How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Getting Genital Herpes
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting genital herpes:
- Be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected with an STD
- Using latex condoms the right way every time you have sex.
Be aware that not all herpes sores occur in areas that are covered by a latex condom. Also, herpes virus can be released from areas of the skin that do not have a visible herpes sore. For these reasons, condoms may not fully protect you from getting herpes.
If you are in a relationship with a person known to have genital herpes, you can lower your risk of getting genital herpes if:
- Your partner takes an anti-herpes medication every day. This is something your partner should discuss with his or her doctor.
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.
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.
Don’t Miss: How To Avoid Genital Herpes Outbreaks
Initial Outbreak Of Genital Herpes
A person’s first outbreak of HSV-2 tends to last longer than subsequent outbreaks. Some people develop an outbreak quickly after contracting the herpes virus, while others don’t have symptoms that appear for several months or even years. Some lucky people never develop symptoms at all.
The initial episode of genital herpes also tends to be more painful than future outbreaks. Many people develop flu-like symptoms during their initial outbreak. These can include headache, fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes and tiredness.
The first outbreak of HSV-2 can last between two and four weeks.
Can You Have Herpes Without Symptoms
Its actually very common to have asymptomatic herpes. Herpes infections are chronic once you have herpes, the virus stays in your system for life, even when its not causing active breakouts.
However, having herpes and no symptoms doesnt mean that you cant transmit the virus to someone else. People with no symptoms of herpes can still shed the virus, according to Planned Parenthood, which can lead to transmission. Other people experience extremely mild symptoms that can be very easy to miss.
According to a study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine, asymptomatic shedding is more common within the first 3 months of an initial HSV-2 infection. And according to the CDC, viral shedding occurs on approximately 10% of days in people with asymptomatic HSV-2 infections.
Read Also: Can I Get Pregnant If I Have Herpes
How To Know If You Have Herpes
This article was medically reviewed by Lacy Windham, MD. Dr. Windham is a board certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist in Tennessee. She attended medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and completed her residency at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2010, where she was awarded the Most Outstanding Resident in Maternal Fetal Medicine, Most Outstanding Resident in Oncology, and Most Outstanding Resident Overall.There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 842,512 times.
Research shows that around 1 out of every 6 people has some form of herpes.XTrustworthy SourceCenters for Disease Control and PreventionMain public health institute for the US, run by the Dept. of Health and Human ServicesGo to source The herpes simplex viruses are the viruses responsible for oral and genital herpes infections, and they can cause sores, itching, painful urination, and vaginal discharge. Although doctors can treat symptoms, ease pain, and reduce the possibility of spreading the virus, herpes cannot be cured. Studies show that you can find out if you have herpes by examining high risk behaviors, recognizing the symptoms, and getting tested by a medical professional.XTrustworthy SourceFamilyDoctor.orgFamily-focused medical advice site run by the American Academy of Family DoctorsGo to source
What Can A Person Or Community Do To Prevent The Spread Of Herpes Ii
Avoidance of sexual contact with symptomatic individuals is an immediate, but only partial answer because herpes virus may be shed while the infected individual remains asymptomatic. Cesarean section is often recommended when primary or recurrent herpes II lesions occur in late pregnancy.
Sexual relations should be approached responsibly.
- Limit the number of your sex partners.
- Use a male or female condom.
- If you think you are infected, avoid any sexual contact and visit the local STD clinic, a hospital or your doctor.
You May Like: How To Not Spread Herpes To Your Partner
Treatment If The Blisters Come Back
Go to a GP or sexual health clinic if you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and need treatment for an outbreak.
Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by 1 or 2 days if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.
But outbreaks usually settle by themselves, so you may not need treatment.
Recurrent outbreaks are usually milder than the first episode of genital herpes.
Over time, outbreaks tend to happen less often and be less severe. Some people never have outbreaks.
Some people who have more than 6 outbreaks in a year may benefit from taking antiviral medicine for 6 to 12 months.
If you still have outbreaks of genital herpes during this time, you may be referred to a specialist.
