How Common Is Genital Herpes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 40 million to 50 million adults in the United States have genital herpes. HSV II infection is more common in women and in people who have had more than five sexual partners. Most people with HSV II do not know they have it, because it does not always cause symptoms.
When Should You Call Your Doctor
If you havent been diagnosed with genital herpes, call your doctor if you have:
- Painful blisters or sores in the genital or pelvic area.
- Burning or pain while urinating, or you cant urinate.
- Reason to think youve been exposed to genital herpes.
If you have been diagnosed with genital herpes, call your doctor if you are having frequent outbreaks or if you cant pass urine or are constipated.
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, or if you think you have genital herpes, tell your doctor.
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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How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
If you have a herpes sore, your dermatologist can often diagnose you by looking at the sore and taking a swab from the sore. A lab test can tell whether the sore contains the herpes simplex virus , which is what causes genital herpes.
If you dont have a sore or any symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control doesnt recommend testing for most people. You can learn whether you should be tested if you dont have symptoms at:
How Do I Prevent Spreading The Virus
An infected person can take precautions to prevent spreading the virus.
If you have oral herpes:
- When sores are present on the face, avoid kissing, oral contact, and sharing items such as eating utensils, towels,
and lip balms.
- If tingling, burning, itching, or tenderness develops in an area of your body where you have had a herpes sore, do
not touch it and do not touch others with it.
If you have genital herpes:
- When you have sores or symptoms, avoid sexual
- At other times, condoms can reduce the risk of spreading the virus. It is important to know that while a condom can help, it is possible to spread the virus if it lies on nearby skin that a condom does not cover. For persons who suffer frequent outbreaks of herpes, taking an antiviral drug daily prevents most outbreaks and reduces transmission of the virus to others.
A board-certified dermatologist is a medical doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating the medical, surgical, and cosmetic conditions of the skin, hair and nails. To learn more about herpes simplex or find a dermatologist in your area, visit aad.org or call toll free 462-DERM .
Images used with permission of the American Academy of Dermatology National Library of Dermatologic Teaching Slides
American Academy of Dermatology
P.O. Box 1968, Des Plaines, Illinois 60017AAD Public Information Center: 888.462.DERM AAD Member Resource Center: 866.503.SKIN Outside the United States: 847.240.1280
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How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Genital herpes doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women diagnosed with herpes genitalis should start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy 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.
How Is Herpes Simplex Treated
Some people have few to no herpes outbreaks and choose not to have treatment. But many people prefer to use medications that shorten outbreaks and reduce symptoms.
During an outbreak, you may use an antiviral ointment or cream to help lessen your symptoms and help them go away faster, but it only works if you start it soon after you start an outbreak. Many people with HSV-2 take daily oral medications to keep outbreaks at bay.
Your provider may prescribe a topical medication or oral medication such as:
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Is There A Link Between Herpes And Hiv
Genital herpes is one of the most common co-infections for people with HIV. It can be a more serious condition if youâre HIV positive – outbreaks may last longer and blisters can be more severe. If youâre having recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes, you should have an HIV test, as this may be a sign of a weakened immune system caused by HIV.
Having an STI such as genital herpes can increase your risk of getting and passing on HIV. The blisters and sores provide an easy way for HIV to get into your body and cause an infection.
People with HIV who arenât on treatment or who have a lower CD4 count are more likely to get other infections, like herpes.
If youâre taking antiretroviral treatment for HIV, itâs important to discuss this with your doctor. They can advise how treatment for herpes may interact with your HIV drugs.
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Who Might Get Herpes Simplex
People of any age can contract herpes simplex. You are more likely to get the virus if you:
- Were assigned female at birth.
- Have had multiple sex partners.
- Started having sex at a young age.
- Have a history of any sexually transmitted infection .
- Have a weakened immune system.
- Dont use condoms for intercourse and dental dams for oral sex.
Who gets HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes?
Anyone can get HSV-1. Most people contract HSV-1 during childhood. It spreads when an adult who has the virus has close contact with a child, such as when a family member kisses a child.
Who gets HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes?
Genital herpes affects sexually active teens and adults of all genders and races. It can spread if you have multiple sexual partners and dont use condoms or dental dams.
People assigned female at birth are more at risk. Delicate vaginal tissue can tear, making it easier for the infection to get in. Black people who were AFAB are especially vulnerable, with an estimated 1 in 2 people AFAB between the ages of 14 and 49 infected with HSV-2.
Treatment Options For Genital Herpes
Acyclovir was the first antiviral agent to be used in the treatment of genital herpes, and as such, is the most extensively studied of the antiviral agents currently available. This drug is available in topical, oral, and intravenous forms . In the distant past, topical acyclovir was used to treat recurrent genital herpes, but its ineffectiveness has been known for quite some time. A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study found that after application of topical acyclovir 6 times daily for 5 days, only the duration of virus shedding from lesions was reduced compared to placebo. Differences between time to lesion crusting, lesion healing, new lesion formation, and cessation of pain were non-significant .
Intravenous acyclovir remains the most effective form of treatment for a primary genital herpes infection, leading to significant reduction in time to cessation of viral shedding and pain. Time to lesion healing is also 6 days faster than with placebo alone . However, as IV administration of acyclovir requires hospitalization, this route is reserved for patients with life-threatening disease or systemic complications .
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How Can I Get Rid Of Cold Sores Quickly
Theyre painful. Theyre unsightly. Theyre annoying. Cold sores are just plain unwelcome. When one pops up on your lip or mouth, you probably immediately think: Whats the fastest way to get rid of this thing?
