What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Most women with genital herpes do not know they have it. But, if you get symptoms with the first outbreak of genital herpes, they can be severe. Genital herpes also can be severe and long-lasting in people whose immune systems do not work properly, such as women with HIV.
The first signs of genital herpes usually show up two to 12 days after having sexual contact with someone who has herpes. Symptoms can last from two to four weeks. There are other early symptoms of genital herpes:
- Feeling of pressure in the abdomen
- Flu-like symptoms, including fever
If you have any symptoms of genital herpes, see a doctor or nurse.
How To Prevent Herpes
But most people have sex at some point in their lives, so knowing how to have safer sex is important. Using protection like condoms and dental dams when you have sex helps to lower your risk of getting an STD.
Herpes can live on areas of your body that arent protected by condoms , so condoms wont always protect you from herpes. But they do lower your chances of getting herpes.
Dont have sex with anyone during a herpes outbreak, because thats when it spreads most easily. But herpes can also spread when there are no sores or symptoms, so its important to use condoms and dental dams, even if everything looks and feels A-OK.
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.
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Is Genital Herpes Infection Related To Hiv
Herpes and HIV are caused by different viruses. But patients infected with these viruses are more likely to transmit either disease to their sexual partners. Patients with herpes are more vulnerable to HIV infection. People newly diagnosed with herpes should be tested for HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections.
Patients who are infected with both herpes and HIV also may have a higher concentration of HIV viruses in their body because of the interaction between the herpes virus and the HIV virus. When HIV damages a persons immune system, the person may be more likely to shed herpes simplex virus asymptomatically.
Keep It In Perspective
First and foremost, its important to keep in mind the relative importance of all this. If you were asked to describe yourself and highlight the most important aspects of you and your life, herpes wouldnt make the list. Its something you deal with, but it doesnt define who you are as a person.
In the grand scheme of things, genital herpes is an inconvenience for most couplesnothing more than that. Keep this fact in mind and keep your language positive. Your attitude will also have a lot of influence on how the news is received. If you are positive and upbeat, its more likely your partner will adopt the same attitude. Try not to let the anticipation of a possible negative reaction affect the delivery of your message.
Remember too that this should not be treated as a confession or some kind of admission that you have done something wrong. It is what it isa sexually transmitted infection. The bottom line is that sexual activity is a natural act that most everyone will have at some point in their lives. With sexual activity anywhere by anyone, there is some level of risk.
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What Can We Do To Reduce My Chances Of Getting The Herpes Infection
If you take the necessary precautions, the chances of getting the herpes virus from your partner are reduced. Genital herpes does not mean abstinence from sex or a reduced enjoyment of sex.
The risk of transmitting the herpes virus can be reduced by about 50% if you use condoms. The continued use of condoms in a long-term relationship is a personal decision that only the couple can make. Most find that as the importance of the HSV infection in their relationship is seen in perspective, that condom use becomes less relevant if this is the only reason condoms are being used.
However, most couples choose to avoid genital skin-to-skin contact during an active episode of herpes because this is when the herpes virus is most readily transmitted. This period includes the time from when your partner first has warning signs of an outbreak, such as a tingling or burning in the genitals, until the last of the sores has healed. Also, sexual activity prolongs the healing of the episode.
Herpes transmission risk is increased if there are any breaks in the skin. For example, if you have thrush or small abrasions from sexual intercourse, often due to insufficient lubrication. It can be helpful to use a lubricant specifically for sexual intercourse and avoid sex if you have thrush. A sexual lubricant is helpful right at the start of sexual activity.
If you or your partner has a cold sore, it is advisable to avoid oral sex as this can spread the herpes virus to the genitals.
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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Genital Herpes And Pregnancy
Women with herpes before pregnancy can usually expect to have a healthy baby and a vaginal delivery.
If you have genital herpes during pregnancy, there’s a risk your baby could develop a serious illness called neonatal herpes.
This can be fatal, but most babies recover with antiviral treatment.
The risk of your baby getting neonatal herpes is low if you have had genital herpes before.
It’s higher if you get genital herpes for the first time in pregnancy.
How Common Is Genital Herpes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 40 million to 50 million adults in the United States have genital herpes. HSV II infection is more common in women and in people who have had more than five sexual partners. Most people with HSV II do not know they have it, because it does not always cause symptoms.
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How Are Cold Sores Transmitted
Cold sores are typically spread through kissing and oral sex. HSV-1 is transmitted through touching affected skin that contains the virus or secretions, like saliva. HSV-1 can penetrate closed, healthy skin on your lips and genitals since the skin in those areas is very delicate, says Dr. Anthony.
Previously, people thought HSV-1 was limited to the mouth area, and the related strain, HSV-2, was the one to worry about on the genitals. And its true that HSV-1 is usually oral while HSV-2 is typically on genitals. But doctors now know that both types of herpes can infect either location, reports Dr. Anthony.
