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.
The Stigma Of Oral Herpes
But there can be a stigma attached to oral herpes as well, and some people have had traumatic experiences because of them. Because cold sores appear on such a visible part of the body, I would get teased relentlessly when I had a breakout growing up, especially before I was allowed to wear makeup to help cover them up or had medication to help prevent breakouts, Megan, 27,tells Bustle. I remember that kids would make sexual jokes, assuming they were sexually transmitted, and I would have to explain that I have had them my whole life.
Megan senses that a lot of the reaction comes from a lack of discussion â and a lack of understanding â about herpes. I donât think a lot of people truly understand what herpes is whether they have it or not â theyâre mostly just afraid of getting it because they know it canât be cured, she says. When I share the statistics with friends or family about how many people have herpes and might not know it, theyâre shocked and often donât believe me.
How Is Herpes Simplex Treated
Some people have few to no herpes outbreaks and choose not to have treatment. But many people prefer to use medications that shorten outbreaks and reduce symptoms.
During an outbreak, you may use an antiviral ointment or cream to help lessen your symptoms and help them go away faster, but it only works if you start it soon after you start an outbreak. Many people with HSV-2 take daily oral medications to keep outbreaks at bay.
Your provider may prescribe a topical medication or oral medication such as:
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Learn More About Herpes Treatments
Interested in learning more about how herpes is treated? From common infections like HSV-1 and HSV-2 to the varicella-zoster virus, most types of herpes are treated through antiviral medications such as valacyclovir. Think you might have herpes? Don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider about getting an HSV test.
Our Valacyclovir 101 guide covers all there is to know about this common and highly effective antiviral drug, from dosage guidelines and brand names to side effects, mechanism of action, interactions and more.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standardshere.
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How To Tell If You Have Herpes
Many people who contract herpes will experience very mild symptoms, while other peoples symptoms may be painful. The only sure way to know if you have herpes is to get tested for it.
1 in 3, who will experience evident symptoms, will likely seek medical attention and receive a diagnosis. While the others, who have mild symptoms or no symptoms at all, are unlikely to seek medical attention right away and may go undiagnosed.
It is important to be regularly screened for sexually transmitted disease. It is often recommended that sexually active adults should be screened annually for diseases such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV.
Herpes can be diagnosed following an STI Blood test, which you can get at sexual health or GUM clinics. You can also buy STI testing kits online which can be delivered discreetly to your door you simply provide a blood sample, post it to a laboratory and receive your test results via email or text.
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What Are The Possible Side Effects Of Valacyclovir Tablets
Kidney failure and nervous system problems are not common, but can be serious in some patients taking valacyclovir tablets. Nervous system problems include aggressive behavior, unsteady movement, shaky movements, confusion, speech problems, hallucinations , seizures and coma.
Kidney failure and nervous system problems have happened in patients who already have kidney disease and in elderly patients whose kidneys do not work well due to age. Always tell your healthcare provider if you have kidney problems before taking valacyclovir tablets.
Common side effects of valacyclovir tablets in adults include headache, nausea, stomach pain, vomiting and dizziness. Side effects in HIV-infected adults include headache, tiredness and rash. These side effects usually are mild and do not cause patients to stop taking valacyclovir tablets.
Other less common side effects in adults include painful periods in women, joint pain, depression, low blood cell counts and changes in tests that measure how well the liver and kidneys work. The most common side effect seen in children < 18 years of age was headache.
Talk to your healthcare provider if you develop any side effects that concern you. These are not all the side effects of valacyclovir tablets. For more information ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist.
Genital Herpes And Pregnancy
It is important to avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. A first episode during pregnancy can create a greater risk of transmission to a newborn.
Fortunately, it is rare for women with genital herpes to infect their babies. If you know that you have genital herpes before becoming pregnant, your physician will monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy. If you have an active outbreak at the time of delivery, a C-section may be recommended. Depending on individual diagnosis, though, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorses suppressive therapy to reduce the frequency of C-section.
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Almost Everyone Has Herpes But How Worried Should We Be
A new report by the World Health Organization estimates that two out of three adults under the age of 50 had herpes simplex virus 1 in 2012. Thats 3.7 billion people worldwide who are infected. But that doesnt mean its time to panic.
We used to call them cold sores or fever blisters and dismiss them as unsightly and annoying. But the truth is that little sore in the corner of your uncles mouth was always caused by a herpes virus that is easy to spread. So easy, in fact, that a new report by the World Health Organization estimates that two out of three adults under the age of 50 had herpes simplex virus 1 in 2012. Thats 3.7 billion people worldwide who are infected. Before we panic and start to plan for the herpes apocalypse, though, we should know a few things about this sexually transmitted infection .
