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
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 Causes Recurrent Herpes Outbreaks
Once a patient acquires a herpes virus, it stays in the body for life.
The immune system puts viruses into dormancy.
Many people get the herpes simplex virus and never experience an outbreak or symptoms.
Others will have an initial outbreak, but no recurrences.
Some people get more frequent herpes outbreaks.
HSV-1 or oral herpes causes an average of one recurring outbreak after the initial infection for between 20-50% of people who have the virus.
HSV-2 causes an average of four outbreaks in the first year for as many as 90% of people who have the virus.
Outbreaks of herpes simplex typically become less frequent, and less severe, the longer the virus is in the body.
People who have compromised immune systems may experience more frequent, or more severe, outbreaks.
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What Is The Outlook For Patients Who Have Cold Sores
The majority of people who develop cold sores learn to live with and manage their outbreaks. In healthy people, cold sores usually clear up in one to two weeks and have no lasting effects. However, in young babies, immunocompromised people and those with eczema, cold sores can cause life-threatening infections.
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Herpes outbreaks will always be an inconvenience in your life. But there are things you can do to take back controla herpes diagnosis is never the end.
If you have more questions about other common medical conditions, such as erectile dysfunction or hair loss, . Our representatives will do their best to connect you with a physician who can help.
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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.
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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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.
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.
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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.
Is It Safe To Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes as long as there isnt an open lesion on your chest or breast. If you have an active outbreak while breastfeeding, its possible to spread the infection to your nipples through touch. Careful hand-washing can prevent this spread. You shouldnt nurse from a breast that has herpes sores. You can pump breast milk until the sores heal. Dont give your baby expressed breast milk if the pump comes into contact with an open sore.
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Can You Test For Herpes At Home
Yes, there are at-home sexually transmitted infection tests for herpes.
Read more about at-home herpes tests here.
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How Did I Get Herpes If My Partner Doesnt Have It How Do I Know Who Gave Me Herpes
One possibility is that you have had herpes for a long time and only recently were diagnosed. It can be very hard to determine when herpes was contracted, and many people carry it asymptomatically. The only way to determine who gave you herpes is to be diagnosed right after having oral or penetrative sex with someone for the first time.
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Where Does The Herpes Virus Live In The Body
The herpes simplex viruses are latent, meaning they can live in the body without causing symptoms. After the initial infection, the virus gets into the nerve roots and spreads to the sensory nerve ganglia, the junctions where nerves from different parts of the body come together. For the genital area, the ganglia are adjacent to the spinal cord in the lower back. For orofacial herpes , the ganglia are located behind the cheek bone.
What’s Involved In Herpes Testing
If there are blisters or sores, a healthcare provider may gently swab the area to take a fluid sample and test it. If there are no sores, but you are concerned you may have been exposed, a blood test may done. Herpes tests are not normally recommended unless you have symptoms.
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Can Herpes Sores Last For Months
Symptoms may last several weeks and go away. They may return in weeks, months, or years. A doctor or nurse can tell you if the sores are caused by herpes by looking at them or by testing fluid from the sores. The thing is, many people with genital herpes have no symptoms, or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed.
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How Can I Get Rid Of Cold Sores Quickly
Theyre painful. Theyre unsightly. Theyre annoying. Cold sores are just plain unwelcome. When one pops up on your lip or mouth, you probably immediately think: Whats the fastest way to get rid of this thing?
Herpes simplex virus the virus that causes cold sores is incredibly contagious, and infection with the virus is really common, says Dr. Donald Brown, primary care practitioner at Houston Methodist. In fact, more than 50% of adults in the U.S. are infected with the type of herpes virus that most commonly causes cold sores. Interestingly, however, most people who contract the virus never actually develop symptoms.
If the virus does cause cold sores, it can spread from person-to-person through close contact, like kissing. But, while you may not know it, the virus can also spread by sharing:
- Utensils and drinking glasses
The virus is most contagious when a cold sore is present, particularly when the blister begins to ooze, Dr. Brown adds. However, its important to know that you can still spread the virus long after a cold sore heals as well as when a blister isnt even present.
For those who are no stranger to those painful, fluid-filled blisters, when you get a cold sore, you probably want it gone fast.
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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
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 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.
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.
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How Herpes Is Treated
There is no cure for herpes.
- The health care provider may prescribe antiviral medicine to help speed up the healing process. It also shortens the time when the virus can spread from the herpes sores.
- Pain may be treated with medicine such as Tylenol or Motrin or by applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the affected area.
- If sores are in the mouth, avoid foods high in acid, like citrus fruits and juices.
- The infected area should be kept clean and dry.
- Wash hands often and avoid touching the sores to prevent spreading the virus.
- It is important to stay healthy by getting enough rest, having proper nutrition and exercise and managing stress well.
Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic
You can see a GP, but they’ll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital herpes.
Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.
Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment.
They’ll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.
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Can Herpes Go Away Forever
While the signs and symptoms associated with both types of herpes can come and go, the virus stays in the body and there is no cure.
With that said, the treatments available can help herpes outbreaks become shorter and less frequent. There are also medications available that can lower the risk of spreading the infection to others.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of contracting an STD is with regular screening. This can be done by taking a trip to your doctors office or from the comfort of your own home with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetCheckeds at-home Herpes Test can detect herpes simplex antibodies for either HSV-1 or HSV-2. Online results will be available within 5 days and our dedicated medical team will be there to offer a helping hand should you have any questions.
You should consider taking the test if:
- You become sexually active
- You have had unprotected sex
- You are experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection
- You are entering into a new sexual relationship
- You have received a notification from a previous partner that they are infected
What Is Life Like For Someone Who Has Genital Herpes
The virus that causes genital herpes stays inside your body forever. While many people carry this virus, some dont know that they have it because they never have an outbreak.
If you have an outbreak, taking an antiviral medicine can shorten the outbreak and relieve symptoms. Some people have several outbreaks. For most people, the outbreaks become less severe and occur less often with time.
Anyone who has been infected with the virus, however, can spread the virus to others during sex. Even if you never have an outbreak, you can still spread the virus.
Related AAD resources
Centers for Disease Control. Genital Herpes â CDC Fact Sheet . Last accessed December 19, 2016.
Fatahzadeh M and Schwartz RA. Human herpes simplex virus infections: Epidemiology, pathogenesis, symptomatology, diagnosis, and management. J Am Acad Dermatol 2007 57:737-63.
Madkan V Sra K, et al. Human herpesviruses. In: Bolognia JL, et al. Dermatology. . Mosby Elsevier, Spain, 2008:1075-6.
Marques AR, Straus SE, Herpes simplex. In: Wolff K, Goldsmith LA, et al. Fitzpatricks Dermatology in General Medicine . McGraw Hill Medical, New York, 2008: 1199-1204.
US Preventive Task Force. Serologic screening for genital herpes infection: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2016 316:2525-30.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- What is the best treatment for me?
- What happens if I dont treat a cold sore?
- What are the side effects of antiviral medications?
- How can I reduce the risk of future outbreaks?
- Whats the best way to prevent getting another STI?
- How can I protect my partner from getting genital herpes?
- Should I lookout for signs of complications?