Most Outbreaks Occur Within Two Weeks Of Herpes Exposure
If youve been infected with herpes and are symptomatic, youll usually start to experience some effects of the virus within one to two weeks.
An initial herpes outbreak usually lasts for two to three weeks and involves a range of different symptoms. Many people with herpes note that the initial outbreak has the worst symptoms and that subsequent outbreaks are less severe, although this isnt always the case.
Most people start to become aware that they might have herpes after a tingling sensation starts to develop in the area affected by the virus. For oral herpes, this is the start of the development of oral cold sores for genital herpes, the sores develop on the genitals, thighs and buttocks.
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Over the course of two to three weeks, this tingling/itching feeling leads to the development of blisters. The blisters eventually open into sores, then dry out and heal. Most herpes outbreaks do not leave any permanent scarring.
During your first herpes outbreak, you might also experience flu or cold-like symptoms. About 70% of women and 40% of men experience some level of flu-like symptoms, such as muscle pains, gland swelling, headaches and fever.
Suppressive Therapy With Valtrex
Suppressive therapy is the use of prescription Valtrex on a daily basis whether an outbreak is present or not. Whereas Valtrex is commonly used to stop an outbreak, it can also be used daily to prevent outbreaks from occurring to begin with. This daily use of Valtrex also reduces the proclivity of the virus to shed, i.e. be contagious as often. Its use appears in studies to reduce the viral shedding periods by 50%.
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Men vs. Womens Transmission Rates and Contagiousness
Because of the nature of male and female genitalia, it is easier for herpes to be transmitted to a woman by a man than vice-versa. This is because female genitals have more exposed soft tissue. This also accounts for why approximately 1 out of 4 American women have herpes, whereas 1 out of 5 American men does.
What Is Herpes Simplex
The herpes simplex virus, also known as HSV, is an infection that causes herpes. Herpes can appear in various parts of the body, most commonly on the genitals or mouth. There are two types of the herpes simplex virus:
- HSV-1: primarily causes oral herpes, and is generally responsible for cold sores and fever blisters around the mouth and on the face.
- HSV-2: primarily causes genital herpes, and is generally responsible for genital herpes outbreaks.
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Putting Herpes In Perspective
Right now, theres no cure for herpes. This means that if you contract HSV-1 or HSV-2, the virus will remain in your body for the rest of your life, or until a cure is discovered.
Finding this out can be devastating news, especially from the perspective of your dating and romantic life. After all, you have an incurable, lifelong virus that spreads through either oral or sexual contacttwo things that, last we checked, are pretty important in every romantic relationship.
The reality is that herpes probably isnt as big of a problem for your relationship as you think it is. Every day, millions of people around the world are completely able to have normal, healthy relationships in spite of their HSV-1 or HSV-2 status.
One easy way to put the herpes virus in context is through statistics. According to the Centers for Disease Control , nearly 50 percent of people ages 14 to 49 in the U.S. have HSV-1, and roughly 12 percent of the same age group have HSV-2.
The point is, its a very common virus, and theres nothing bad, unclean or unsafe about you if youre infected.
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Is It Safe To Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes as long as there isnt an open lesion on your 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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Coping With Your Feelings
Finding out that you have genital herpes may cause you to have negative thoughts or feelings about yourself or about sex, such as:
- Feeling ashamed or embarrassed.
- Being afraid of the consequences of the infection.
- Being angry at the person who infected you.
- Feeling frustrated with treatment or recurrent outbreaks.
- Feeling scared to have sex.
A counselor or support groups for people with herpes may be helpful.
How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Herpes Simplex
You can reduce your risk of contracting HSV-1 by avoiding physical contact with someone who has a cold sore. People can still spread HSV-1 when cold sores arent present, but its less likely.
If someone has an active HSV-1 infection, avoid:
- Sharing utensils, cups, lip balms or other personal care products.
- Touching the skin near their mouth.
If youre sexually active, you can take these steps to protect yourself and others from the herpes virus and other STIs:
- Be monogamous with one sexual partner or limit your number of partners.
- Get tested for STIs and complete any prescribed treatment.
- Tell your sexual partners if you have genital herpes so they can get tested.
- Use condoms during intercourse and dental dams during oral sex.
Wash your hands often if you have an outbreak or are around someone with symptoms.
If your sexual partner has genital herpes, these actions can lower your risk of getting the virus:
- Dont have sex when your partner has active symptoms. Condoms may not cover all sores, so you may still get the virus.
- Make sure your partner takes antiviral medication as prescribed.
- Wait to have sex until scabs fall off active lesions.
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Screening And Early Detection
Unlike some STIs, routine blood testing is not recommended for people who dont have symptoms of herpes. However, if there is concern about exposure or new symptoms, this testing may be recommended. People should talk with a healthcare provider to determine whether blood testing is necessary.
Although blood testing is not routinely done, screening for STIs should include a thorough exam to check for herpes lesions on the genitals .
The CDC recommends blood testing if you have symptoms of genital herpes. Testing should also be pursued if you are pregnant and are having sex with someone with herpes.
Testing may also be useful if:
- You are not pregnant but are having sex with someone with herpes.
Can Genital Herpes Come Back
Yes. Genital herpes symptoms can come and go, but the virus stays inside your body even after all signs of the infection have gone away. The virus becomes active from time to time, leading to an outbreak. Some people have outbreaks only once or twice. Other people may have four or five outbreaks within a year. Over time, the outbreaks usually happen less often and are less severe.
Experts do not know what causes the virus to become active. Some women say the virus comes back when they are sick, under stress, out in the sun, or during their period.
