What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Virus
The symptoms of herpes are exceptionally easy to recognize and unlike many other STDs, it is hard to mistake it for some other condition. The tell-tale signs include blisters and sores on the site of the infection . The blisters usually burst a couple of days after they originally manifested, leaving painful sores behind. In the case of HSV-1, non-genital herpes, the blisters will appear on the lips and around the mouth, with similar development.
However, these most recognizable symptoms are often accompanied by other more subtle ones which can often be missed. These include:
- General malaise
- Aches and pains in the lower back, legs and groin
- Painful urination
Another characteristic of herpes is the cyclic successions of periods of activity and dormancy. So, all of the mentioned symptoms will, even without treatment, eventually dissipate and the infection will seem to have gone away. However, it is still present in the system, just dormant for the time being. When the symptoms reappear, this occurrence is usually called reactivation of the virus. Reactivations can happen either rhythmically or completely randomly, but in either case, their frequency and severity will gradually diminish as the years go by.
Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster
Like HSV-1 and HSV-2, shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. The shingles rash usually shows up on the back, side, abdomen , neck and face. It is often only on half of your body, following the pattern of your nerves. See your healthcare provider if you have a new rash and suspect you may have shingles.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Herpes simplex is a virus. Once you have herpes, its a lifelong condition. A herpes infection can lead to outbreaks , but youll also have times when you have no symptoms. The main sign of herpes is sores that appear on the infected skin. Some people choose not to treat herpes, especially if symptoms are mild. Others take antiviral medications to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.
What Increases Your Risk
Things that increase your risk of getting genital herpes include:
- Having more than one sex partner.
- Having a high-risk partner or partners .
- Having unprotected sexual contact .
- Starting sexual activity at a young age. The younger people are when they start having sex, the greater their risk is of getting genital herpes.
- Having a weakened immune system.
- Being a woman. Women are more likely than men to become infected when exposed to genital herpes. And their symptoms tend to be more severe and longer-lasting. Women also are at a greater risk of having complications from a genital herpes infection.
Having herpes, especially if you have open sores, also increases your risk for becoming infected with HIV if you are exposed to HIV.
Any child with genital herpes needs to be evaluated by a doctor to see if it is the result of sexual abuse. For more information, see the topic Child Abuse and Neglect.
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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.
Prevention Of Genital Herpes
The best protection against STIs is to always use barrier protection such as condoms, female condoms and dams . Because herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact, condoms will reduce the risk of transmission, but it will not protect sexual partners completely as condoms do not cover the entire genitals.
Using lubricant with a condom during sex will also reduce the risk of trauma to the genital skin. This has been shown to reduce HSV transmission, especially in the first six months of a sexual relationship. Silicone-based lubricants are recommended.
Remember that herpes transmission can occur when symptoms are present , but may also occur even if there are no genital symptoms through asymptomatic viral shedding.
For people who have frequent episodes of genital herpes, antiviral medication, taken daily, helps to reduce transmission of herpes to a sexual partner.
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Other Triggers For Genital Herpes Outbreaks
Other triggers of genital herpes may include:
- Sexual intercourse. Some people find that the friction of sexual intercourse irritates the skin and brings on symptoms. Using a water-based lubricant can help reduce irritation. Don’t use one that contains the spermicide nonoxynol-9, however. Nonoxynol-9 can irritate mucous membranes, such as the lining of the . Oil-based lubricants are a no-no, too. They weaken latex, making condoms more likely to break. Even if the friction of intercourse seems to be a trigger for symptoms, it probably won’t cause a flare-up every time you have sex.
- Colds and sunlight. The common cold and sunlight seem to trigger outbreaks of oral herpes , but no proof exists that they trigger genital herpes outbreaks.
- Hormones. Hormonal changes, like those that occur in the menstrual cycle, can affect genital herpes outbreaks. No one knows why.
