When To Talk With A Doctor
Herpes isnt curable, but it can be treated with antiviral medications. These medications can reduce the severity of an outbreak.
If you suspect you have herpes, make an appointment with a doctor. Its also a good idea to talk with your doctor about a herpes screening if:
- your current or previous sexual partner has herpes
- youre planning to have sex with a new partner
- you had a risky sexual encounter
If youve already been diagnosed with herpes and youre currently experiencing an outbreak, the outbreak might go away without causing complications and without treatment.
However, its wise to make an appointment with your doctor if:
- the outbreak is particularly painful or unbearable
- youre experiencing symptoms of other STIs
- youre experiencing frequent, severe outbreaks
If youre sexually active, its a good idea to have regular STI screenings. You can book appointments for STI screenings with your doctors office. You could also try a local clinic, certain pharmacies, or Planned Parenthood.
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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
What Can I Do If I Have Herpes Simplex 2
Many people who find out they have herpes feel depressed knowing theyll always have the virus and can give it to others. But you arent alone. Herpes is one of the most common STIs, both in the U.S. and worldwide. If you have herpes, you should:
- Learn all you can about it. Information will help you to manage your disease and feel better about yourself.
- Talk about your illness with your doctor.
If you have herpes, you can still:
- Have sex if you use a condom or dental dam , and you tell your partner about your illness. Some couples, who have sexual relations only with each other, may choose not to use condoms even though one partner has herpes. Because each situation is different, you should ask your doctor if this is the right choice for you in your relationship.
- Have children. People with herpes can still give birth to healthy babies. If you have herpes and plan to have children, discuss your illness with your healthcare provider.
If you have herpes, you should also get checked for HIV and other STIs .
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Can You Get Herpes On Your Tongue
While you may associate herpes type 1 with cold sores on your lips, it is possible to suffer from the symptoms of herpes on your tongue. This is referred to as oral herpes and usually affects more of your mouth than just your tongue. More than half of all adults in the United States are thought to have oral herpes.
What Are Canker Sores
Canker sores, or aphthous ulcers, are ulcerations that occur inside the mouth along the mucosa. They are found on the inner cheeks and lower lip as well as on the tongue, palate, and the gums. Canker sores are round and very painful. They are gray in color with a distinct edge. They are not contagious and are caused by stress or trauma to the area. They are not related to herpes, although they be may confused with oral ulcers caused by herpes.
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Types Of Tests Used To Diagnose Herpes
There are a number of tests used to diagnose herpes, depending on whether lesions are present.
- Symptomatic testing: Samples taken from lesions can be used to detect the virus with a viral culture or nucleic acid amplification test . Of the two, NAAT is more sensitive . A polymerase chain reaction test may be used if herpes is suspected as the cause of a systemic or central nervous system infection, such as encephalitis or meningitis.
- Asymptomatic testing: A blood test may be used to detect HSV antibodies. This is an option for people who had a previous outbreak or had recent exposure. Very recent herpes infections may not be detected. Retesting in a few months may be necessary for accurate results. Some blood tests can also specifically identify an HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection.
Due to the high rates of false-positives, screening for genital herpes in asymptomatic adults and adolescents is not recommended.
What Should You Do If You Have Herpes
Herpes is contagious at all stages. It is most contagious when blisters burst and release their fluid.
If you have herpes, you should take precautions to avoid its spread to other parts of your body and to other people. Here is what you should do.
- Use protection such as condoms and dental dams during sex .
During an outbreak:
- Avoid touching the infected region
- Avoid deep kissing
- Avoid sharing personal items such as towels, soaps and cosmetics with others.
- Wash your hands with mild soap or clean them with alcohol-based sanitizer before touching yourself or others.
- Starting antiviral medications at the onset of an outbreak can reduce the intensity of symptoms by about 70 percent
You can resume sexual activity once the outbreak resolves.
Remember, genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease . Sores may be painful or may cause you discomfort. However, the disease is not deadly and rarely causes serious complications. Therefore, do not panic if you are diagnosed with it. There is no cure for herpes but certain over the counter and prescription medications from a doctor can help reduce the severity of symptoms and cause the sores to heal faster. Practice safer sex to the reduce risk of contracting herpes.
For any additional concerns about herpes, do not hesitate to ask your doctor.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Most individuals infected with HSV are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for another skin condition. 9 When symptoms do occur, herpes lesions typically appear as one or more vesicles, or small blisters, on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The average incubation period for an initial herpes infection is 4 days after exposure. 10 The vesicles break and leave painful ulcers that may take two to four weeks to heal after the initial herpes infection. 5,10 Experiencing these symptoms is referred to as having a first herpes outbreak or episode.
How Long Does Herpes Last And What Can I Do About It
If this is your first herpes outbreak, it can take up to two to four weeks before your lesions heal fully. Many people find this first outbreak to be the longest and most painful.
Where your herpes manifests can also determine how long herpes will last. Lesions on your face generally take longer to heal than genital herpes.
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Can Herpes Be Transmitted During Its Incubation Period
The chances are low that a person can transmit HSV to someone else within the first few days following their initial contact with the virus. But because of HSV dormancy, among other reasons, not many people can pinpoint the moment they contracted the virus.
Transmission is common from contact with a partner who might not know they have HSV and isnt showing symptoms of infection.
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How To Heal A Herpes Outbreak Quickly
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 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 94% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 125,951 times.
Herpes is caused by a virus called herpes simplex. Once the virus enters ones body, it will always remain there by hiding in the nerve roots. When ones immunity is lowered, it will result in outbreak. Sores usually take about 1-2 weeks to heal, but there are some things that you can do to speed the healing process. Things like allowing your sores to be exposed to air, talking to your doctor about medications, and using ointments may help speed healing time. There are also some things that you can do to reduce and prevent outbreaks, such as reducing prolonged exposure to sunlight, reducing friction during sex, and managing stress.