What Do I Do If I Find Out I Have Herpes
Its normal to have lots of different feelings after you find out that you have herpes. You might feel mad, embarrassed, ashamed, or upset at first. But youll probably feel a lot better as time goes by, and you see that having herpes doesnt have to be a big deal. People with herpes have relationships and live totally normal lives. There are treatments for herpes, and theres a lot you can do to make sure you dont give herpes to anyone you have sex with.
Millions and millions of people have herpes youre definitely not alone. Most people get at least one STD in their lifetime, and having herpes or another STD is nothing to feel ashamed of or embarrassed about. It doesnt mean youre dirty or a bad person it means youre a normal human who got a really common infection. The reality is that herpes can happen to anybody who has ever been kissed on the lips or had sex thats a LOT of people.
Herpes isnt deadly and it usually doesnt cause any serious health problems. While herpes outbreaks can be annoying and painful, the first flare-up is usually the worst. For many people, outbreaks happen less over time and may eventually stop completely. Even though the virus hangs around in your body for life, it doesnt mean youll be getting sores all the time.
And tell anyone you have sex with that you have herpes. Its not the easiest conversation, but its an important one. Here are some tips:
Read Also: How To Get Tested For Herpes 1 And 2
How To Keep Herpes Dormant
One person with genital herpes may work at a high-stress job and be in a stressful relationship, and be more prone to outbreak recurrences. Another may have a more stress-free lifestyle that potentially keeps the virus dormant for years or even decades.
We cant all be stress-free all the time, and thats life. To minimize the frequency of outbreaks, its helpful to manage stress in a healthy way. Getting out for a walk, meditating, practicing yoga or mindfulness, relaxing in a bath, or writing in a diary are examples of ways to cope with and manage stress.
A healthy diet helps physically as well as emotionally, and a lysine-rich diet may suppress the herpes virus. All these factors can contribute to less frequent flare-ups.
What Happens At A Sexual Health Clinic
The doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic will:
- ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners
- use a small cotton bud to take some fluid from 1 of your blisters or sores for testing
The test cannot:
- be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores
- tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from
Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after youâre infected with the herpes virus.
If you have genital herpes, your previous sexual partners should get tested.
The doctor or nurse at the clinic can discuss this with you and help you tell your partners without letting them know itâs you who has the virus.
Recommended Reading: What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes 1 And 2
Can It Lie Dormant
The herpes virus can lie dormant in the body for years before people experience any symptoms.
After people have the first outbreak of herpes, the virus then lies dormant in the nervous system. Any further outbreaks are due to the virus reactivating, which causes symptoms to appear.
Symptoms are usually less severe during repeat outbreaks. Sores also clear up more quickly, often within 37 days. This is due to the antibodies the body produces to fight the first outbreak of herpes. The body can then use these antibodies to respond more quickly to future outbreaks.
There is currently no cure for herpes. Even if a person stops experiencing symptoms, the virus will remain inside their body.
It is also important to point out that herpes is transmissible even when no sores or other symptoms are present. For this reason, early prevention is advisable.
Condoms and dental dams do not offer complete protection against the herpes virus, as herpes can live on areas around the genitals. However, these methods do reduce the likelihood of contracting the infection or passing it on.
A person who has herpes can also take other steps to reduce the chance of passing it on to a sexual partner. Such steps include telling their sexual partner that they have herpes before having sex.
Both people can then take additional steps to reduce the likelihood of transmission. These steps may include:
How Common Is Herpesand Who Is At Risk
Both types of herpes are quite common. The World Health Organization reports thatâgloballyâan estimated 67% of the population has HSV-1. As for HSV-2, estimates suggest that 13% of the population has it. Most of the people in both groups are asymptomatic and many do not know they have herpes.
Women tend to have a higher risk of HSV-2, the most common cause of genital herpes, compared to men. This is because transmission of the herpes virus occurs more effectively from men to women than vice versa. Having multiple sex partners also increases oneâs risk of getting herpes.
Recommended Reading: Does Herpes Medicine Stop Outbreaks
How Can You Avoid Genital Herpes
Most women get genital herpes through sexual contactwith a person who has herpes sores. You can get thevirus without having sex. To avoid infection:
- Avoid skin-to-skin and sexual contact.
- Have safer sex:
- Reduce the number of sexual partners.
