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.
How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Most people who have genital herpes have no symptoms, or have very mild symptoms. You may not notice mild symptoms or you may mistake them for another skin condition, such as a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people who have herpes do not know it.
Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. These symptoms are sometimes called having an outbreak. The first time someone has an outbreak they may also have flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, or swollen glands.
People who experience an initial outbreak of herpes can have repeated outbreaks, especially if they are infected with HSV-2. Repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although the infection stays in the body for the rest of your life, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time.
You should be examined by your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms or if your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD. STD symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly genital discharge, burning when urinating, or bleeding between periods.
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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Best For Difficult Sexual Relationships: Stdcheckcom
Why We Chose It: STDcheck.com is very easy to use and offers several options for at-home herpes testing. However, whats notable about the site is that it lets you send online anonymous text alerts to sexual partners who might need to be tested. Thats not as good as talking with them in person, but it can help with some awkward conversations you might not otherwise be willing to have.
For $139, individuals get access to both HSV-1 and HSV-2 testing. A 10-test panel with other STDs costs $249
Ability to alert sexual partners by anonymous text
Results within 1-2 days
Tests are run at the same labs used by a doctors office
The least expensive option does not detect genital herpes cases caused by HSV-1
Doctor consultations are only available for people who test positive
Insurance is not an option for payment
STDcheck.com allows people to order STD tests online and then go to a local lab for testing . Over 4,500 testing locations are available nationwide, and most people will be able to find a site that is convenient for them. After the test is ordered, you go to the lab and have your blood drawn. The lab sends it for analysis and, in a few days, you can access your results by phone or online.
Recommended herpes testing options run from $139 to $249, and telephone doctor consultations are free for individuals who have a positive test.
Heres Why Doctors Dont Usually Test For Herpes
Its basically a SELF mantra at this point: Getting tested for sexually transmitted infections is hella important. Is it the most delightful way to spend your time? No. Is it a vital part of looking after your health, sexual and otherwise? Absolutely.
When you go in for routine STI testing, you might realize that your doctor doesnt test you for herpes. Whats that about? As it turns out, testing for herpes isnt as straightforward as testing for something like chlamydia or gonorrhea. Here, doctors explain why herpes isnt usually included on STI panels.
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Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Many people who have genital herpes are unaware that they have the virus because they have no symptoms, mild symptoms, or mistake the symptoms for other conditions such as jock itch, yeast infections, razor burn or allergic reactions to detergents. The infection can be diagnosed by taking a swab from the sores or through blood tests. Those with symptoms may experience a tingling sensation or itching in the genital area within a few days of having sex with an infected person. A cluster of blisters may appear and burst, leaving painful sores often lasting two to three weeks. A fever, headache and muscular pain may occur during the first attack.
After the sores from the first attack heal, the virus goes into a dormant stage, but recurrent outbreaks can occur. Some people have only one or two recurrences in a lifetime, while others have them frequently. Recurrences are typically shorter in duration and less severe than the first episode. Stress, menstrual cycle, illness, fever, surgery, exposure to sun, having sex, pregnancy, and the use of some medications can play a role in the frequency and severity of outbreaks. Herpes can continue to be transmitted to others, even between recurrences when the infected person has no symptoms.
Womens symptoms can include:
- tender lumps in the groin
Mens symptoms can include:
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How To Prevent The Spread Of Herpes
Although herpes is a lifelong virus that cant be cured, it goes through periods of dormancy between outbreaks. This means that while the virus is still present, its not actively replicating.
During this time, you may not experience any signs or symptoms of having the disease even if youve had a previous outbreak before.
However, you can still spread the herpes virus to your sexual partners at any time, even if no sores are present. In addition, although rare, its possible to spread oral herpes to the genital region and vice versa.
For this reason, its extremely important to be mindful of the following preventive measures:
- Tell your partners that you have genital or oral herpes. This allows them to make informed decisions about their own sexual health, and its the responsible thing to do.
- If youre experiencing the signs and symptoms of an upcoming outbreak, avoid all sexual contact. Youre most likely to spread the virus to others during an outbreak.
