What Causes A Genital Herpes Outbreak
Once you identify the physical sensation associated with the Prodrome state, many individuals can predict the type of life situation that triggers an outbreak for them in the first place. The following situations are often associated with an outbreak:
Situations associated with an outbreak:
- Heavy sunlight exposure
- Menstrual periods
1 in 5 adults have genital herpes, yet HSV-2 testing is not part of a standard STI screening.
If you are sexually active and receive regular STI screenings, it is still possible that you carry the HSV-2 virus. In many states, Genital Herpes testing is not part of a normal STI screening.
Support And Advice For Genital Herpes
If you have just found out you have genital herpes, you may feel shocked and may have a lot of questions. It may help you to gather as much information as you can about herpes. This can help you to make fully informed decisions about your treatment, safe sex and preventing further recurrences. Talking to a counsellor about your concerns may also help.
A Drug For Genital Herpes May Be Right For You
You might also consider taking antiviral drug therapy for genital herpes to reduce the amount of virus you shed. A recent study shows that daily suppressive therapy may help keep your partner from being infected.
Daily therapy isnt the only option, or necessarily the best one for you. If your outbreaks are few and far between, you might set your mind at ease by keeping a supply of antiviral pills that you could take in case of a flare-up. Ask your doctor if you could benefit from taking medication for genital herpes.
Another consideration may be that the friction of sex could irritate the skin and trigger outbreaks. If thats a problem for you, try using a water-based sexual lubricant. K-Y jelly and AstroGlide are two brands available at many drugstores.
Dont use an oil-based lubricant, however, because the oil can break down latex. Also, do not use a lubricant containing the spermicide nonoxynol-9. Nonoxynol-9 may cause tiny rips in mucous membranes that can let viruses like herpes and HIV enter the body more easily.
For more guidance, see these three articles:
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Herpes Is A Common Infection
Herpes is a super-common infection that stays in your body for life. More than half of Americans have oral herpes, and about 1 out of 6 Americans has genital herpes. So chances are a few people you know are living with herpes.
Theres no cure for herpes, but medication can ease your symptoms and lower your chances of giving the virus to other people. And the good news is, outbreaks usually become less frequent over time, and even though herpes can sometimes be uncomfortable and painful, its not dangerous. People with herpes have relationships, have sex, and live perfectly healthy lives.
How Do You Get Herpes Causes Symptoms And Prevention
Jennifer is a contributing health writer who has been researching and writing health content with PlushCare for 3 years. She is passionate about bringing accessible healthcare and mental health services to people everywhere.
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.
Maybe you think you have herpes and youre wondering how you got itor youre wondering how to avoid getting it. Either way, theres a lot you should know about the herpes simplex virus to help prevent its spread. So, how do you get herpes, and how can you avoid spreading it to others?
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Herpes May Be More Common Than You Think
The World Health Organization estimates that globally, 3.7 billion people younger than 50 have oral herpes and 417 million people aged 15-49 have genital herpes.
Dr. Maya Benitez says there has always been a stigma surrounding sexually transmitted diseases, especially herpes.
Stigma aside, it’s stressful to be diagnosed with something with no cure and no direct definitive treatment. And anxiety and stress can trigger outbreaks, says Dr. Benitez.
“It is important for people to learn about the disease and understand it, so that if diagnosed, people will know how to live with it,” she says.
“The likelihood of contracting herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from sharing objects such as silverware, soap, or towels is low, but it is possible”
How Does Genital Herpes Spread
Herpes can be spread when an infected person has lesions blisters and open sores on their body or when you do not have any symptoms. Taking antiviral medicine can help you reduce the risk of spreading genital herpes to your sexual partners. You can also:
- Inform your sexual partner that you have genital herpes.
- Use a condom every time you have sex.
- Refrain from having sex when you have symptoms.
- Abstain from performing oral sex if you have blisters or open sores around your mouth.
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Can Women Who Have Sex With Women Get Genital Herpes
Yes. It is possible to get genital herpes, or any other STI, if you are a woman who has sex only with women.
Talk to your partner about her sexual history before having sex, and ask your doctor or nurse about getting tested if you have signs or symptoms of genital herpes. Use a during oral sex and avoid sexual activity during an outbreak.
What Is The Treatment
Antiviral medication can be prescribed when herpes first develops, or if the blisters are painful or happen often. The antiviral treatments will not cure herpes, but can help to reduce discomfort and how long it takes for a sore to heal.The medication works best if it is started as soon as possible. It can also decrease the chance of spreading it to others by preventing the virus from multiplying.
To ease discomfort when you have symptoms, try the following:
- Take acetaminophen or Ibuprofen to help with the pain
- Wear loose-fitting clothing and cotton underwear
- Soak in warm water baths
- Keep the infected area dry, e.g., use a blow dryer on a cool setting after bathing instead of rubbing the area with a towel
- Apply an ice-pack, wrapped in a clean cloth, to sores
- Drink plenty of fluids to keep urine diluted . If urinating hurts, pour warm water over your genitals while urinating or pee when you are in a warm shower or bath
- Do not use medicated or non-medicated ointments or creams, unless they are prescribed by your health care provider
- Avoid breaking blisters and any sexual contact until symptoms have resolved
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How Likely Is It That I Now Have Genital Herpes Too
That depends on several things, including whether you and your partner always use a condom and how long youve been sexually intimate with each other.
