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.
How Are These Conditions Diagnosed
Pimples are easily managed with changes in your personal hygiene or by using over-the-counter treatments.
If the bumps dont respond to treatment or if you notice painful, fluid-filled blisters after having sex see your doctor right away. Your doctor may be able to make a diagnosis just by looking at the bumps.
Your doctor can confirm a diagnosis with one of several tests.
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.
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How Is Genital Herpes Managed Or Treated
If you have mild symptoms or infrequent outbreaks, you might not need or want treatment. During an outbreak, these steps can ease symptoms:
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing.
Antiviral medications can prevent outbreaks. They can also lessen symptoms and help symptoms go away faster. You take this medicine as a pill, intravenous injection or skin cream. When taken daily, antivirals can prevent an outbreak. They lower the chances of spreading the virus to other people.
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How Herpes Is Diagnosed
Your first step is to make an appointment with your gynecologist if you have a lesion on your genitals or believe you were exposed to herpes. “Google really can’t tell you if you have genital herpes or not,” says Dr. Shim. A diagnosis of herpes can be made with an exam, but your doctor will also order a culture swab from the sore to confirm the virus.
Your doctor can give you advice on easing symptoms, shortening their duration, and preventing outbreaks in the future. Taking the antiviral drug Valtrex daily can decrease transmission to a non-infected partner, says Dr. Shirazian. Maintaining general healthy habitsthe stuff you always hear like eating healthy, staying active, and getting enough sleepgo a long way to keeping your immune system strong to minimize outbreaks.
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There Are 2 Herpes Simplex Viruses That Can Cause Infection
- One causes most genital herpes.
- The other virus can also cause genital herpes but more often causes blisters of the mouth and lips.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 1 out of 6 people ages 14 to 49have genital herpes.
Women are more easily infected with herpes than men.
How Are Genital Herpes Diagnosed
Other STIs, like syphilis, cause similar symptoms. In addition to a physical exam, your healthcare provider will take a fluid sample from the blisters to test for the herpes virus. If your blisters are healed or you dont have blisters, a blood test can check for HSV-2 antibody, a marker that shows you have been exposed to the virus.
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Other Symptoms You May Experience
Some people get during a herpes infection. They ache and have a fever. Having around the area of the outbreak also is common. People with genital herpes may have a burning sensation when urinating. Sometimes they have trouble urinating.
If you have or a gritty feeling in your eyes, it’s possible that the has spread to your eyes. Fluid leaking from the eye or sensitivity to light are other signs of an related to herpes. Get immediate medical attention if you think you have a herpes infection in your eyes. Permanent damage is possible.
What Should I Do If I Have Genital Herpes
If you have genital herpes:
- See a doctor or nurse as soon as possible for testing and treatment.
- Take all of the medicine. Even if symptoms go away, you need to finish all of the antiviral medicine.
- Tell your sex partner so they can be tested and treated if necessary.
- Avoid any sexual contact while you are being treated for genital herpes or while you have an outbreak.
- Remember that genital herpes is a lifelong disease. Even though you may not have a genital herpes outbreak for long periods of time, you can still pass the virus to another person at any time. Talk with your doctor or nurse about how to prevent passing the virus to another person.
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How Can I Avoid Getting Genital Herpes
No vaccine can protect you from HSV infection, but you can do some things to prevent getting infected:
Limit the number of sexual partners you have in your lifetime.
Make sure that you and your sexual partner use condoms every time you have sex.
Consider sexual abstinence .
Don’t have any kind of sex with someone who has herpes sores, itching or scabs, and remember that genital herpes can be spread even when there is no sign of a sore.
Always wash your hands after touching a cold sore.
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Herpes Might Not Have Any Symptoms
You or your partner may not have any herpes symptoms that you can see or feel, or the signs of herpes may be so mild you dont even notice them. Sometimes people confuse herpes symptoms with other things, like pimples, ingrown hairs, and the flu.
Herpes symptoms come and go, but that doesnt mean the infection goes away or that you cant spread it to other people. Once you have herpes, it stays in your body for life.
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Myth: If My Partner Suddenly Shows Signs Of Herpes They Must Have Cheated
If youve been monogamous with your partner for 5, 10, even 20 years, then out of the blue they have a visible herpes outbreak, the only logical explanation is cheating, right? Not necessarily. Similar to HIV or chicken pox, herpes has viral latency, or the ability to lie dormant in your body for years without showing any signs.
You could have been infected in your 20s, and the virus might show up again when you’re 40, says Dr. Dardik. The virus stays in your system even if it isnt active. In some cases, people won’t have any kind of outbreak unless it’s triggered by a significantly stressful life event, like another illness.
What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Some people never develop symptoms. They dont know they have the herpes virus that causes genital herpes. They may unknowingly infect others. You can have the herpes virus for years and not have symptoms, so its hard to know when or from whom you got it.
When symptoms occur, theyre usually worse during the first outbreak or flare-up . Symptoms typically appear within two to 20 days after infection. Active symptoms may last up to four weeks.
You may experience:
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Who Might Get Genital Herpes
Genital herpes affects teens and adults of all genders and races. It can spread if you have multiple sexual partners and dont use condoms.
Women are more at risk. Delicate vaginal tissue can tear, making it easier for the infection to get in. Black women are especially vulnerable. An estimated 1 in 2 African-American women between the ages of 14 and 49 is infected with HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes.