Herpes simplex virus the virus that causes cold sores is incredibly contagious, and infection with the virus is really common, says Dr. Donald Brown, primary care practitioner at Houston Methodist. In fact, more than 50% of adults in the U.S. are infected with the type of herpes virus that most commonly causes cold sores. Interestingly, however, most people who contract the virus never actually develop symptoms.
If the virus does cause cold sores, it can spread from person-to-person through close contact, like kissing. But, while you may not know it, the virus can also spread by sharing:
- Utensils and drinking glasses
The virus is most contagious when a cold sore is present, particularly when the blister begins to ooze, Dr. Brown adds. However, its important to know that you can still spread the virus long after a cold sore heals as well as when a blister isnt even present.
For those who are no stranger to those painful, fluid-filled blisters, when you get a cold sore, you probably want it gone fast.
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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Herbal Remedies May Also Offer Relief
Research supports the use of certain botanical remedies. You may want to try one or more of these:
Long dan xie gan tan This Chinese herbal formula has been used to quell symptoms and reduce herpes outbreaks. Its English name is clear liver fire pills. In at least one study, the formulawas shown to inhibit the activity of HSV-1 and HSV-2.
Chinese herbal medicine is always individualized, and there are other formulas that help too, so it is helpful to consult a licensed acupuncturist or herbalist before starting this formula, says Mindich.
Mushrooms Mushrooms boost the immune system, Mindich says, and thus can help prevent recurrent herpes outbreaks. She recommends mushroom products from the Immune & Protection collection of Host Defense and from Myko San. Eating shiitake mushrooms daily has also been found to have a positive effect on the immune system in a study published in April 2015 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.
Lemon balm This herb, which is related to mint, has traditionally been used to improve brain function and also has antiviral properties. Records concerning the medicinal use of lemon balm date back more than 2,000 years.
Lemon balm can be prepared and drunk as a tea. It can also be applied to the skin to both prevent herpes to prevent outbreaks and reduce symptoms. Research has shown that lemon balm oil directly counteracts herpes viruses.
Recurrence Course Triggers And Timing
Course of Recurrence
Most cases of herpes simplex recur. The site on the body and the type of virus influence how often it comes back. Recurrences of genital herpes are more likely with HSV-2 infection than with HSV-1 infection.
The virus usually takes the following course:
- Prodrome. The outbreak of infection is often preceded by a prodrome, an early group of symptoms that may include itchy skin, pain, or an abnormal tingling sensation at the site of infection. Headache, enlarged lymph glands, and flu-like symptoms may occur. The prodrome, which may last from 2 hours to 2 days, stops when the blisters develop. About 25% of the time, recurrence does not go beyond the prodrome stage.
- Outbreak. Recurrent outbreaks feature most of the same symptoms at the same sites as the primary attack, but they tend to be milder and briefer. After blisters erupt, they typically heal in 6 to 10 days. Occasionally, the symptoms may not resemble those of the primary episode, but appear as fissures and scrapes in the skin or as general inflammation around the affected area.
Triggers of Recurrence
Herpes outbreaks can be triggered by different factors. They include sunlight, wind, fever, physical injury, surgery, menstruation, suppression of the immune system, and emotional stress. Oral herpes can be triggered within about 3 days of intense dental work, particularly root canal or tooth extraction.
Timing of Recurrences
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Other Impacts Of Genital Herpes
Its important to also remember that there are mental and social impacts of having an incurable STI. Many people with recurrent genital herpes symptoms may feel stigmatized or fearful of pursuing sexual relationships. But people should remember, while genital herpes is not curable, it is manageable, and the outbreaks often decrease over time.
Most people live healthy happy lives with genital herpes .
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How To Get Rid Of Herpes The Conventional Way
For most people with herpes, the virus typically represents nothing more than an inconvenience however, the real risk is for immuno-compromised patients who cant easily manage infections. In these patients, such as those with HIV/AIDS, herpes simplex infection is associated with increased morbidity and mortality.
As of 2017, there is not currently a herpes vaccine available to prevent HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Doctors sometimes prescribe medications to help keep the herpes virus suppressed or to speed up healing of cold sores by reducing bacteria that can cause infections. Some medications that are now used to control herpes include:
- Nucleoside analogues and antiviral medications
- Creams/ointment to help lower pain and inflammation near the site of sores
- Over-the-counter painkillers to reduce aches, tenderness or fever
However, its important to understand that even with early detection and prescription medications, either form of the herpes virus cannot be totally cured so transmission is always still possible. Medications for viruses dont always work long term and are not a cure-all.
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How Do I Talk To My Sex Partners
Telling them about your condition can be hard. Take some time to learn what you can and understand your own feelings first. You may be more at ease to talk openly.
Some people you tell might not think its such a big deal. Others will have strong feelings about it.
You cant control how anyone else reacts. All you can do is share what you know, answer questions, and give them time to think about it.
How Can You Avoid Genital Herpes
Most women get genital herpes through sexual contactwith a person who has herpes sores. You can get thevirus without having sex. To avoid infection:
- Avoid skin-to-skin and sexual contact.
- Have safer sex:
- Reduce the number of sexual partners.
- Condoms, when used correctly, can reduce therisk of getting genital herpes. Each time you have sexuse a condom :
- Before vaginal sex
- Before oral sex
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Can I Be Treated To Prevent Genital Herpes Transmission To My Partner
Yes. A large study showed that if one partner has herpes and the other partner is uninfected, treating the infected partner with suppressive therapy can prevent transmission of symptomatic herpes in over 90% of cases. This is an option for couples who are interested in having unprotected sex or who are planning to become pregnant.
If you are entering into a new relationship and are aware that you have herpes simplex infection, you owe it to your partner to notify them before having sex.