What Happens At A Sexual Health Clinic
The doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic will:
- ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners
- use a small cotton bud to take some fluid from 1 of your blisters or sores for testing
The test cannot:
- be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores
- tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from
Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after you’re infected with the herpes virus.
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
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.
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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?
Dont Be Afraid To Get Emotionally Intimate
An open and honest conversation about your diagnosis can require emotional intimacy that may be scary to have in a new relationship. Harbushka says to relax and realize that it can be sexy to communicate with your partner about sex and other important intimate topics.
With the right information and adequate protection, you can still enjoy a healthy sexual relationship. Here are some tips to help you and your partner stay safe during sex.
Herpes Symptoms And Signs
In order to diagnose herpes, a health care provider can swab an area of visibly active herpes infection or, if symptoms arent active, a blood test can be given that measures the number of herpes antibodies present in the body. The antibodies dont indicate herpes itself, but rather show the immune systems response to the presence of the virus in the body. Its important to note that sometimes a swab can give false negative results since herpes lesions need to be large enough to yield enough detectable virus and if the outbreak is already healing it also may not be detected in a swab.
The most common herpes symptoms include:
- Developing either a single cold sore or cluster of multiple cold sores that form on the lips, inside the mouth, or on the genitals, buttocks and upper thighs.
- Sores can sometimes be severe, painful and rupture and cause fluid to be secreted out.
- Some herpes canker sores develop a thin, white coating and burn when touched while they healing.
- Around herpes cold sores, its common to feel pain, tenderness and other symptoms of a rash, such as redness or signs of swelling.
- Some people are able to tell before an outbreak if one is going to occur because they feel tingling, itchy sensations near the affected area.
- Some people develop other symptoms during herpes outbreaks that are similar to those caused by a cold or the flu. This may include fatigue, irritability, aches or a slight fever.
Home Remedies And Lifestyle
At-home treatments for herpes are used to relieve pain. They do nothing to alter the course of the infection but can make you more comfortable as the herpes sores begin to heal.
There are several things you can do if have an outbreak of oral or genital herpes:
- Use a cold compress. Place a cloth-covered ice pack on the sores for 15 minutes several times daily to reduce pain. Keep the ice pack moving to prevent frostbite.
- Do not touch or scratch. Avoid touching and rubbing the sores. Doing so can spread the infection to other areas of the skin.
- Keep the sores clean. Herpes sores can become infected with bacteria if touched with soiled hands. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after going to the bathroom or before applying medications.
- Reduce stress. Stress can increase your sensitivity to pain during a herpes outbreak. You can reduce stress by performing gentle exercises or practicing mind-body therapies like meditation, yoga, and guided imagery.
To reduce the risk of spreading herpes, avoid kissing and sharing objects that come into contact with saliva, like drinking straws and eating utensils.
It’s important to note that oral herpes can be spread to the genitals, and that genital herpes can be spread to the mouth. To reduce the risk of infection, use condoms and dental dams during oral sex. Better yet, avoid sex altogether if you are having an active herpes outbreak .
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No Ulcers Doesnt Equal No Herpes So Then What
If youve never had genital ulcers and as far as you know, have never been exposed, is it worth getting tested? Thats a controversial point and in fact, the widely followed official guidelines discourage screening.
Why? Many reasons: Lets say a person has a blood test that comes back positive for HSV-2. This means that the patient may have been exposed to HSV-2 at some point in their lives, somehow, somewhere. Research tells us that these folks may be periodically shedding virus particles in their genital fluids. These patients would then be diagnosed with genital herpes, encouraged to share their status with future partners, and offered daily antiviral medication to prevent possibly spreading the virus.
All of this can be a tough pill to swallow, so to speak. There is significant social stigma and shame associated with herpes. In addition, there are occasionally false-positive tests. Labeling someone with the diagnosis can be devastating to their future relationships, and asking someone to take a pill for a condition they may or may not have and may or may not spread seems unreasonable.
However, not all experts agree with the official guidelines. Except for the uncommon case of a false positive blood test for HSV-2, a seropositive test means one of three things:
If you are not sure about getting tested, talk with your doctor.
About the Author
When Is Preventive Treatment Considered
Some people have outbreaks of genital herpes very often or experience especially severe symptoms. Then it may be a good idea to take antiviral medication for a longer time including during symptom-free phases. The goal is to prevent further outbreaks and to keep the symptoms from becoming so severe. Also, the antiviral medication reduces the likelihood of infecting others. As preventive treatment, the WHO recommends the following:
- aciclovir: 400 mg two times per day,
- famciclovir: 250 mg two times per day or
- valaciclovir: 500 mg once per day.
Research shows that preventive treatment can considerably lower the risk of further outbreaks. The people participating had four or more herpes outbreaks per year before the start of the studies, and then took an antiviral medication or a fake treatment for up to one year. A comprehensive analysis of the study results shows that
- 96 out of 100 people who took a placebo had at least one further outbreak of genital herpes.
- 46 out of 100 people who were given antiviral medication had at least one further outbreak of genital herpes.
In other words, the medication prevented further outbreaks in 50 out of 100 people within one year.
People with very frequent herpes outbreaks also benefited from preventive treatment: In one study involving people with very frequent outbreaks, the medication lowered the number of episodes in one year from 11 to 2.
