Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Many people who have genital herpes may not be aware they have the infection, because they may not have any symptoms.
The first episode of herpes can cause considerable pain and distress. Symptoms of the first episode may include:
- flu-like symptoms such as feeling unwell, headaches and pains in the back and legs, with or without enlarged glands in the groin
- small blisters around the genitals these break open to form shallow, painful ulcers, which scab over and heal after one to two weeks
- small cracks in the skin with or without an itch or tingling
- redness or a distinct rash
- some people also have considerable pain and swelling in the genital area, and hence may have additional pain and difficulty passing urine.
What You Need To Know
- Fifty percent to 80 percent of U.S. adults have oral herpes.
- Oral herpes can be spread through intimate contact with someone who is infected.
- Oral herpes can be difficult to diagnose. Often confused with many other infections, it can only be confirmed with a virus culture called PCR, blood test or biopsy. PCR is the preferred test for diagnosing herpes infections.
- The best treatment for oral herpes is antiviral oral medication. Symptomatic treatment may include antiviral ointment, over-the-counter topical anesthetics or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory agents.
Whether you call it a cold sore or a fever blister, oral herpes is a common infection of the mouth area that is caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 . Fifty percent to 80 percent of U.S. adults have oral herpes. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 90 percent of adults have been exposed to the virus by age 50.
Once infected, a person will have herpes simplex virus for the rest of his or her life. When inactive, the virus lies dormant in a group of nerve cells. While some people never develop any symptoms from the virus, others will have periodic outbreaks of infections.
How To Treat Herpes
This article was medically reviewed by Luba Lee, FNP-BC, MS. Luba Lee, FNP-BC is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner and educator in Tennessee with over a decade of clinical experience. Luba has certifications in Pediatric Advanced Life Support , Emergency Medicine, Advanced Cardiac Life Support , Team Building, and Critical Care Nursing. She received her Master of Science in Nursing from the University of Tennessee in 2006.There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, several readers have written to tell us that this article was helpful to them, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 1,634,244 times.
Herpes is an outbreak of painful, itchy blisters caused by a viral infection. While there is no cure for herpes, antiviral medications can relieve symptoms and shorten an outbreak’s duration. There are also steps you can take on your own to ease your discomfort. To reduce the risk of subsequent outbreaks, maintain a healthy diet, get 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly, and try to keep your stress levels in check.
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How Do You Get Herpes
The virus can be passed on by:
having any skin-to-skin contact with the infected area
transferring the infection on fingers from someone else to your genitals
sharing sex toys that aren’t washed or covered with a new condom each time they are used.
The virus is most infectious when you have blisters, but it can be passed on when someone has no symptoms. This is normally immediately before or after an outbreak.
If you have genital herpes while pregnant you can pass the virus on to your unborn baby. Itâs important to speak to your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
For more details on herpes in pregnancy read our âin detailâ tab.
How Is Herpes Treated
There is no cure for the herpes simplex virus. The blisters usually heal and go by themselves, so you may not always need treatment. If treatment is needed, there are antiviral medicines which can help. These can shorten outbreaks, relieve discomfort and stop symptoms from getting worse.
The antiviral treatment is most effective when you take it within the first five days of symptoms appearing. Avoid touching the blisters as this can spread the infection. If treatment requires you to apply cream to a sore, gently pat the cream on, being careful not to rub around the surrounding area.
You can ease your symptoms by:
keeping the affected area clean using plain or salt water to prevent blisters or ulcers from becoming infected
applying petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to any blisters or ulcers to reduce pain when passing urine
asking a healthcare provider to recommend painkilling creams
avoiding tight clothing because it may irritate the blisters and ulcers.
Donât have sex until you or your partner have finished your treatment, and the blisters or ulcers have gone. Recurrent outbreaks are usually milder than the first episode of genital herpes and over time they tend to occur less often.
