How Does Genital Herpes Spread
The herpes virus that causes genital herpes spreads through saliva, semen and vaginal secretions. Its possible to get genital herpes from someone who doesnt have visible symptoms. You can have the infection, not know it and infect someone else.
Research has found it is possible for genital herpes to spread through:
- Oral sex with someone whos infected.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother 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.
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.
How Long Do Herpes Outbreaks Last
The symptoms of herpes outbreaks can take up to a week to appear after contracting the infection. Once the herpes simplex virus becomes active, it begins to multiply, eventually coming to the surface of the skin along the nerve paths. Due to the nature of the bodyâs neural pathways, recurrences of genital herpes may not always present in the same place â although they will remain in the same area.
Genital herpes usually starts off with redness in the affected area, which is followed by small bumps that progress into fluid-filled blisters. Over time, the blisters will burst and become shallow skin ulcers which will then crust over, healing gradually within a couple of weeks.
The initial genital herpes flare-up is often the most painful, causing fever, fatigue and body aches. It is not uncommon for the first infection to last up to three weeks.
However, subsequent outbreaks tend to present fewer and less intense symptoms, and the frequency of break-outs can vary. A typical herpes outbreak will last between one to two weeks. Some individuals go weeks or months between flare-ups, while others potentially endure back-to-back episodes.
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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.
Cold Sore Home Remedies
When you have a cold sore, you want to act on it quickly. You may end up trying cold sore home remedies that friends, family or health websites recommend but you may find that these arent clinically proven. Some remedies may offer only temporary symptom relief, while others may have the potential to make the cold sore worse. With lots of anecdotal evidence out there, lets unpack what some natural remedies for cold sores can do to help with symptoms, and whether or not they may be effective.
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When Treatments For Genital Herpes Are Given
- Initial treatment. If you have symptoms such as sores when you’re first diagnosed with genital herpes, your doctor will usually give you a brief course of antiviral therapy to relieve them or prevent them from getting worse. Your doctor may keep you on the drugs longer if the sores don’t heal in that time.
After the first treatment, work with your doctor to come up with the best way to take antiviral therapies. There are two options:
- Intermittent treatment. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug for you to keep on hand in case you have another flare-up this is called intermittent therapy. You can take the pills for two to five days as soon as you notice sores or when you feel an outbreak coming on. Sores will heal and disappear on their own, but taking the drugs can make the symptoms less severe and make them go away faster.
- Suppressive treatment. If you have outbreaks often, you may want to consider taking an antiviral drug every day. Doctors call this suppressive therapy. For someone who has more than six outbreaks a year, suppressive therapy can reduce the number of outbreaks by 70% to 80%. Many people who take the antiviral drugs daily have no outbreaks at all.
There is no set number of outbreaks per year that doctors use to decide when someone should start suppressive therapy. Rather, more important factors are how often the outbreaks happen and if they are severe enough to interfere with your life.
To Ease Your Symptoms
Take any medicines as directed.
Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain.
Take warm or cool baths to relieve itching of sores. And dont share towels when you have a sore.
Urinate in a tub of warm water to prevent burning. This works for women with genital herpes.
Dont wear tight clothes or nylon underwear. They can trap moisture, cause chafing, and prevent sores from healing.
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The Early Warning Signs Of Genital Herpes
Once you learn to identify the early warning signs of a genital herpes outbreak, you can take action to avoid the worst outbreak symptoms.
The most common sign of genital herpes is the development of blisters around the genital area. Herpes simplex blisters are often itchy and painful.
Other symptoms may accompany the blisters to indicate early warning signs of genital herpes:
- -Difficult or painful urination
- -Wash your hands immediately after any possible contact with sores to prevent the spread of infection
- -Take medication as directed by your healthcare professional
- -Use natural treatments known to reduce discomfort and accelerate healing
- -Use foods and supplements known to strengthen your immune system
- -Use the Luminance RED on current outbreaks and in-between
How Do You Treat Herpes
Theres no cure for herpes, but prescription medications can ease symptoms, end outbreaks sooner, and lower the chances of passing the virus to other people.
You can also help ease the pain caused by herpes outbreaks by taking a warm bath, wearing loose clothing and putting an ice pack on the sores.
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Treatment For Genital Herpes
There are three antiviral medications that are FDA-approved for the treatment of genital herpes:
- Acyclovir: The oldest antiviral medication for herpes is acyclovir. It has been available since 1982 in a topical form and sold since 1985 in pill form. Acyclovir has been shown to be safe in persons who have used it continuously for as long as 10 years.
- Valacyclovir: A newer drug, valacyclovir, actually uses acyclovir as its active ingredient. This medication delivers acyclovir more efficiently so that the body absorbs much of the drug, which has the advantage of taking the medication fewer times during the day.
- Famciclovir: Famciclovir uses penciclovir as its active ingredient to stop HSV from replicating. Like valacyclovir, it is well absorbed, persists for a longer time in the body, and can be taken less frequently than acyclovir.
Antiviral medication is commonly prescribed for patients having a first episode of genital herpes, but they can be used for recurrent episodes as well. There are two kinds of treatment regimens: episodic therapy and suppressive therapy.
Antivirals That Require A Prescription
- –Acyclovir is a prescription medication used to improve the healing of sores or blisters caused by a number of conditions, including first-time and repeat outbreaks of genital herpes. It works by slowing or stopping the spread of the herpes virus within the body, but it cannot cure genital herpes.