If youve had sex only once or twice, and if you used a condom each time, the risk is lower than if youve had unprotected sex for a long time. But you could have been infected during any one encounter.
Even if youve never seen herpes sores on your partners genitals or your own, you still might have it. The symptoms of genital herpes are often subtle are easy to mistake for something else, like bug bites, pimples, razor burn, or hemorrhoids. Also, the virus can be contagious even when there are no symptoms.
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How Do You Get Herpes Type 1
HSV-1 is usually spread through oral-to-oral contact. HSV-1 can also be spread by oral-to-genital or genital-to-oral contact.
Oral herpes isnt only spread through kissingit can also be spread through contacting saliva that contains the virus through touching your sore and rubbing your eyes without washing hands thoroughly between.. Most people with HSV-1 were infected when they were kids.
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Can I Treat Herpes Simplex At Home
Avoiding known triggers, such as illness or stress, can help reduce how often you have herpes outbreaks.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-1 ?
- Over-the-counter creams such as L-lysine, benzocaine or docosanol .
- Applying ice to blisters or sores.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-2 ?
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep your genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
- Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as a topical analgesic.
What Is Suppressive Therapy
Suppressive therapy involves taking an oral antiviral drug every day for prolonged periods. It interferes with the herpes virus reproductive cycle and so prevents or dramatically reduces the number of recurrences. When recurrences do occur, they are usually less severe and shorter lasting.
If you find the frequency of your outbreaks unacceptable, or if you are finding it difficult to cope emotionally with having recurrences of genital herpes, tell your doctor and discuss the use of suppressive therapy.
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Duration Of Genital Herpes
The first episode of genital herpes usually begins with inflammation, followed by a small group of blisters that break and weep after a few days and eventually crust over and heal. The first outbreak is usually the worst and ends within about three weeks. The CDC recommends antiviral medication for everyone having a first outbreak of genital herpes.
After the initial outbreak, outbreaks tend to last for less time and have less severe symptoms. Research has indicated that the number of symptomatic outbreaks may decrease over time.
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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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.
How Is Genital Herpes Spread
- Saliva from a partner with an oral herpes infection
- Genital fluids from a partner with a genital herpes infection
- Skin in the oral area of a partner with oral herpes or
- Skin in the genital area of a partner with genital herpes.
You also can get genital herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or is unaware of their infection. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a partner with oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools. You also will not get it from touching objects, such as silverware, soap, or towels.
If you have more questions about herpes, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
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Myth #: People Cannot Spread Herpes To Others Unless They Have Sores Or Blisters
Fact: People can spread herpes to others at any time, including when they do not have any symptoms.
People with herpes may experience outbreaks and remissions. During an outbreak, a person has active sores or blisters, but in remission, they may have no symptoms at all.
The virus is usually more contagious when a person has an outbreak, but it can also spread when it is in remission.
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How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Most people with genital herpes have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms. Mild symptoms may go unnoticed or be mistaken for other skin conditions like a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people do not know they have a herpes infection.
Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. This is known as having an outbreak. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. Flu-like symptoms also may occur during the first outbreak.
People who experience an initial outbreak of herpes can have repeated outbreaks, especially if they have HSV-2. However, repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although genital herpes is a lifelong infection, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time.
Ask a healthcare provider to examine you if:
- You notice any symptoms or
- Your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD.
STD symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly genital discharge, burning when peeing, or bleeding between periods .
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How Fast Can You Contract 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.
Most Outbreaks Occur Within Two Weeks Of Herpes Exposure
If youve been infected with herpes and are symptomatic, youll usually start to experience some effects of the virus within one to two weeks.
An initial herpes outbreak usually lasts for two to three weeks and involves a range of different symptoms. Many people with herpes note that the initial outbreak has the worst symptoms and that subsequent outbreaks are less severe, although this isnt always the case.
Most people start to become aware that they might have herpes after a tingling sensation starts to develop in the area affected by the virus. For oral herpes, this is the start of the development of oral cold sores for genital herpes, the sores develop on the genitals, thighs and buttocks.
For more information on spotting an outbreak, check out our guide on Herpes or Ingrown Hair? How to Tell The Difference.
Over the course of two to three weeks, this tingling/itching feeling leads to the development of blisters. The blisters eventually open into sores, then dry out and heal. Most herpes outbreaks do not leave any permanent scarring.
During your first herpes outbreak, you might also experience flu or cold-like symptoms. About 70% of women and 40% of men experience some level of flu-like symptoms, such as muscle pains, gland swelling, headaches and fever.
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Lets Look At Other Sexual Ways You Can Transmit Herpes
Ok so most of us dont think that STIs or STDs can be transmitted with oral sex. But the truth is it can. In fact, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HPV, and hepatitis b can be transmitted through oral sex, the only thing thats 100% not possible is pregnancy. What this means is oral sex is not a great solution to not having a condom or an easy way to not have the conversation about safe sex. Oral sex transmission is just as probable as vaginal sex. THeres a lot of new herpes cases that pop up from just having oral sex.
Spooning or Cuddling
What Im trying to get across is a couple of things. 1) just having sex doesnt transmit herpes 2) you really need to communicate with your partner about having herpes 3) please dont let this stop you from having skin to skin contact or be afraid of touching your partner.