- Condoms, when used correctly, can reduce therisk of getting genital herpes. Each time you have sexuse a condom :
- Before vaginal sex
- Before oral sex
Also Check: Does L Lysine Help Genital Herpes
Expect The First Outbreak To Be The Worst
Remember that although herpes lasts a lifetime, the first outbreak typically causes the most pain, while later outbreaks tend to be much milder.
You will always have herpes, and the sores will come and go, but you can decide not to treat the current outbreak. If its not that unpleasant or uncomfortable, some patients will do that, says Gade.
You May Like: Does The Shingrix Vaccine Help With Herpes
Why Genital Herpes Comes Back
Genital herpes is caused by a virus called herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, it stays in your body.
It will not spread in your body to cause blisters elsewhere. It stays in a nearby nerve and causes blisters in the same area.
If you can, avoid things that trigger your symptoms.
Triggers can include:
- surgery on your genital area
- a weakened immune system for example, from having chemotherapy for cancer
Doctors Dont Advise Getting A Blood Test For Herpes Without Any Symptoms
Hilda Hutcherson, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, is one of those doctors. I usually dont do tests for herpes someone has a lesion or a sore, something I can see, I will do a swab and take it to a culture or check the DNA on the materials I removed, she says. If theres nothing there and I do a blood test and the blood test comes back positive, lets say its positive for type 1, what does that really mean? Most people are positive for type 1. She adds that someone could be HSV-1-positive and either have or not have genital herpes. The result doesnt mean much, and it makes people go crazy.
Hutchersons motto is pretty simple: Why stress yourself over something if you havent seen anything especially when its something as common as herpes? Lets say they have a blood test come in positive but theyve never had a lesion. Now what? You may never get a lesion, she says. Its for this reason that she recommends people do not get tested for herpes unless they have a visible lesion that can be cultured and sent to a lab. Lets say you get tested anyway and it comes back positive, despite the fact that you have no symptoms. What do you do?
You May Like: Frequent Outbreaks Of Genital Herpes
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.
Contact Dermatitis Can Be Mistaken For Herpes
Contact dermatitis is a skin condition that can cause red, itchy, cracked, dry, or scaly skin, blisters, or a rash. Like herpes, it recurs, and while it’s not an STD, when it appears in the mouth or genital area, it may be mistaken for herpes. However, unlike herpes, contact dermatitis can happen anywhere on the skin and is caused by direct contact with an irritant or something you’re allergic to, per the Mayo Clinic. It’s not caused by a virus.
Contact dermatitis usually occurs within minutes to hours after touching an irritant. Common causes include poison ivy and reactions to medication, cosmetics, detergents, and jewelry. The skin rash from contact dermatitis usually clears up in a few weeks.
The best way to prevent contact dermatitis is to identify whats causing it and avoid touching that item or substance again. Allergy testing can help identify the cause.
While contact dermatitis is generally not a serious condition, it can be itchy and uncomfortable. When the rash is present, try using cool, wet compresses or anti-itch creams to soothe it. Antihistamine pills can help reduce the itchiness. Avoid scratching the area: Doing so can make symptoms worse and open the door to a bacterial or fungal infection. If your itching is severe, you should see your primary care provider or a dermatologist for topical steroid medication.
Read Also: Can You Find Out Who Gave You Herpes
What Causes Or Triggers A Recurrence
You may not always be able to tell when youre having a herpes outbreak. However, some common early warning signs that signal an impending attack, can include tingling, itching, and pain. This can happen 1 or 2 days before blisters start to show.
If you have HSV-2, you might have four or five outbreaks a year. How often outbreaks occur varies a lot from person to person. Outbreaks may also decrease over time.
People with HSV-1 tend to have fewer outbreaks.
In time, some people can pinpoint things that trigger an outbreak, such as:
If You Have Genital Herpes Already Can It Be Spread To Other Parts Of The Body Such As The Arms Or Legs
No. Genital herpes cannot be transmitted to another part of your body such as your arm, leg or hand after the first infection occurs. If you have genital HSV II, you will not get HSV II at another site in your body. The immune system produces antibodies that protect other parts of your body from infection. However, there are cases where a person has multiple site infections from the same virus. This is usually acquired at the time of the first infection. For example, if someone has never had herpes but then has oral and genital sex with an infected partner, they can acquire the infection at both sites.
Read Also: How To Avoid An Outbreak Herpes