- –Valacyclovir is another antiviral prescription drug used to treat genital herpes and shingles. Taken twice a day for five days, Valtrex may decrease uncomfortable symptoms and help sores heal faster. In some cases, this antiviral can also prevent new sores from forming.
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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 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 look out for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people are living with the herpes virus that causes genital herpes. Its a common STI. You shouldnt be embarrassed or put off seeking medical care if you develop symptoms. Treatments can ease symptoms, reduce outbreaks and protect sexual partners from infection. Having the virus shouldnt affect your relationships or sexual health. However, you do need to tell your sexual partners that you have the virus. Your healthcare provider can discuss ways to prevent spreading this STI.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 11/01/2021.
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Can Herpes Sores Last For Months
Symptoms may last several weeks and go away. They may return in weeks, months, or years. A doctor or nurse can tell you if the sores are caused by herpes by looking at them or by testing fluid from the sores. The thing is, many people with genital herpes have no symptoms, or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed.
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What You Need To Know
- Herpes simplex virus , also known as genital herpes, is most likely to be spread when an infected person is having an outbreak, but it can also be transmitted without any symptoms being present.
- Medications can help reduce your symptoms, speed up the healing of an outbreak and make you less contagious.
- If you know you have genital herpes before becoming pregnant, your physician will monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy. If you have an active outbreak at the time of delivery, cesarean section may be recommended.
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How To Heal A Herpes Outbreak Quickly
This article was medically reviewed by Lacy Windham, MD. Dr. Windham is a board certified Obstetrician & Gynecologist in Tennessee. She attended medical school at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis and completed her residency at the Eastern Virginia Medical School in 2010, where she was awarded the Most Outstanding Resident in Maternal Fetal Medicine, Most Outstanding Resident in Oncology, and Most Outstanding Resident Overall.There are 8 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, 93% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 123,697 times.
Herpes is caused by a virus called herpes simplex. Once the virus enters ones body, it will always remain there by hiding in the nerve roots. When ones immunity is lowered, it will result in outbreak. Sores usually take about 1-2 weeks to heal, but there are some things that you can do to speed the healing process. Things like allowing your sores to be exposed to air, talking to your doctor about medications, and using ointments may help speed healing time. There are also some things that you can do to reduce and prevent outbreaks, such as reducing prolonged exposure to sunlight, reducing friction during sex, and managing stress.
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Expect The First Outbreak To Be The Worst
Remember that although herpes lasts a lifetime, the first outbreak typically causes the most pain, while later outbreaks tend to be much milder.
You will always have herpes, and the sores will come and go, but you can decide not to treat the current outbreak. If its not that unpleasant or uncomfortable, some patients will do that, says Gade.
How To Stop A Cold Sore In The Early Stages
Medically reviewed by Michele Emery, DNP
Worried you might be developing a cold sore? Cold sores, fluid-filled blisters that develop as a result of the HSV-1 or HSV-2 virus, are extremely common, affecting well over half the worlds population.
For most people, when herpes outbreaks occur, theyre a major annoyance, causing everything from discomfort and itching to awkward romantic and social situations. Luckily, for the most part, cold sores heal themselves over the course of a few weeks.
However, a proactive approach to treating a cold sore can speed up the healing process, resulting in a clear, cold sore-free face without the usual time spent dealing with discomfort and embarrassment.
Below, weve covered the best ways to attack cold sores when and as they form, as well as the medications that are most effective for helping you treat, heal and remove cold sores as quickly as possible once they start to develop.
Things Youll Need
- Avoid using scented soap while having a herpes outbreak, as you may aggravate the sores.
- If your herpes outbreaks are accompanied by a high fever, call your doctor immediately.
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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.
Simple Treatments For The Relief Of Discomfort
- Wear loose underclothes, preferably cotton , to help minimise discomfort and allow healing.
- Use plain water or saline solution with cotton wool to clean and soothe the area. To make a saline solution, use 1 teaspoon of salt in 600ml of water or a handful of salt in a shallow bath.
- Don’t use scented soaps, bubble bath, etc in the area, as these may irritate it.
- Using a hairdryer on its lowest setting to dry the area may be more comfortable than using a towel.
- Pain relief medication such as paracetamol and ibuprofen may ease the pain. Check with your pharmacist or other health professional whether taking these is suitable for you.
- Ice wrapped in a face cloth or flannel and placed over the sores for 510 minutes may be soothing. Don’t apply ice directly to the sores as this can cause ice burn.
- If you find peeing painful, try applying Vaseline® to the area or sitting in a warm bath before urinating or using a pump bottle full of water and spraying water on yourself while peeing.
- You can also try applying a pain relief cream such as lignocaine cream to the painful area. This is applied 5 minutes before peeing and should be used for a maximum of 12 days.
- Drink plenty of fluids as this dilutes your pee and may help reduce stinging.
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How Long Do Sores From Herpes Simplex Last
If youre infected with HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes, you may notice tingling or burning around your mouth in the days before a cold sore appears. These blisters break open and ooze fluid before forming a crust. Usually, sores last for seven to 10 days.
If youre infected with HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes, your first outbreak may last between two to four weeks. Recurrent outbreaks usually last between three to seven days.
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
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