How Do People Get Genital Herpes
Infections are transmitted through contact with HSV in herpes lesions, mucosal surfaces, genital secretions, or oral secretions. 5 HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be shed from normal-appearing oral or genital mucosa or skin. 7,8 Generally, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during genital contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. However, receiving oral sex from a person with an oral HSV-1 infection can result in getting a genital HSV-1 infection. 4 Transmission commonly occurs from contact with an infected partner who does not have visible lesions and who may not know that he or she is infected. 7 In persons with asymptomatic HSV-2 infections, genital HSV shedding occurs on 10.2% of days, compared to 20.1% of days among those with symptomatic infections. 8
What Is The Outlook
The main concern with corneal infection is that it can cause scarring of the transparent front part of the eye . With scarring, the normally clear cornea can become like frosted glass. This may sometimes seriously affect vision.
- Epithelial keratitis tends to settle and go away within a few weeks. It has a good outlook and often causes little or no scarring.
- Stromal keratitis is more likely to result in corneal scarring and loss of vision.
- Recurring episodes of active infection can make any existing scarring worse.
- Prompt treatment with antiviral eye ointment or drops helps to minimise damage during each episode of active infection.
Overall, good vision remains in about 9 in 10 eyes affected by herpes simplex infection â that is, vision good enough to drive. However, severe and recurrent herpes simplex eye infections may lead to serious scarring, impaired vision and even severe sight impairment in some cases. If severe sight impairment does develop, a corneal transplant may be the only option to restore vision.
Support And Advice For Genital Herpes
If you have just found out you have genital herpes, you may feel shocked and may have a lot of questions. It may help you to gather as much information as you can about herpes. This can help you to make fully informed decisions about your treatment, safe sex and preventing further recurrences. Talking to a counsellor about your concerns may also help.
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Genital Herpes Treatment In Pregnancy
You may be offered antiviral treatment:
- to treat outbreaks in pregnancy
- from 36 weeks to reduce the chance of an outbreak during birth
- from diagnosis until the birth if you first get herpes after 28 weeks of pregnancy
Many women with genital herpes have a vaginal delivery. You may be offered a caesarean, depending on your circumstances.
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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How Will My Healthcare Provider Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at any sores that are present. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. If sores are not present, a blood test may be used to look for HSV antibodies.
Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider about herpes testing and 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 when you got the infection.
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.
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How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
HSV nucleic acid amplification tests are the most sensitive and highly specific tests available for diagnosing herpes. However, in some settings viral culture is the only test available. The sensitivity of viral culture can be low, especially among people who have recurrent or healing lesions. Because viral shedding is intermittent, it is possible for someone to have a genital herpes infection even though it was not detected by NAAT or culture. 11
Type-specific virologic tests can be used for diagnosing genital herpes when a person has recurrent symptoms or lesion without a confirmatory NAAT, culture result, or has a partner with genital herpes. Both virologic tests and type-specific serologic tests should be available in clinical settings serving patients with, or at risk for, sexually transmitted infections. 11
Given performance limitations with commercially available type-specific serologic tests , a confirmatory test with a second method should be performed before test interpretation. If confirmatory tests are unavailable, patients should be counseled about the limitations of available testing before serologic testing. Healthcare providers should also be aware that false-positive results occur. In instances of suspected recent acquisition, serologic testing within 12 weeks after acquisition may be associated with false negative test results. 11
Providers are strongly encouraged to look at CDCs STI Treatment Guidelines for further diagnostic considerations.
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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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:
How Do I Talk With People About Having Herpes
It might feel scary to admit you have herpes, but talking about things can really ease your mind. You could lean on a close, non-judgmental friend that you trust to keep the conversation private. Parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and other family members can also be a source of comfort. Remember, herpes is really common, so its possible the person youre talking to has herpes, too.
There are a lot of online support groups for people who have herpes, and the American Sexual Health Association has a list of support groups that meet in person.
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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.
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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What Does A Herpes Outbreak Feel Like
As mentioned above, the onset of a herpes outbreak is often associated with tingling, itching, or burning around the affected area.
Blisters and ulcers are unfortunately painful and can cause discomfort.
If this is your first outbreak your symptoms will likely be worse than any recurring outbreaks. Common symptoms associated with initial outbreaks are fever, headache, and other flu-like symptoms.
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How Long Does Herpes Take To Show Up
Have you had unprotected sex with a new partner recently? Are you now worried that you may have developed an STD? There are many different kinds of STDs and having unprotected sex is the most common way of contracting them. So now, its been a few days or maybe a few weeks and youre worried that you may have gotten an STD. So how long does herpes take to show up?
Well herpes is one of the many STDs that you can get from unprotected sex. Herpes can occur without symptoms. This is one of the problems with this particular STD. However if symptoms do develop it is likely that they will occur within approximately two weeks after the unprotected sex. The problem is that you may not have any symptoms and therefore may not know that you even have herpes. These symptoms could vary as well. In fact, you may notice itching or tingling. But again, these are only a possibility. You may not have these symptoms or any others.