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Talk To Your Doctor About Antiviral Medications
There are two brands of antiviral medications available to treat herpes. Either can be used to take daily as a suppressive therapy or episodically when there is an outbreak. Discuss with your doctor how often you are experiencing outbreaks and your symptoms. Together you can decide which, if any, medication is best for you.
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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.
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The Differences Between Hsv
We’ll discuss two main strains of the herpes virus that affect humans: herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 .
While both forms of the virus belong to the herpes family and have certain similarities, they also have a few key differences that are important to understand.
The biggest difference between the two herpes viruses is the location where they most often cause outbreaks. HSV-2 commonly causes genital sores, while HSV-1 more commonly causes cold sores around the mouth.
Both herpes viruses spread through close contact with an infected person, especially if they’re experiencing an active outbreak. HSV-1 spreads mostly through activities like kissing, sharing a cup or straw, or sharing lip balm or lipstick. HSV-2, on the other hand, is classified as a sexually transmitted infection and spreads primarily through sexual contact.
There is no cure for herpes, so both strains of the virus are lifelong diseases. Outbreaks of both types also share certain triggers, such as lack of sleep, stress, poor diet, hormonal changes, menstruation and illness.
Other triggers differ between the two types of herpes. For example, chewing on the lips, harsh sunlight, or injury around the mouth can irritate the mouth and cause an oral herpes outbreak.
Similarly, irritation to the genitals caused by frequent sexual activity, irritating products, or tight clothing can trigger a genital herpes outbreak.
How Are Genital Herpes Diagnosed
Other STIs, like syphilis, cause similar symptoms. In addition to a physical exam, your healthcare provider will take a fluid sample from the blisters to test for the herpes virus. If your blisters are healed or you dont have blisters, a blood test can check for HSV-2 antibody, a marker that shows you have been exposed to the virus.
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What Is The Prognosis For Oral Herpes Can They Be Cured
Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for herpes simplex virus. Avoiding risk factors, such as sunburn and stress, can help prevent additional outbreaks. Cold sores will usually heal within 2 weeks without treatment. However, there are established cold sore treatments available to help decrease healing time, reduce pain, and in specific cases, suppress the recurrence of the virus.
Cold sores, if they recur, are most likely to do so during the first year after infection. They usually resolve on their own within 1-2 weeks. After the initial outbreak, cold sores may never appear again, or appear only when something triggers them. Usually people with cold sores lead normal lives and are not terribly affected by them unless they happen to recur very often .
Frequently Asked Questionsexpand All
People with HSV-2 infection have an increased risk of getting human immunodeficiency virus if they have sex with an HIV-infected partner. Taking suppressive therapy does not decrease this risk.
If a woman is pregnant and infected with HSV, it can be passed to the fetus during birth while passing through the womans infected birth canal. This is most likely to occur if a woman first becomes infected with HSV during pregnancy and in a woman who has her first outbreak late in pregnancy. But it also can occur during a recurrent outbreak in a woman who was infected before pregnancy, although the risk is much lower.
If you have sores or warning signs of an outbreak at the time of delivery, you may need to have a cesarean delivery to reduce chance of infection. The decision depends on many factors, including where the sores are on your body and whether the fetus would come into contact with them during delivery.
Yes, in most cases. The herpes virus cannot be passed to a baby through breast milk. However, the baby could get infected by touching a sore on your body. Make sure any sores that the baby could come into contact with are covered when you hold your baby or while breastfeeding. Wash your hands with soap and water before and after feeding your baby. If you have sores on your breast, you should not breastfeed your baby from that breast.
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How Does Genital Herpes Spread
Genital herpes can spread through:
- Oral sex with someone whos infected.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.
You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.
What Are The Symptoms
Most people never have symptoms, or they are so mild that they do not know they have the virus. Sometimes, symptoms may not appear for months or years. Symptoms vary from person-to-person and many people who do get symptoms may not realize that its caused by HSV.
Herpes infections have three different outbreak types:
- Primary first outbreak
- Non-primary first outbreak
- Recurrent outbreak
A primary outbreak happens when someone first gets herpes symptoms usually beginning 2 to 21 days after contact.
Some people may experience warning signs, called prodrome symptoms such as itching, burning, and tingling of the skin at the site where the blisters or sores may appear, followed by painful herpes sores or tiny blisters. Other symptoms may include pain down either leg or in the buttocks, swollen or tender glands in the groin, fever, painful urination, body aches, feeling tired and unwell. This is more common with a primary outbreak. When the blisters break, painful shallow ulcers appear. These ulcers crust over and usually heal in 7 to 14 days. A primary outbreak is generally worse than future outbreaks.
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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.
How Can Herpes Be Prevented
Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of transmitting or acquiring genital herpes because herpes virus shedding can occur in areas that are not covered by a condom.25,26
The surest way to avoid transmission of STDs, including genital herpes, is to abstain from sexual contact, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for STDs and is known to be uninfected.
Persons with herpes should abstain from sexual activity with partners when herpes lesions or other symptoms of herpes are present. It is important to know that even if a person does not have any symptoms, he or she can still infect sex partners. Sex partners of infected persons should be advised that they may become infected and they should use condoms to reduce the risk. Sex partners can seek testing to determine if they are infected with HSV.
Daily treatment with valacyclovir decreases the rate of HSV-2 transmission in discordant, heterosexual couples in which the source partner has a history of genital HSV-2 infection. 27 Such couples should be encouraged to consider suppressive antiviral therapy as part of a strategy to prevent transmission, in addition to consistent condom use and avoidance of sexual activity during recurrences.
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