpes, the blisters will appear on the lips and around the mouth, with similar development.
However, these most recognizable symptoms are often accompanied by other more subtle ones which can often be missed. These include:
- General malaise
- Aches and pains in the lower back, legs and groin
- Painful urination
Another characteristic of herpes is the cyclic successions of periods of activity and dormancy. So, all of the mentioned symptoms will, even without treatment, eventually dissipate and the infection will seem to have gone away. However, it is still present in the system, just dormant for the time being. When the symptoms reappear, this occurrence is usually called reactivation of the virus. Reactivations can happen either rhythmically or completely randomly, but in either case, their frequency and severity will gradually diminish as the years go by.
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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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Sexuality In Midlife And Beyond
The physical transformations the body undergoes with age have a major influence on sexuality. This Special Health Report, Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond, will take you through the stages of sexual response and explain how aging affects each. Youll also learn how chronic illnesses, common medications, and emotional issues can influence your sexual capabilities. Finally, youll find a detailed discussion of various medical treatments, counseling, and self-help techniques to address the most common types of sexual problems.
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What Is Chronic Herpes
Chronic herpes generally refers to infected people who have six or more outbreaks of herpes in a years time. Frequent outbreaks are a medical concern because herpes simplex virus does create a risk for other illnesses, such as the development of viral meningitis, and a high frequency of outbreaks can make it difficult for people to pursue sexual relations. Most people have fewer infections per year and these become less frequent the longer the person has the condition. Some people are particularly prone to herpes outbreaks, especially those with compromised immune systems. Fortunately, there are ways to successfully treat this condition.
When a person has active symptoms of herpes, the condition is usually considered acute each outbreak is called an acute phase of herpes. Chronic herpes cannot be diagnosed until the outbreak number exceeds six acute phases within a year. In the first year that a person contracts herpes, its possible to have six or more outbreaks, without being considered chronic, provided outbreaks are reduced in the second year. Diagnosis is made easier if outbreaks continue to be frequent in the second year or several years after contraction of the illness.
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What Happens If I Dont Get Treated
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or the fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another part of your body, such as your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, immediately wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading your infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your developing fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? above for information about this.
What Is Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex is a virus that causes skin infections. The infection lasts your lifetime, and it causes painful or itchy sores and blisters that come and go. Herpes simplex virus typically doesnt cause severe problems. But it can be dangerous in infants and people with weakened immune systems. There are two types of herpes simplex:
- Herpes simplex 1 tends to affect your mouth or face. It causes cold sores. HSV-1 spreads through contact with saliva .
- Herpes simplex 2 is a sexually transmitted disease . It causes sores on skin that comes in contact with the genitals of an infected person.
Sometimes a herpes infection can affect other parts of your body, such as your eyes or other parts of your skin.
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