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How Is Cat Herpes Treated
Cat herpes can be treated with a few different antiviral drugs. Some of the most common options include:
- Systemic antiviral therapy: This uses a human anti-herpes antiviral drug, also known as Famciclovir, that has been proven to be safe in cats. It is given by mouth and helps manage severe infections.
- Topical ocular antiviral therapy: These anti-herpes drugs, known as idoxuridine, trifluridine, and cidofovir, can be used as eye drops in treating cat herpes. Eye drops are usually given daily and sometimes combined with other treatment options.
- Nursing care or hospitalization: In severe cases, your veterinarian may recommend that your cat is hospitalized so they can receive nutritional support or intravenous fluid therapy .
Bacterial infections often complicate cat herpes. Combined with antibiotics, supportive treatment for your cat is essential for their recovery. With the right medication and care, your cat can live a long and healthy life.
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How To Get Rid Of Herpes Sores Fast
- Lifestyle changes: One of the best things you can do to help your herpes sores heal fast is to adopt a lifestyle that supports your immune system. This means getting the proper amount of sleep most nights and eating nourishing foods full of antioxidants.
- A dry and clean vagina: You may be hesitant to clean down there because you donât want to make it worse. But when you gently wash with fragrance-free soap, youâll be making sure that your sores and your genital area remain clean. Once youâre out of the shower or bath, dry completely before putting on fresh cotton underwear.
- Baking soda: Your sores are open and swollen, so finding a solution that helps dry them out will naturally lead to a quicker healing process. Put just a little baking soda in a bowl, then dip a wet Q-tip into it and apply it to the affected area.
- Medication: At wisp, we have suppressive and episodic medication for your herpes. We also carry options to manage the severity of your sore symptoms and Lidocaine pain and Acyclovir creams to promote a faster healing process with less pain. Also, itâs so important to take medication as prescribed to help your body heal fast. Even if your sores are going away quickly, keep taking your prescription for as long as youâre supposed to.
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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.
How Far Away Is A Cure For Herpes
Theres currently no cure for herpes, but that might change in the future.
According to 2020 research published in Nature, scientists from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center removed 90 percent of the HSV-1 virus from cells in mice using gene editing.
However, it takes time to transition potential treatments from animals to humans. In a 2020 news article, one of the researchers that authored the Nature paper estimated that it would be at least 3 years before human trials.
Scientists are also researching the possibility of creating a vaccine to prevent herpes. A 2022 study outlined a new approach to developing an mRNA vaccine for herpes. The vaccine mentioned in the study worked well in mice and guinea pigs.
The researchers say that theyre aiming to conduct human trials before the end of 2022, and the vaccine could be available within the next 10 years.
How Do People Get Genital Herpes
People can get infected with genital herpes when:
- They receive oral sex from a partner who has oral herpes .
- They touch a herpes sore and then touch their own genitals.
- Their genitals touch the skin in the genital area of someone who is infected .
Genital herpes can spread even if there are no sores because the virus is still in the body. The virus sometimes âshedsâ in the skin near the genitals. When the virus is shedding, it can infect another person.
How Does Herpes Simplex Spread
Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.
People may get HSV-1 through
- Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
- Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
- If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.
People may get HSV-2 through
- Oral sex with someone whos infected.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.
You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.
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What Is Genital Herpes Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment And Prevention
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. More than one in every six people between ages 14 and 49 living in the United States has genital herpes.
Most people infected with herpes dont even know it. They dont know because the infection often has no symptoms, very mild symptoms, or symptoms that mimic other health or skin problems. But the infection can cause small, painful sores to form on the genitals, thighs, or buttocks. If sores do arise, they typically go away within two to three weeks, but the virus stays in the body for life.
Lots and lots of people live normal, healthy lives with herpes, with some small degree of attention to protecting their partners during outbreaks, says I. Cori Baill, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist and an associate professor at the University of Central Florida College of Medicine in Orlando, Florida.