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What Can I Do To Stop Discomfort And Speed Up Healing Self
People with genital herpes have reported to us that these ideas have helped them to treat their genital herpes. They have not been through a medical trial:
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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How Do I Talk With People About Having Herpes
It might feel scary to admit you have herpes, but talking about things can really ease your mind. You could lean on a close, non-judgmental friend that you trust to keep the conversation private. Parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and other family members can also be a source of comfort. Remember, herpes is really common, so its possible the person youre talking to has herpes, too.
There are a lot of online support groups for people who have herpes, and the American Sexual Health Association has a list of support groups that meet in person.
Are Antiviral Medications Safe
Antiviral medications are considered to be very safe. They are nearly always well tolerated because the active ingredients only have an effect in cells that have been infected by the virus.
People who have kidney failure may need to take a lower dose because the medication is removed from the body through the kidneys.
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What Causes Postherpetic Neuralgia
Postherpetic neuralgia begins when the virus that causes chickenpox affects an individual. After having chickenpox, the virus remains in the body forever. The virus can reactivate, usually decades later, and produce shingles lesions. The reactivation of the virus is thought to be due to stress on the body from either another infection or if the patients immune system is compromised that allows the virus to escape the nerve cells.
The nerve fibers damaged from the chickenpox virus are unable to transmit normal sensation messages from the skin to the brain. Instead, the sensation messages become confused and exaggerated, causing chronic, often excruciating, pain that can last months or even years. However, postherpetic neuralgia does not occur in everyone who suffers from shingles.
Types Of Antiviral Drugs
There are three oral antivirals recommended for the treatment of oral or genital herpes:
|Famvir, 250 mg
Preventing genital herpes recurrence is important as it reduces the risk of HIV. According to the CDC, having an active genital herpes infection increases the risk of HIV by 200% to 300%.
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Coping With Shingles Pain
If you have shingles, you may be wondering how to cope with the pain:
- Be sure to get plenty of sleep and eat a healthy diet to help boost your immune system.
- Wear comfortable, loose clothing with natural fiber .
- Establish or maintain a regular exercise routine.
- Utilize home remedies to help soothe pain from blisters.
- Engage in activities that help take your mind off of the pain.
- Establish a routine to help manage stress.
- Seek out support when needed from family and friends as well as professional supportive services.
Home Care Measures For Genital Herpes
First, simple self-care may be enough to relieve most discomfort caused by genital herpes. Taking an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen, can help ease the pain of herpes symptoms. Doctors sometimes recommend soaking the affected area in warm water. But the area should be kept dry most of the time. If toweling off after bathing is uncomfortable, try using a hair dryer. Then put on cotton underwear. Cotton absorbs moisture better than synthetic fabric does.
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How Does Genital Herpes Affect A Pregnant Woman And Her Baby
Neonatal herpes is one of the most serious complications of genital herpes.5,16 Healthcare providers should ask all pregnant women if they have a history of genital herpes.11 Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, or babies may be infected shortly after birth, resulting in a potentially fatal neonatal herpes infection. 17 Infants born to women who acquire genital herpes close to the time of delivery and are shedding virus at delivery are at a much higher risk for developing neonatal herpes, compared with women who have recurrent genital herpes . 16,18-20 Thus, it is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. Women should be counseled to abstain from intercourse during the third trimester with partners known to have or suspected of having genital herpes. 5,11
Is There A Cure Or Treatment For Genital Herpes
There is no cure for genital herpes. However, daily use of antiviral medicines can prevent or shorten outbreaks. Antiviral medicines also can reduce the chance of spreading it to others.
Though several clinical trials have tested vaccines against genital herpes, there is no vaccine currently available to prevent infection. One vaccine trial showed efficacy among women whose partners had HSV-2, but only among women not infected with HSV-1. Efficacy was not observed among men whose partners had HSV-2. Another trial testing the same vaccine showed some protection from genital HSV-1 infection, but none from HSV-2.
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I Sometimes Get Twinges And Pains Around My Buttocks Or Down One Leg What Does This Mean
Occasionally, herpes simplex virus can cause burning skin sensations, deep aches or sudden twinges in the genital area. When they occur in the thighs or buttocks, they are sometimes compared to sciatica. These symptoms are called prodromes or prodromal symptoms. They are a sign that the virus is trying to reactivate and there may be virus on the skin surface. Sometimes sores will follow, but very often your immune response overcomes the virus before visible signs appear. For email version or posted version of more information on treating genital herpes, select tips to prevent recurrences on the subscription form.
What Are The Complications Of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes may cause painful genital ulcers that can be severe and persistent in persons with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV-infected persons. 5 Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also cause rare but serious complications such as aseptic meningitis . 5 Development of extragenital lesions may occur during the course of infection. 5
There are also potential complications for a pregnant woman and her newborn child. See How does herpes infection affect a pregnant woman and her baby? below for information about this.
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Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What is the best treatment for me?
- Are there any side effects to my treatment?
- Is it safe to have unprotected sex if I dont have any sores?
- Can I give myself genital herpes if I also have oral herpes?
- Can I give someone else herpes even if Im not having an outbreak?
- What is the best way to prevent herpes outbreaks?
- Can I live a normal life with herpes?
- Am I at risk of developing any other diseases?
- Are there any support groups in my area?
- If I give my baby herpes, what is the treatment?
New A Guide To Treating And Living With Genital Herpes
Guess how many people under the age of 50 are estimated to carry the herpes infection?According to the World Health Organisation, 3.7 billion have Type 1, and 417 million have Type 2 thats over half of the global population! Its remarkably common but still causes both embarrassment, discomfort, and pain for those who carry the virus. Lets look more closely at the condition, how you can contract it, and how to treat it if you do.
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