The bottom line: HSV-1 can make its home in both the oral or genital areas. You can get cold sores from coming into contact with the virus in various ways:
How Dangerous Is Genital Herpes
Many people who have genital herpes dont know it and dont have symptoms. But sometimes, there can be serious complications.
If your partner is pregnant or trying to get pregnant, genital herpes is a major concern. This is because the virus that causes herpes can pass to the baby, which can be very dangerous. The womans doctor needs to know about it.
Genital herpes is also more serious for people with HIV and other conditions that weaken the immune system.
For some people, depression can be a risk if they have problems adjusting to their symptoms or the impact on their sex life.
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Does A Cold Sore On My Mouth Mean I Have Genital Herpes
No, a cold sore on your mouth usually means you have herpes simplex virus type 1 . You can get HSV-1 by kissing someone or sharing utensils, towels, razors, or lipstick with someone who has HSV-1.
HSV-1 cannot turn into HSV-2 , but you can get a cold sore on your mouth from HSV-2 if you give oral sex to someone with HSV-2. Cold sores caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2 are contagious. You can spread it to other people or other parts of your body if you touch an open sore and then touch another part of your body. That means if you have a cold sore and give oral sex to someone, that person will get the herpes virus on his or her genitals.
Avoid touching your cold sore as much as possible. If you touch your cold sore, wash your hands right away to avoid spreading the infection to other parts of your body or other people.
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.
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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.
Is Genital Herpes Caught From A Cold Sore
If a person with a cold sore on the mouth does oral sex he or she can give his/her partner cold sores on the genitals which is genital herpes. Also, cold sores on the face may be caught from someone with genital herpes through oral sex.
Only the face of a person with cold sores is infectious so they can have sex, but should not kiss or do oral sex when they have a cold sore. See the description of the two types.
You will find Herpes Simplex the Guide booklet useful too.
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General Hygiene Best Practices
Sometimes the simplest acts are the most powerful. Implement these hygiene best practices to ensure you dont accidentally spread the herpes virus to your partner.
- – Keep the infected area clean and dry
- – Avoid touching sores
- – Wash your hands immediately after any possible contact with sores
- – DONT pick at sores since this will cause infection
- – DONT make choices that you know can trigger an outbreak
What Happens If I Dont Receive Treatment
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another body part like your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, quickly wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading the infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your unborn fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? for information about this.
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What Are The Different Types Of Herpes
There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV I and HSV II. HSV I commonly causes oral herpes, or cold sores. This virus can show up as an upper respiratory tract infection during early childhood. HSV II is the cause of most cases of genital herpes. However, it is possible for HSV I to cause genital herpes and HSV II to cause oral herpes.
Clinicians cannot tell the difference between the two types by physical examination alone, but there are differences between the two viruses. For example, genital herpes caused by HSV II is much more likely to recur. This diagnosis can be helpful in establishing a health care plan.
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.
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How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
- If you get genital herpes during pregnancy, you can spread genital herpes to your baby during delivery.
- If you had genital herpes before pregnancy, your baby is still at risk of getting herpes, but the risk is lower.
Most women with genital herpes have healthy babies. But babies who get herpes from their mother have neonatal herpes. Neonatal herpes is a serious condition that can cause problems in a newborn baby such as brain damage, eye problems, or even death.
Discussing Genital Herpes With Your Partner
Many people do not feel comfortable talking about sexuality and sexual health issues. This information will explore ways of feeling more confident in discussing herpes in the context of a sexual relationship.
Cold sores on the mouth and genital herpes are medically the same conditions. The significant difference arises from the stigma that tends to accompany a herpes infection that is sexually transmitted.
Most people find that their partners are both supportive and understanding. It is a common assumption to initially think that a person may base their judgement of you on the fact you have genital herpes. However, for most this is a minor skin infection. People fear the possibility of rejection but the reality of this is that it rarely happens.
Because fear of rejection is a concern, it leads some to question why they should risk talking about herpes. Accordingly, some people choose not to tell. Instead, they abstain during herpes outbreaks, practice safe sex at other times, and hope for the best.
This strategy may have more disadvantages than advantages. First of all, you spend a lot of time and energy worrying that your partner is going to get herpes. Its much harder to tell someone if they just found out theyre infected with herpes. For most people, the anxiety over not telling your partner you have herpes is worse than the telling itself.
If you are able to discuss the situation openly and honestly, you can find imaginative ways to be safely sexually intimate.
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Will Suppressive Therapy Make It Easier To Live With Genital Herpes
Suppressive herpes therapy may give marked improvement to your emotional well-being. Many people find the fact that they can control the infection gives a boost to their sense of well-being and self-confidence. Even if only taken for a few months, suppressive therapy can help you to come to terms with emotions caused by recurrent genital herpes, including depression and anxiety.
However, suppressive therapy is only part of it. There are benefits gained from expert counselling from your doctor or nurse, or by speaking to a counsellor on the tollfree Herpes Helpline 0508 11 12 13. Make sure that you continue to talk to a health professional you are comfortable with, at least until you feel completely at ease with having genital herpes and in command of the infection.
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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