Genital herpes can be treated, but it canât be cured. Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to prevent giving it to other people.
How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Herpes simplex virus doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women diagnosed with HSV-2 should start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy as prescribed, to prevent outbreaks during delivery. If you have an active infection at the time of childbirth, you can pass the herpes virus to your baby. Neonatal herpes puts a baby at risk for blindness, brain damage, skin infections and death. Your healthcare provider will perform a cesarean section to lower this risk.
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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.
What Happens If I Dont Get Treated
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or the fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another part of your body, such as 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, immediately wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading your infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your developing fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? above for information about this.
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How Do I Test For Herpes
If you think you have symptoms of genital herpes or have been at risk of infection, you should speak to a healthcare professional.
There are different tests available. If you have symptoms, the most common test is to take a swab from a blister. The fluid can be tested for the herpes simplex virus. A herpes blood test exists but is not routinely available.
If you have genital herpes you should be tested for other STIs. Itâs important that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated. Many people who have herpes do not notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on.
Understanding Herpes With H Hunter Handsfield Md
Herpes expert H. Hunter Handsfield, MD, explains the basics about genital herpes, including the difference between genital HSV-1 and HSV-2 infection, testing options and the importance of knowing virus type, and the three-prong strategy for prevention. See more herpes videos at sexualhealthTV.com.
Have a question about herpes youd like Dr. Handsfield or our other experts to answer? Visit our Ask the Experts page to learn how.
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More Questions From Patients:
Many people with genital herpes have no symptoms, or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed.
The first time genital herpes symptoms appear is called the “first episode” or “initial herpes.” Initial herpes symptoms are usually more noticeable than later outbreaks.
Symptoms of genital herpes in men may include
burning when you pee if you have sores
trouble peeing if you have sores covering your urethra
itching or pain around your genitals
During initial herpes, symptoms may also include
swollen, tender glands in the pelvic area, throat, or under the arms
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.
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When To Call The Doctor
Even though HSV sores can hurt and be unsightly, most cases of herpes do not cause serious illness. The sores go away in a few days. Contact the health provider if:
- Sores are present and you think it might be a first herpes infection. The diagnosis is usually made by examining the sores. If the sores have not healed, sometimes a laboratory test is done.
- Sores do not heal by themselves or show signs of infection such as pus, spreading redness or fever.
- Sores are near the eyes.
- You have another health condition with a weakened immune system.
How Is Genital Herpes Spread
Genital herpes is usually transmitted by having sexual contact with someone who carries HSV. You can get genital herpes through direct contact with an infected blister or sore, usually through sexual contact. You can also transmit or get the virus when you or your partner have no symptoms present .
Most people who infect others don’t realise they are putting their partners at risk.
- Around 80% of people with genital herpes don’t know they have the virus because they have very mild symptoms or none at all.
- More than 75% of people who have genital herpes get it from people who are entirely unaware that they have it themselves.
Using condoms reduces your risk of passing on the virus by about 50%, but does not remove it completely.
You cannot catch genital herpes by sharing cups, towels or bath water, or from toilet seats. It can only be spread by close skin-to-skin contact.
HSV that causes genital herpes does not cause cervical cancer.
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Can Symptoms Be Treated At Home
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There are things you can do to relieve the discomfort and severity of the symptoms during an outbreak. Home treatments include:
- Take painkillers such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen.
- Bathe sore areas with a warm salt-water solution twice a day .
- Let air circulate around the sores by wearing loose-fitting clothes.
- Put an ice pack on the affected area. Wrap the ice pack in a towel or piece of cloth.
- Get plenty of rest.
There are also things you can do to avoid passing the virus to other parts of your body, as well as to other people. Take these steps:
- Donât kiss when you or your partner has cold sores.
- Avoid oral sex when either partner has oral or genital sores.
- Wash your hands with soap and water after touching infected areas.
- Donât wet your contact lenses with saliva.