Its a Virus
There are actually eight herpes viruses that can infect humans. Some are associated with known childhood sicknesses like chicken pox and roseola, and others can cause illnesses such as Epstein-Barr, which leads to chronic fatigue and other symptoms. The two herpes viruses talked about the most, however, are HSV-1 and HSV-2, because both are sexually transmitted.
Is Genital Herpes Always So Mild
Well, no, not always. Sometimes genital herpes can be painful or very uncomfortable so, I dont want to minimize it for those who suffer more severe symptoms. Herpes symptoms do not typically present this way, however.
When someone has a first outbreak of herpes, symptoms can be severe and may include fever, body aches, swollen glands, a discharge , burning with urination, a painful open sore, and so on. Primary, or first outbreaks, are the worst outbreaks and they tend to get milder over time. Fortunately, a severe first outbreak presentation is not the norm. Again, most people dont even recognize their first outbreak as herpes and dont see a doctor for a test.
For some, only one herpes outbreak is ever recognized. Others have outbreaks several times each year. People may have a handful of flare-ups over their lifetime. The frequency of herpes outbreaks is variable, but the first year of an infection can help us make a prediction about the future. When I talk with someone who has a lot of outbreaks in the first year, then that is someone who is more likely to continue to have regular outbreaks and may be a candidate for daily medication to reduce flare-ups. Those who have one infection and nothing else in that first year may go years or even decades before they have another outbreak.
Actually, it is entirely possible to only have one outbreak and never have another.
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How Do You Get Herpes
The skin on your genitals, mouth, and eyes can be infected easily. Other areas of skin may get infected if theres a way for the herpes virus to get in, like through a cut, burn, rash, or other sores. You dont have to have sex to get herpes. Sometimes herpes can be passed in non-sexual ways, like if a parent with a cold sore gives you a peck on the lips. Most people with oral herpes got it when they were kids. A mother can pass genital herpes to a baby during vaginal childbirth, but thats pretty rare.
You can spread herpes to other parts of your body if you touch a herpes sore and then touch your mouth, genitals, or eyes without washing your hands first. You can also pass herpes to someone else this way.
Herpes is most contagious when sores are open and wet, because fluid from herpes blisters easily spreads the virus. But herpes can also shed and get passed to others when there are no sores and your skin looks totally normal.
Most people get herpes from someone who doesnt have any sores. It may live in your body for years without causing any symptoms, so its really hard to know for sure when and how you got it. Thats why so many people have herpes its a pretty sneaky infection.
Because the virus dies quickly outside the body, you cant get herpes from hugging, holding hands, coughing, sneezing, or sitting on toilet seats.
Myth: People With Herpes Must Be Promiscuous
The reality of any STI is you dont need to sleep around to get infected. This is especially true for herpes, considering theres such a large population of asymptomatic carriers, says Dr. Dardik. While having more partners obviously increases your risk of any kind of any kind of sexually transmitted infection, the reverse doesnt always hold, she points out. In other words, all it takes is one partner.
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Can I Be Treated To Prevent Genital Herpes Transmission To My Partner
Yes. A large study showed that if one partner has herpes and the other partner is uninfected, treating the infected partner with suppressive therapy can prevent transmission of symptomatic herpes in over 90% of cases. This is an option for couples who are interested in having unprotected sex or who are planning to become pregnant.
If you are entering into a new relationship and are aware that you have herpes simplex infection, you owe it to your partner to notify them before having sex.
No Cure Better Treatment And Prevention Needed
There is no cure for herpes. At present, antiviral medications, such as acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir, can help to reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms but cannot cure the infection.
As well as increasing awareness about HSV infection and its symptoms, improved access to antiviral medications and heightened HIV prevention efforts for those with genital HSV symptoms are needed globally.
In addition, development of better treatment and prevention interventions is needed, particularly HSV vaccines. WHO and partners are working to accelerate research to develop new strategies for prevention and control of HSV infections. Such research includesthe development of HSV vaccines and topical microbicides. Several candidate vaccines and microbicides are currently being studied.
A vaccine against HSV infection would not only help to promote and protect the health and well-being of millions of people, particularly women, worldwide it could also potentially have an impact on slowing the spread of HIV, if developedand provided alongside other HIV prevention strategies says Dr Meg Doherty, Director of the WHO Department of Global HIV, Hepatitis, and STI Programmes.