What Are The Stages Of Herpes Outbreaks
Damn do I have Herpes? Does my partner have Herpes? What are these stages of herpes? What stage do I have?
If you have any symptoms of herpes, youre noticing strange things going on in your body. Or you might be noticing strange things going on in your partners body.
If so, you or your partner might have herpes. If you are worried that you or your partner may have herpes then go get STD tested. Its quick, easy, and affordable.
There are different types of herpes. The most common are Herpes Simplex 1 and Herpes Simplex 2 . Both cold sores and genital herpes go through very similar stages of herpes.
Understanding these stages of herpes outbreak will help you come more at peace at what is happening to your body or your partners body through this difficult time.
But even if you have Herpes, dont worry. Your love life isnt over. You can even date other positive singles.
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It Is A Sore But Not A Herpes
While genital ulceration is often associated with herpes, it can be the result of several other conditions, including but not limited to, other sexually transmitted diseases, inflammatory conditions, skin irritation, and allergic skin lesions. In addition to herpes, the main sexually transmitted diseases that present with a genital ulcer are primary syphilis and chancroid. In the United States, syphilis infection is more common than chancroid.
What Can Be Mistaken For Herpes
Noticing a sign of Herpes can be worrying, but dont panic. It is easy to mistake Herpes for something else. Here, we explain the other potential causes for Herpes-like symptoms and how to find out if it is Herpes, or not.
The Herpes Simplex Virus, also known as Herpes, is often misunderstood yet an extremely common infection. The symptoms of Herpes usually form as sores and blisters in the oral and/or genital area, depending on which type of Herpes it is. However, it is not always easy to differentiate the symptoms from other health or skin conditions.
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How To Treat Ingrown Hairs And Herpes
Ingrown hairs are easy to treat. Most of the time, theyll heal on their own over the course of a few days. Particularly troublesome ingrown hairs can stick around for weeks, although you usually wont experience any additional complications outside of red, pimple-like skin bumps.
If an ingrown hair becomes infected, you can easily treat it using topical antiseptic, antibiotic or antiviral medication, depending on the type of infection.
Herpes, on the other hand, requires a more thorough approach to treatment. During the initial outbreak of herpes, youll typically be prescribed a combination of an antiviral medication such as valacyclovir to treat the virus and a pain relief medication for other symptoms.
Because herpes is a lifelong infection, you may also need to take suppressive antiviral drugs such as valacyclovir over the long term to control subsequent outbreaks and lower your risk of infecting others.
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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Treatment If The Blisters Come Back
Go to a GP or sexual health clinic if you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and need treatment for an outbreak.
Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by 1 or 2 days if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.
But outbreaks usually settle by themselves, so you may not need treatment.
Recurrent outbreaks are usually milder than the first episode of genital herpes.
Over time, outbreaks tend to happen less often and be less severe. Some people never have outbreaks.
Some people who have more than 6 outbreaks in a year may benefit from taking antiviral medicine for 6 to 12 months.
If you still have outbreaks of genital herpes during this time, you may be referred to a specialist.
How Long Should You Wait To Test
The amount of time between contact with herpes and getting tested can affect your results. The accuracy of the test depends on the amount of antibodies youve built up, which takes time. The antibodies present in your blood will need to be above a certain level to be definitive.
When is a herpes test most accurate? A herpes test is most reliable three months after infection.
See the article: When Should I Get Tested for STDs for details.
Early on after being infected, you have a low number of antibodies. This is measured as a volume index. Generally, 1.1 is the lowest number for a passable diagnosis, but it not high enough to be firmly convinced. It might be wrong, or require further testing in the future. Anything above 3.5 is considered a highly reliable positive result.
With that in mind, its probably best to wait three months after being exposed to get a blood test. However, you can start testing as soon as 4-6 weeks after exposure.
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How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Genital herpes doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women with a diagnosis of herpes genitalis are recommended to start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy to prevent outbreaks during time of 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.
Myth: If You Get A Cold Sore You Have Genital Herpes
Cold sores and genital herpes are two distinct strains of the herpes simplex virus. Many people get cold sores, but that doesnt mean they have an Sexually transmitted diseases .
Herpes simplex virus type 2 is the form of herpes categorized as a sexually transmitted infection , and is the main cause of genital herpes. It doesnt usually cause cold sores, which are caused by HSV-1. There is no cure for HSV-2, so its a lifelong disease.
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Myth: Herpes Can Be Transmitted Through The Blood
Herpes cannot be transmitted through the blood, though it can be detected through a blood test.
In fact, people with a history of herpes simplex virus type 1 or 2 can safely donate blood as long as:
- All lesions and infected cold sores are dry and healed
- They wait at least 48 hours after finishing a round of antiviral treatment
How Do I Find Out If I Have Herpes
Herpes testing is only generally done when there are sores present. Visit your health care provider as soon as possible after the sores develop. They will examine the area, and may swab the sores or send you for a blood test.
If the sores have already started to heal, a swab test may not pick up the virus. In this case, the test can be negative and you can still have herpes.
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Is It Safe To Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes- as long as there is no open lesion on chest or breast . If you have an active outbreak while breastfeeding, its possible to spread the infection to your nipples through touch. Careful hand-washing can prevent this spread. You shouldnt nurse from a breast that has herpes sores. You can pump breast milk until the sores heal. Dont give your baby expressed breast milk if the pump comes into contact with an open sore.
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