Another problem with knowing if you have herpes is that you may never have outbreaks. This means that you could be a carrier and you could pass the disease on to another partner or to your child without even knowing it. Thats why its very important to find out if you have this disease. If you have unprotected sex, you will want to talk with your doctor to be tested for the disease. You will want to know for sure if you have it even if you are not showing symptoms or having outbreaks.
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What Happens If You Leave Herpes Untreated
Many people who contract herpes dont realize it. This comes down to the fact that herpes doesnt always show obvious signs and symptoms, and when herpes symptoms do show they can sometimes be quite mild.
Without regular sexual health testing, its possible to have the virus, not know, and, ultimately leave it untreated. Unfortunately, there are some notable complications associated with untreated herpes, particularly untreated genital herpes, these include:
- Increased risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections
- Babies can be exposed to the virus during birth
- Inflammation in the bladder or the lining of the rectum
How Is Herpes Transmitted
Herpes simplex is highly contagious. It is primarily transmitted via contact with an infected person, either with saliva or through direct contact with fluids from herpes sores.
Herpes may be transmitted either through sexual contact or non-sexual contact. HSV-1 is much more common than HSV-2.
It is not possible to get herpes from:
Herpes simplex viruses may be spread by:
- Less commonly, shared objects that touch the sores or saliva of someone with an active outbreak
In some cases, while not as common, herpes simplex can be passed from a pregnant person to their baby during birth.
Both types of herpes simplex can be asymptomatic. A person with no symptoms may still be able to spread the virus via saliva or other body fluids if it is actively shedding.
Viral infections never leave the body.
They may go dormant, during which time a person is not contagious.
Herpes simplex virus does not always reactivate, but is contagious from someone experiencing an outbreak, whether it is their first or one of many.
Most people are contagious a few days before sores appear and until the sores are fully crusted over and no longer producing liquid.
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Testing For Genital Herpes
If you think you may have genital herpes you should make an appointment with your GP or local sexual health services.
If there are symptoms present such as blisters, sores and ulcers, your doctor or nurse may be able to make a diagnosis straight away.
If you have visible blisters, your doctor or nurse may take a swab for testing, to check if this is herpes and what type. This swab can also test for another STI which causes blisters called syphilis.
The genital herpes swab tests are very reliable, though if the ulcer is too dry then it may be less likely to find a positive result.
Red Light Therapy Can Reduce Duration Of Outbreaks
Red light therapy is a type of treatment proven to help reduce the duration of herpes outbreaks. Clinical research has shown that treatment with red light can shorten the healing time of herpes outbreaks even more than traditional treatments.
The Luminance RED lip sore device and genital sore device are FDA-registered medical devices that use the same kind of high-powered light that achieved such results. To spend the least amount of time with your herpes sores, try one of the Luminance RED devices with its advanced red light therapy technology.
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Factors That Influence Healing Time
A compromised immune system may take longer to heal a herpes outbreak. If you have influenza or another infectious disease, you could experience a more painful outbreak for a longer period of time. Conditions such as HIV and AIDS, diabetes and leukemia can also result in prolonged and more intense outbreaks.
What you eat can play a role in healing time. Excessive alcohol, sugar and refined carbohydrates may contribute to herpes outbreaks, and a poor diet in general could keep you from healing as quickly as possible. A healthy diet supports good immune function, which is important in the healing of herpes sores.
Research has shown that persistent stress can also lead to recurrence of genital herpes outbreaks. If you experience ongoing anxiety, depression or psychological stress, trying new stress management techniques or seeking help from a professional could provide relief both mentally and physically.
To encourage an HSV-2 outbreak to heal as quickly as possible, follow proper hygiene and other best practices:
How Does Genital Herpes Spread
Herpes can be spread when an infected person has lesions blisters and open sores on their body or when you do not have any symptoms. Taking antiviral medicine can help you reduce the risk of spreading genital herpes to your sexual partners. You can also:
- Inform your sexual partner that you have genital herpes.
- Use a condom every time you have sex.
- Refrain from having sex when you have symptoms.
- Abstain from performing oral sex if you have blisters or open sores around your mouth.
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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
For more information, see Safer Sex.
How Has My Partner Caught Genital Herpes
If your partner has only just been diagnosed with genital herpes, this does not necessarily mean that they have been unfaithful to you or sexually promiscuous in the past.
- Your partner may have caught genital herpes from you. You can carry the virus without knowing you have it as some people have no symptoms.
- It is also possible that your partner caught the virus from a cold sore on your mouth or face during oral sex. You can pass the virus on even if you dont have a cold sore at the time of contact.
- Your partner may have contracted the virus from a previous sexual partner, even several years ago. The virus can remain inactive in your body for long periods.
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