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How Are Cold Sores Spread
Skin-to-skin contact is how cold sores are spread in most cases. While normal skin is resistant to the virus, it can get into your body through broken skin and mucous membranes such as the moist inner skin that lines your mouth, eyes or your genitals.iv
Most people catch the herpes simplex virus in childhood but often dont get a cold sore for several years. After infection, the virus remains dormant inside a nerve sheath, causing no symptoms until its triggered. Once this happens, the virus multiplies and travels down the nerve sheath, causing a cold sore.vThe virus is spread by:vi
- Kissing someone who has a cold sore or is about to get one.
- Sharing lip balms, lipsticks or other items that have come into contact with the saliva of someone who has a cold sore.
- Oral sex with someone who has an outbreak of genital herpes.
- Touching your cold sore and then touching broken skin, eyes or genitals.
Episodic Therapy For Recurrences
For a recurrent episode, treatment takes 1 to 5 days, depending on the type of medication and dosage. You should begin the medication as soon as you notice any signs or symptoms of herpes, preferably during the prodrome stage that precedes the outbreak of lesions.
In order for episodic therapy to be effective, it must be taken no later than 1 day after a lesion appears. If taken during prodrome, episodic therapy may help prevent an outbreak from occurring or reduce its severity. If taken at the first sign of a lesion, it can help speed healing.
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What Happens Once You Have Hsv
Once a person becomes infected with a herpes virus, the virus never leaves the body. After the first outbreak, the virus moves from the skin cells to nerve cells. The virus stays in the nerve cells forever. But it usually just stays there. In this stage, the virus is said to be dormant, or asleep. But it can become active again.
Some things that can trigger the virus are:
Myth #: Your Sex Life Is Over
While theres no cure, herpes treatment is simple and can shorten or prevent outbreaks, so you can still have a love life.
People have a disproportionate fear of herpes in relation to any other STI, Grimes says. They feel like their sex lives are ruined forever and thats in no way the case.
If you have the virus, your doctor may prescribe a medication like Zovirax or Valtrex to keep on hand in case of a flare-up. And if you experience outbreaks often, your provider may recommend daily dosing. However you treat it, its worth remembering that herpes is a condition to manage it doesnt define you.
If you have to be perfect for your new partner, that partner will be looking a very, very long time to find a match! Grimes says. Everyone has something, and since one in six Americans between 14-49 have HSV-2, odds are very high that your next partner is in the same boat. The main issue is to have productive conversations around these issues.
So theres no reason for all the stigma and secrecy surrounding herpes, since its safe to assume more people have it than you think. And if youre diagnosed with the virus, your provider will help you find a treatment plan thats easy, effective, and fit for your lifestyle.
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Are Any Other Treatments Effective Against Genital Herpes
The antiviral drug Aciclovir was the first therapy which had been shown conclusively to be effective in treating genital herpes. New antiviral drugs have become available which work in a similar way to Aciclovir, are more effective and require less frequent dosing to treat or suppress the recurrence.
These are not available in New Zealand. Recent studies using an HSV-2 vaccine are showing some promise in both the prevention and transmission of HSV-2. However, these are still in the developmental research stage and will not be available commercially for some years.
Many people find that having a healthy diet, eating regularly and getting enough sleep are helpful in preventing recurrences.
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Clinical Trials For Herpes Vaccines Ongoing
While there have been some promising trials of herpes vaccines, to date, no human trials have shown high enough efficacy to bring a herpes vaccine to market.
People who have recurrent herpes may use the same medications that are recommended for symptomatic outbreaks when characteristic tingling and pain develops. In these situations, the medication course is started immediately to stave off or reduce the severity of an episode.
Suppressive therapy, involving the daily use of antiviral to prevent an outbreak reoccurrence, can reduce ones symptoms and the amount of viral shedding. This can be quite helpful, particularly in combination with reliable condom use.
If you are an adult, the symptoms of herpes are usually pretty manageable and only rarely cause complications. However, herpes can be very dangerous if it is transmitted to a growing baby during pregnancy.
If you have genital herpes and are pregnant, or if you are sexually involved with someone who is pregnant or planning to get pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about managing the risks.
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Why Do Outbreaks Happen In The First Place
If you are one of the people who gets outbreaks from HSV, your first outbreak is very likely to occur a couple weeks after you are infected. This is your body reacting to the new virus inside it. But after that, blisters only pop up every once and a while. They are triggered by a few things that you can do your best to minimize . These include changes in your health, such as an infection, fever, or any shifts in your immune system, changes in your menstrual cycle, sun exposure, stress, and anything that lowers your immune system so that it canât fight off the virus from bursting onto the scene.
Is There A Treatment For Genital Herpes
Several medicines can help. Acyclovir , famciclovir and valacyclovir can be used for genital herpes. Your doctor can prescribe one of these medicines for you. There are two ways to take the medicine: suppressive and episodic.
Suppressive treatment keeps herpes sores from coming back. You have to take one or more pills every day for a long time. This can be expensive. When you stop taking the pills, the sores might come back again. However, if you have many sores and they hurt a lot, ask your doctor about suppressive therapy.
With episodic treatment, you only take medicine when you start to get a sore. The medicine makes the sore hurt less and go away faster. This works best if you take the medicine within a few hours after the first signs that you are getting a sore. Episodic treatment doesn’t keep sores from coming back another time.
Take good care of yourself and eat a healthy diet, because the sores often come back when your resistance is weak.
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Learn To Recognize Warning Signs
Once you start experiencing symptoms you can transmit the virus, so paying attention to early symptoms can help reduce the risk of transmitting it to a partner.
Along with that sort-of-itchy, sort-of-painful tingling feeling that I get before the sores appear, I notice tenderness in my mouth, fatigue, a low fever, and aches in my legs.
You might only get these symptoms with the first outbreak, but they can return. Returning symptoms are usually more mild than before.
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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.
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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.