- Its possible to spread the herpes virus even without an outbreak. If youre worried about spreading the disease to a partner, research shows that antivirals are effective at reducing this possibility.
Having oral or genital herpes doesnt mean that you can no longer have sex. However, its your responsibility to prevent the spread of herpes to your sexual partner.
If you have herpes, you can still take care of your sexual health through open communication and safer sex.
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What Percentage Of The Population Has Herpes
What percentage of the population has herpes? More than 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 about 67 percent of the global population are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 , according to a new report from the World Health Organization.
- HSV-2 infection is more common in women than in men (almost 1 out of 9.
- HSV-2 infection is also more common in blacks than in whites
- Genital herpes is common in the United States. More than one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes.
You Got A Positive Herpes Test Now What
If you receive a positive herpes test, start by educating yourself about the herpes virus. There are many pervasive herpes myths that you shouldnt believe. The truth is that herpes is treatable and outbreaks can even be minimized or prevented with the right treatment measures.
Acyclovir, for example, is an antiviral medication that treats infections caused by the herpes simplex virus, including genital herpes. Its best to start taking acyclovir as soon as you notice the first signs of an emerging outbreak. This medication stops the herpes virus from growing and spreading during an outbreak, although it cannot remove the virus from your body completely. Most people experience relief within just a few days of taking acyclovir.
If youre looking for a natural therapy to control herpes outbreaks, the Luminance RED is another option. The Luminance RED handheld devices shine red wavelengths of light over the skin of affected areas. The company has one device designed for oral herpes and one for genital herpes.
Medically-optimized red light is metabolized to accelerate the bodys healing process and strengthen its defenses against future attacks. Studies show that regular use of high-powered light treatment not only shortens the healing time of active outbreaks but can also prevent future outbreaks altogether.
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Why Should I Get Tested
Genital herpes does not often show signs or symptoms until you have an outbreak. If you have had unprotected sex with someone who has genital herpes, then you may have caught it too. It is important to get tested so that you do not pass it on to someone else.
It is very important to get tested if you are a pregnant woman and have a partner with genital herpes. This is because your baby could also become infected if you get genital herpes too. Herpes infections in babies can be life-threatening.
Do I Need To Tell My Partner
In Canada, genital herpes is not a reportable sexually transmitted infection. While it is not legally required, we recommend that you inform any sexual partners youâve had 60 days before symptoms appeared or before the diagnosis date.
It is not mandatory to inform sexual partners you have been diagnosed with genital herpes in Canada.â
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Can It Lie Dormant
The herpes virus can lie dormant in the body for years before people experience any symptoms.
After people have the first outbreak of herpes, the virus then lies dormant in the nervous system. Any further outbreaks are due to the virus reactivating, which causes symptoms to appear.
Symptoms are usually less severe during repeat outbreaks. Sores also clear up more quickly, often within 37 days. This is due to the antibodies the body produces to fight the first outbreak of herpes. The body can then use these antibodies to respond more quickly to future outbreaks.
There is currently no cure for herpes. Even if a person stops experiencing symptoms, the virus will remain inside their body.
It is also important to point out that herpes is transmissible even when no sores or other symptoms are present. For this reason, early prevention is advisable.
Condoms and dental dams do not offer complete protection against the herpes virus, as herpes can live on areas around the genitals. However, these methods do reduce the likelihood of contracting the infection or passing it on.
Both people can then take additional steps to reduce the likelihood of transmission. These steps may include:
Can I Get Genital Herpes More Than Once
There isnt a cure for HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes. Infections can come back . Recurring symptoms are usually milder than the first outbreak. Symptoms dont last as long with later outbreaks. Some people may only have one or two outbreaks during their lifetime. Others may have as many as four or five outbreaks a year.
After infection, the virus moves from skin cells to nerve cells. In the nerve cells, it becomes inactive . Certain things may reactivate the virus, such as:
- Illness or fever.
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Myth: Without A Visible Outbreak Herpes Isnt Contagious
Since outbreaks arent always obvious, its not always clear when youre contagious. There are a few days a year when herpes is active and possibly transmitted without any symptoms present, explains Wyand. This is known as viral shedding. This doesnt happen on most days, but its tricky, because theres no real way to know.
