How Do You Treat Herpes
Theres no cure for herpes, but prescription medications can ease symptoms, end outbreaks sooner, and lower the chances of passing the virus to other people.
You can also help ease the pain caused by herpes outbreaks by taking a warm bath, wearing loose clothing and putting an ice pack on the sores.
How Often Do Outbreaks Occur
The number of outbreaks someone has varies from person to person. The average number of outbreaks for a person with genital HSV-2 is four to five per year. The average for genital HSV-1 is less than one outbreak per year.
Usually, there are more outbreaks during the first year, and many people find that outbreaks become less severe and less frequent with time.
Herpes triggers are highly individual, but with time, many people learn to recognize, and sometimes avoid, factors that seem to reactivate HSV in their own bodies. Illness, poor diet, emotional or physical stress, friction in the genital area, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light , surgical trauma, and steroidal medication may trigger a herpes outbreak.
The frequency of outbreaks can often be managed through effective stress management, and getting adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise. For people with frequent outbreaks, suppressive therapy with any one of the antiviral treatments can reduce outbreaks by as much as 80%.
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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.
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What Are The Complications Of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes may cause painful genital ulcers that can be severe and persistent in persons with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV-infected persons. 5 Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also cause rare but serious complications such as aseptic meningitis . 5 Development of extragenital lesions may occur during the course of infection. 5
There are also potential complications for a pregnant woman and her newborn child. See How does herpes infection affect a pregnant woman and her baby? below for information about this.
How Soon Do Sti Symptoms Appear
It depends on which sexually transmitted infection you have.
Symptoms can develop within a few days or weeks, but sometimes they do not appear until months or even years later.
Often there are few or no symptoms and you may not know you have an STI.
If there’s any chance you have an STI, go to a sexual health clinic or GP for a free and confidential check-up.
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Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Primary Genital Herpes Outbreak
For people with symptoms, the first outbreak usually occurs in or around the genital area 2 days to 2 weeks after sexual exposure to the virus. The first signs are a tingling sensation in the affected areas and groups of small red bumps that develop into blisters. Over the next 2 to 3 weeks, more blisters can appear and rupture into painful open sores. The lesions eventually dry out, develop a crust, and heal rapidly without leaving a scar. Blisters in moist areas heal more slowly than those in dry areas. The sores may sometimes itch, but itching decreases as they heal.
About 40% of men and 70% of women develop other symptoms during initial outbreaks of genital herpes, such as flu-like discomfort, headache, muscle aches, and fever. Swollen glands may occur in the groin area or neck. Some women may have difficulty urinating and may, occasionally, require a urinary catheter. Women may also experience vaginal discharge.
Recurrent Genital Herpes Outbreak
In general, recurrences are much milder than the initial outbreak. The virus sheds for a much shorter period of time compared to an initial outbreak of 3 weeks. Women may have only minor itching, and the symptoms may be even milder in men.
Genital Herpes Symptoms & Treatment
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that causes infected sores or blisters.
Its caused by the herpes simplex virus which can be passed on through close genital contact.
You can reduce your chances of getting genital herpes by using condoms or dental dams during sex.
If you think you have symptoms of genital herpes you should see a healthcare worker, they can take a swab from a blister and test to confirm if its caused by the herpes simplex virus.
Treatment can help with herpes outbreaks, but the virus cannot be cured and will remain in the body. This means that blisters normally come back once in a while.
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How Should I Take Valacyclovir Tablets
- Take valacyclovir tablets exactly as prescribed by your healthcare provider. Your dose of valacyclovir tablets and length of treatment will depend on the type of herpes infection that you have and any other medical problems that you have.
- Do not stop valacyclovir tablets or change your treatment without talking to your healthcare provider.
- Valacyclovir tablets can be taken with or without food.If you are taking valacyclovir tablets to treat cold sores, chickenpox, shingles or genital herpes, you should start treatment as soon as possible after your symptoms start. Valacyclovir tablets may not help you if you start treatment too late.
- If you miss a dose of valacyclovir tablets, take it as soon as you remember and then take your next dose at its regular time. However, if it is almost time for your next dose, do not take the missed dose. Wait and take the next dose at the regular time.
- Do not take more than the prescribed number of valacyclovir tablets each day. Call your healthcare provider right away if you take too much valacyclovir tablets.
Genital Herpes And Pregnancy
Its really important to speak to a healthcare worker if you have herpes during pregnancy, especially if its your first outbreak. Theres a risk that your baby can develop neonatal herpes which can be very dangerous or even fatal for the baby. If you have herpes, your healthcare provider will be able to prescribe antiviral treatment to keep your baby safe and help you have a healthy pregnancy.
Speak to a healthcare worker for more information or if you have any concerns.
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Why Are There State
Syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia are notifiable diseases in the United States, but herpes is not. A disease is notifiable if healthcare providers in all 50 states are required by law to report the diagnosis to their state or local health departments. CDC is also notified, and publishes state-by-state data for these infections. Because herpes infections are not notifiable infections by law, CDC is not able to provide state-by-state data. Public health surveillance for herpes infections is mainly done through population-based, national surveys, such as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey .
How Long Does It Take For Herpes To Show Up After Exposure
Herpes is not just one type of infection. Its a family of related viruses that can cause several different medical conditions. The herpes infection were talking about when it comes to sex is caused by the herpes simplex virus or HSV .