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What If I Am Pregnant
While neonatal herpes is a serious condition, it is also very rare. Less than 0.1% of babies born in the United States each year get neonatal herpes. By contrast, some 20-25% of pregnant women have genital herpes. This means that most women with genital herpes give birth to healthy babies.
A mother helps the baby by passing her antibodies to the infant during pregnancy, so women who acquire genital herpes before becoming pregnant have a low risk of passing the virus to their baby.A woman who contracts genital herpes during the third trimester of pregnancy is at a higher risk of passing herpes to the baby because she has not had time to build up antibodies to the virus.
Most mothers with genital herpes have normal vaginal deliveries. Learn more about herpes and pregnancy.
Genital Herpes: Common But Misunderstood
First recognize the symptoms and signs, then take action to prevent outbreaks
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause small, painful sores in the genital area. The symptoms may include low-grade fever, itching, burning, and trouble urinating. But many people with the disease dont realize they have been infected with HSV, because either they have only mild or infrequent symptoms, or no symptoms at all. In women, herpes outbreaks can also be mistaken for vaginitis, urinary tract infections, or even hemorrhoids.
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Are Canker Sores The Same Thing As Herpes
Cold sores and canker sores are often confused as the same thing, but theyre actually two distinct problems.
Herpes is a contagious virus spread from one person to another. Its an incurable condition that may present outbreaks of ulcers around the mouth or genitals from time to time. Herpes sores and ulcers are filled with pus and eventually burst and cause pain and discomfort until they heal.
Canker sores, on the other hand, are non-viral ulcers that form on the inside of the lips and cheeks. Experts estimate that 1 in 5 people are affected by recurrent canker sores. Unlike cold sores, canker sores resemble pink craters with a soft white border. Canker sores are usually minor, appearing a few times per year and lasting around one week.
Valacyclovir Tablets Are Used In Adults:
- to treat cold sores
- to treat shingles
- to treat or control genital herpes outbreaks in adults with normal immune systems
- to control genital herpes outbreaks in adults infected with the human immunodeficiency virus with CD4 + cell count greater than 100 cells/mm3
- with safer sex practices to lower the chances of spreading genital herpes to uninfected partners. Even with safer sex practices, it is still possible to spread genital herpes. Valacyclovir tablets used daily with the following safer sex practices can lower the chances of passing genital herpes to your partner.
- Do not have sexual contact with your partner when you have any symptom or outbreak of genital herpes.
- Use a condom made of latex or polyurethane whenever you have sexual contact.
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Before You Think About Sex Focus On Treating Your Herpes
While herpes doesnt need to limit your sexual or romantic life in the long term, its best to take a break from sexual activity once you first find out that youre infected.
Most people with an active herpes infection find out about their status during the initial outbreak of the virus. Initial herpes outbreaks usually happen two to three weeks after you become infected with the virus, but may not appear until weeks, months or even years after initial exposure.
During an initial outbreak, the virus undergoes a replication process in your body, taking over cells and spreading at a rapid pace.
Genital herpes eventually spreads to the spinal ganglia, where it stays as a dormant virus in the body. Oral herpes settles in the ganglia behind the cheek bone. It usually takes two to three weeks for herpes to set up camp in your body before an initial outbreak.
During an initial outbreak, youll notice a variety of symptoms, from flu-like fatigue and muscular aching to a fever. The most obvious sign of a herpes infection is the development of sores on the lips or on the genitals, groin, legs and buttocks.
Our guide to the signs and symptoms of a genital herpes outbreak goes into more detail about the symptoms youll notice during an initial outbreak. It also includes symptoms that are shared with the oral form of the virus, making it a useful resource for either type of infection.
Focus on treating the outbreak once its healed, you can refocus on your sex life.
The Complete Guide To Having Sex With Herpes
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Learning that you have genital herpes can be a difficult experience. Although herpes is very common, many people assume that a positive HSV-1 or HSV-2 diagnosis spells the end of a normal romantic and sexual life.
The truth about herpes is that its completely possible to have a fulfilling sexual and social life if you have herpes, whether you have HSV-1 or HSV-2.
In fact, while many people with herpes panic upon experiencing initial symptoms of the virus, most people with herpes find that maintaining romantic and sexual relationships is far easier than expected.
In this guide, well cover everything related to having sex when you have herpes, from letting your partner know about your HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection status to using antiviral medications, condoms and other methods of protection to reduce your risk of transmitting the virus.
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