All this sounds really scary, but what it boils down to is the importance of practicing safe sex. While the risk of transmission will never be zero, there are some steps you and your partner can take to significantly reduce the risk of transmission: avoiding sex during an outbreak, using condoms. The partner with herpes can also go on suppressive therapy .
Dr. Rosser agrees that condoms are your best friends for any kind of sex. People still look at me like I have two heads when I suggest condoms for oral sex, she says. But if theres any question, then use them.
Communication is not only essential when it comes to having great sex, adds Dr. Rosser, but also when preventing the spread of herpes. If youre infected, be honest and consideratelet your partner know.
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Who Decides Which Diseases Are Notifiable And Why
The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists works with CDC to determine if a particular disease should be nationally notifiable. To make this decision, they follow a number of public health principles, for example, whether or not it is treatable whether or not it is preventable how common it is whether or not a public health response is needed whether or not there is a good source of information on the number of cases and whether or not it represents a significant public health threat . Information on HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections already exists in NHANES, so herpes infections have not been classified as notifiable diseases.
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Consultation And Doctors Referral
Blood tests are often recommended by doctors and cannot be issued privately. For this reason, if you suspect you might have herpes, you need to book an appointment with your doctor. Based on your previous medical history, current situation and questions, he will decide whether or not you should be tested for herpes.
Testing With No Symptoms
Blood tests can be used when a person has no visible symptoms but has concerns about having herpes. Blood tests do not actually detect the virus instead, they look for antibodies in the blood.
IgM vs. IgG
When an individual contracts herpes, the immune system responds by developing antibodies to fight the virus: IgG and IgM. Blood tests can look for and detect these antibodiesnot the virus itself. IgG appears soon after infection and stays in the blood for life. IgM is actually the first antibody that appears after infection, but it may disappear thereafter.
IgM tests are not recommended because of three serious problems:
The accurate herpes blood tests detect IgG antibodies. Unlike IgM, IgG antibodies can be accurately broken down to either HSV-1 or HSV-2. The challenge here is that the time it takes for IgG antibodies to reach detectable levels can vary from person to person. For one person, it could take just a few weeks, while it could take a few months for another. So even with the accurate tests, a person could receive a false negative if the test is taken too soon after contracting the virus.
For the most accurate test result, it is recommended to wait 12 16 weeks from the last possible date of exposure before getting an accurate, type-specific blood test in order to allow enough time for antibodies to reach detectable levels.
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How Can I Prevent Transmitting Herpes
Although latex condoms can reduce the risk of transmitting most STIs by 98 percent, condoms dont prevent herpes transmission. This is because not all herpes sores occur in areas that are covered by a condom.
If youre experiencing an active outbreak, you can
- avoiding sexual activity until symptoms go away
- washing your hands thoroughly and applying medication with cotton swabs to reduce contact with sores
Taking a daily antiviral herpes medication can also help prevent transmission, shorten outbreaks, and manage symptoms.
Nonetheless Asymptomatic Individuals Can Still Pass Herpes On And You Could Be One Of Them Even If You Obtain Regular Std Testing
Many doctors also dont inform patients that the test is not included, so when people do have symptoms and receive a diagnosis, there can be feelings of confusion and worry about whether a partner was dishonest or cheated, when their partner simply may not have known about the infection. In fact, by the time some people are diagnosed, it can be very difficult to determine how long theyve had the infection. This means they may not have contracted it from their current partner.
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Will I Have To Pay For The Test Out Of Pocket
Youll have to check with your insurance network to see whether at-home STI tests are covered.
Insurance does typically cover them, but sites like Everlywell recommend verifying the purchase with your insurance.
Additionally, some networks may reimburse you for your purchase.
However, most at-home testing sites arent currently partnered with any insurance companies, which means youll have to reach out yourself.
If you dont have insurance, youll likely have to pay for the test out of pocket. Some sites like Priority STD dont accept insurance, so its a flat rate of $99 regardless of your coverage.