- Surgery, weak immune system. Trauma to the body, such as having surgery, may make herpes symptoms appear. It’s possible that having a weakened immune system does, too. People whose immune systems are weakened by HIV, for example, tend to have outbreaks more often than people with normal immune functioning.
Remember that triggers may not be the same for everyone, and doctors are not certain how much lifestyle affects outbreaks of herpes symptoms. If you think something in particular triggers symptoms, ask your doctor what you should do about it.
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:
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Is There A Cure Or Treatment For Herpes
There is no cure for herpes. Antiviral medications can, however, prevent or shorten outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication.11 In addition, daily suppressive therapy for herpes can reduce the likelihood of transmission to partners.11
There is currently no commercially available vaccine that is protective against genital herpes infection. Candidate vaccines are in clinical trials.
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Herpes Pregnancy And Newborn Infants
Herpes can pose serious risks for a pregnant woman and her baby. The risk is greatest for mothers with a first-time infection because the virus can be transmitted to the infant during childbirth. Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using specific diagnostic tests for women in labor to determine the risk of transmission. Babies born to mothers infected with genital herpes are often treated with the antiviral drug acyclovir, which can help suppress the virus.
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What Triggers Your Herpes Outbreaks
Herpes is caused by one of two viruses: herpes simplex type 1 or herpes simplex type 2 . Herpes is different from many other common viral infections. Most importantly, it doesn’t go away. The virus tends to lie dormant in the nerve root causing no symptoms whatsoever. But, at any time, it can travel the nerve pathways in a particular part of the bodythe virus can reactivate and cause a flare-up or recurrence.
Herpes Causes And Risk Factors
Causes of herpes include acquiring the virus through sexual contact, coupled with immune system suppression and sometimes nutritional deficiencies.
HSV-1 is primarily transmitted by oral-oral contact. On the other hand, HSV-2 is considered a sexually transmitted disease and usually passed during oral or vaginal sex.
A scary finding is that more cases of genital herpes than ever before are now being caused by HSV-1 , and about 85 percent of people with genital herpes dont even know it. Studies show that about 50 percent of the new genital herpes infections in young adults are due to HSV-1 and about 40 percent in older adults. The fact that most people dont ever find out theyre infected is one of the reasons that transmission rates are steadily climbing.
Risk factors for acquiring herpes include:
- Kissing someone who has symptoms of an active herpes virus
- Engaging in any form of unprotected sex
- Having sex with multiple partners
- Spreading the virus through contact with cold sores on the eyes, secretions on the fingers, or ulcers/sores on buttocks and upper thighs
- Having certain other illnesses that lower immune function, such as HIV/AIDS, an autoimmune disorder or hepatitis
- Eating a poor diet that causes nutrient deficiencies and lowered immunity
- Smoking cigarettes, drinking high amounts of alcohol or abusing drugs
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Expect The First Outbreak To Be The Worst
Remember that although herpes lasts a lifetime, the first outbreak typically causes the most pain, while later outbreaks tend to be much milder.
You will always have herpes, and the sores will come and go, but you can decide not to treat the current outbreak. If its not that unpleasant or uncomfortable, some patients will do that, says Gade.
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.
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Upgrade Your Eating Habits
Are you eating a standard American diet, or SAD? That means eating lots of meat, fast foods, and processed foods and few fresh fruits and vegetables. Such habits not only work against living comfortably with herpes, they also raise your risk for many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Consider upgrading your eating habits through a few, not-so-hard-to-make changes.
Eat more veggies. Try to prepare home-cooked food more often. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed, says LeeAnn Weintraub, RD, MPH, a registered dietitian based in Los Angeles. She considers these three tips to be the first steps anyone who wants to eat more healthfully should follow.
Best Foods + Worst Foods To Avoid Herpes Outbreaks
Foods for herpes might relieve symptoms from HSV. Cold sores from oral herpes and genital herpes can both benefit. Certain foods might help prevent herpes outbreaks, while others trigger them. Learn the best foods for herpes and the foods to avoid on a therapeutic herpes diet, plus the reasons why.