Typically, HSV-1 is responsible for cold sores on the lips and around the mouth. HSV-2 is most commonly transmitted sexually and causes genital herpes, a common sexually transmitted infection . However, HSV-1 can also spread from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex and cause genital herpes.
While the symptoms of herpes usually show up anywhere from a couple of days to about two weeks following exposure, thats not always the case. In some cases, you may be asymptomatic for weeks or months before your first outbreak .
Long story short, if a few weeks have gone by after exposure and you dont have any symptoms, that doesnt necessarily mean youre out of the woods.
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How Does Herpes Simplex Spread
Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.
People may get HSV-1 through
- Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
- Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
- If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.
People may get HSV-2 through
- Oral sex with someone whos infected.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
- 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.
How Can I Manage The Symptoms
- Keep the area clean to avoid infection. You can use an ice pack wrapped in a towel to reduce pain and soothe your skin.
- Some people find topical anaesthetic creams such as Emla help
- Drink plenty of fluids this will dilute your urine and make passing urine less painful.
- Avoid tight clothing as it may irritate the blisters and sores further.
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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
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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What Is Neonatal Herpes
Neonatal herpes can be a very serious infection. Babies generally contract the virus from their birthing parent during childbirth even if the parent doesnt have active lesions. They may also get HSV-1 if an adult with an active cold sore kisses them. Breastfeeding babies can also get HSV-1 from the breast if there are lesions present. But babies cant get herpes from breast milk, so its safe to pump and feed.
Herpes simplex can be more dangerous for young babies because they dont have a fully developed immune system. But most babies with neonatal herpes can recover fully with treatment.
The dangers of neonatal herpes are much higher if the infection spreads to the babys organs. If youre pregnant and have herpes, speak with your healthcare provider about how to lower the risk of passing the infection to your baby.
Dormancy In Between Outbreaks
If someone has already experienced an initial herpes outbreak, then they might wonder how often you should expect to get them in the future. There is no exact science for this either, but the average is two to four HSV-2 outbreaks a year.
However, there are always exceptions. According to the Mayo Clinic, a herpes patient can live outbreak-free 40 years after their first one before having another!
- Women can have outbreak recurrences on their cervix without knowing it. .
- Recurring outbreaks have fewer systemic symptoms than the first outbreak.
- Herpes outbreaks are more frequent within the first 4-5 years of having the virus in most people. They taper off, and sometimes stop occurring altogether. This isnt always the case for all patients, though.
- Some women experience outbreaks in conjunction with their menstrual cycles, which for them would be a trigger.
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Duration Of Postherpetic Neuralgia
So how long does postherpetic neuralgia last? Researchers are unsure what triggers the herpes zoster virus to re-emerge after years of lying dormant. The virus may be obtained during youth but it will not flare into shingles until years down the line. The pain of shingles usually persists for around three months. When this pain lingers long after the rash heals, it is considered PN.The bout of shingles damaged the nerves. This means that the nerve damage caused by shingles brings on a fully functioning nervous system. The damaged nerve will send random pain signals to the brain, and it causes a burning, throbbing sensation. Over time, the nerves of the skin calm, but with the nerve damage existing, the pain can persist for years, even for the remainder of a persons lifetime.
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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.
What Are The Herpes Stages
Leah likes writing about health and science subjects. Through her writing she hopes to help people of all backgrounds have equal access to information and quality healthcare.
Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Dr. Katalin Karolyi
Katalin Karolyi, M.D. earned her medical degree at the University of Debrecen. After completing her residency program in pathology at the Kenezy Hospital, she obtained a postdoctoral position at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Orlando, Florida.
Recurrent Episodes Of Genital Herpes
Recurrences are usually less painful and shorter in duration than the first episode of genital herpes. Over time, episodes usually become less frequent and may eventually stop altogether. Infections caused by HSV1 are less likely to recur in the genital area than infections caused by HSV2.
Recurrences may be triggered by:
- no apparent reason noted.
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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 To Look Out For
Genital herpes outbreaks can differ in severity. While some people encounter multiple painful blisters, some only have one single sore.Dr Zenon Andreou
Genital herpes outbreaks can differ in severity. While some people encounter multiple painful blisters, some only have one single sore.
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Why Have False Positive Tests Been Used As An Argument Against Routine Testing For Genital Herpes But Not For Other Stds Which Can Also Have False Positives
False positive test results are test results that say a person has a disease or condition when they do not actually have it. False positive results can occur with many diagnostic tests, including STD tests. The chances of false positive results increase as the likelihood of the infection decreases in the person being tested. False positive HSV-2 results can happen, especially in people who are at low risk for a herpes infection. Also, we do not know if people who test positive for herpes will change their sexual behavior as a result of a positive test. This tells us that the harm of a possible false positive test may be a greater concern than the benefits of an actual diagnosis. Unlike curable STDs, such as chlamydia, herpes infections are life-long, so it is especially important to avoid a false positive test.
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Why The Test Is Performed
The test is done to find out whether a person has ever been infected with oral or genital herpes . It looks for antibodies to herpes simplex virus 1 and herpes simplex virus 2 . An antibody is a substance made by the body’s immune system when it detects harmful substances such as the herpes virus. This test does not detect the virus itself.
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