Medically reviewed by Meagan Fleming, RN on Jan. 1, 2019
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Treatment & Prevention Of Oral Herpes
There is no cure for herpes, but most people who have oral herpes rarely experience severe problems from it. When you do have an outbreak, you can ease symptoms at home with these remedies:
- Apply a cold compress to the affected area to reduce swelling.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen to ease pain and inflammation.
- Avoid irritants like sugary, acidic, or spicy food and drink.
- Avoid smoking, and consider avoiding alcohol.
- Avoid irritating commercial mouthwashes that contain alcohol, and replace them with a saltwater rinse.
- Keep the area moisturized. Consider using a topical over-the-counter lip ointment to ease itching and burning.
Rarely, symptoms can last for a long time, get worse, or spread. If symptoms do not go away after two weeks, the pain becomes severe, or the outbreak spreads to your eyes, you should contact a doctor immediately for help.
Doctors typically do not prescribe antiviral medication for oral herpes, but if you have frequent, severe, or very painful outbreaks, you may receive a prescription for oral medication to suppress the virus. If you have frequent outbreaks on your lips or the skin around your lips, you may receive a topical ointment to ease symptoms and reduce the outbreak. However, the ointments do not help outbreaks inside the mouth.
Oral herpes is a very common virus that rarely causes serious problems. If you experience the occasional outbreak, take care of yourself and prioritize your oral health.
A Diet High In Lysine
Clinical studies and research suggest a possibility that a diet high in lysine may have the potential to control herpes outbreaks.
Herpesyl is a 100% natural blend that targets and eliminates herpes virus in the body.
Positive Singles is a safe, supportive community to meet others with HSV! Dating profiles, blogs, support groups, and active discussion. Avoid the awkward herpes talk.
L-Lysine is an amino acid that may cut the occurrence, severity, and duration of herpes outbreaks. Why? Well, it has to do with another amino acid: Arginine.
Back in the 60s, researchers showed that elevated arginine levels in the human diet made herpes outbreaks worse. It turns out the herpes virus needs arginine to replicate .
So what does lysine have to do with it? Simple. Lysine and arginine compete for absorption in the body .
The idea is that you want to consume more lysine in your diet than arginine. Then youve taken a step to reduce the amount of herpes virus that replicates in your system. Once the reproduction of herpes simplex virus is stopped or minimized, it could reduce the duration and frequency of a herpes outbreak.
There is no clinical data proving the effectiveness of dietary lysine for herpes in humans, only small preliminary studies on lysine supplements. Still, it remains a popular and well-known diet change for various types of HSV.
Here are some lysine-rich foods:
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What You Need To Know
- Herpes simplex virus , also known as genital herpes, is most likely to be spread when an infected person is having an outbreak, but it can also be transmitted without any symptoms being present.
- Medications can help reduce your symptoms, speed up the healing of an outbreak and make you less contagious.
- If you know 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, cesarean section may be recommended.
Do Natural Remedies Help
There are several options that can be tried to ease the pain. A73612 and Donnor52059 suggest dabbing cornstarch directly on the sores. I can’t find any scientific studies that have researched this, but I can’t see that it would do any harm.
A73612 also recommends squirting water from a bottle over the sores when you pee. This is a time-honoured method that will help to ease the pain.
Yolandayw mentioned taking a simple painkiller such as paracetamol during an outbreak. Feelbroken advised putting Vaseline on the sores. Lidocaine 5%, a local anaesthetic gel that numbs the area, is another option. Some people find it helpful to put on five minutes before passing urine. You need to get it on prescription and it doesn’t suit everyone. Some people develop sensitivity to it which makes the symptoms worse.
Yolandayw also advised using ice as a home remedy. Simply wrap the ice in a tea towel and apply for 5-10 minutes. Never put ice directly on the skin as this can cause ‘ice burn’. Drinking plenty of water can also be helpful as it reduces the concentration of urine, making it less painful when you have to pee.
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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.
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