Prevent The Spread Of Herpes
If you have herpes, tell your partner. Talk about what it is and what you and your partner need to know and do to protect themselves. Avoid skin-to-skin contact during outbreaks and refrain from all sexual activity during these times. In between outbreaks, you should still use a condom because there is still the potential of spreading the virus.
This is an update of an article originally written by HealthCentral contributor Penelope James.
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What Are Genital Herpes Infections Like
The first herpes infection is usually the worst one. Genital herpes infections come back over and over again. The first time, you may have one sore or many sores. The sores are painful. Some may be hidden inside the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from your bladder. The sores make urination painful. Some people also have a fever, a sore throat, deep tiredness and body aches. These problems might last three weeks.
After the first infection, HSV sores can come back any time. They often come back when you are sick with something else and when your immune system isnt strong enough. Genital herpes might come back 4 to 6 times a year at first. After a few years, the herpes sores hurt less. They come back less often.
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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.
Symptoms Of A Primary Hsv Infection
For some people infected with HSV, the first infection can cause symptoms. These can include:
- pain inside the mouth and on the gums
- swollen neck glands.
The symptoms can last up to 14 days and may cause dehydration, especially in young children, because it is painful to swallow. Primary infections are more likely to be severe in newborn babies, people with atopic dermatitis and in people whose immune system is suppressed.
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How Far Away Is A Cure For Herpes
Theres currently no cure for herpes, but that might change in the future.
According to 2020 research published in Nature, scientists from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center removed 90 percent of the HSV-1 virus from cells in mice using gene editing.
However, it takes time to transition potential treatments from animals to humans. In a 2020 news article, one of the researchers that authored the Nature paper estimated that it would be at least 3 years before human trials.
Scientists are also researching the possibility of creating a vaccine to prevent herpes. A 2022 study outlined a new approach to developing an mRNA vaccine for herpes. The vaccine mentioned in the study worked well in mice and guinea pigs.
The researchers say that theyre aiming to conduct human trials before the end of 2022, and the vaccine could be available within the next 10 years.
What Should I Know If I Am Pregnant And I Have Genital Herpes
Its normal to be concerned about the health of your baby when you have any type of STI. Genital herpes can be transmitted to your baby if you have an active outbreak during a vaginal delivery.
Its important to tell your doctor that you have genital herpes as soon as you know youre pregnant.
Your doctor will discuss what to expect before, during, and after you deliver your baby. They can prescribe pregnancy-safe treatments to ensure a healthy delivery. They may also opt to deliver your baby via cesarean.
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The Health Risks Of Genital Herpes
Pain and discomfort are the main health effects of genital herpes, but the virus can also cause emotional and social problems for those infected. Although it cannot be cured, genital herpes can be managed with antiviral medication that may help control the recurrences. On rare occasions, genital herpes may cause serious complications such as blindness and inflammation of the brain.
Genital herpes can sometimes be passed from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or birth. The infection can be life-threatening to the child or result in skin lesions or brain damage. Antiviral medication and a cesarean delivery can reduce the risk of infecting the child.
What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Simplex
Many people with the infection never experience any herpes symptoms. If you do notice symptoms, youll experience them differently depending on whether youre having your first herpes outbreak or a repeat outbreak. 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.
People who do have herpes symptoms may experience:
- Cold sores around their lips, mouth or tongue. They may look crusty or like fluid-filled blisters.
- Tingling, itching or burning.
- Pain while urinating.
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Avoid Sexual Contact During Outbreaks
During an outbreak of genital herpes, sexual contact of any type should be avoided. Genital herpes can easily be spread through sexual contact, and the use of prophylactics does not guarantee that the virus will not be spread. Genital herpes can be spread from regions that are not protected by a prophylactic. It is generally recommended by doctors that sexual contact should be avoided for at least one week after the sores from an outbreak have fully healed.
Why Genital Herpes Comes Back
Genital herpes is caused by a virus called herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, it stays in your body.
It will not spread in your body to cause blisters elsewhere. It stays in a nearby nerve and causes blisters in the same area.
If you can, avoid things that trigger your symptoms.
Triggers can include:
- surgery on your genital area
- a weakened immune system for example, from having chemotherapy for cancer
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What Can I Do To Help My Partner
For starters, you can understand that having genital herpes is common. More than 1 in 6 people ages 14-49 in the U.S. have it, according to the CDC.
If you or your partner is upset about having herpes, joining a support group might help. And if you think genital herpes is harming your relationship, you could try couples therapy.
I Had Lesions When I Was Evaluated But My Culture Was Negative Does This Mean That I Dont Have Herpes
Not necessarily. Although lesions can be caused by something other than herpes, false negative herpes tests can occur if the samples are not taken appropriately, if there is a long transport time between the clinic and the laboratory, or if cultures were taken late in the course of the lesions. Lesions that occur early in the course of a herpes outbreak are much more likely to have positive cultures than cultures taken after the lesions crust over.
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Should I Take Antiviral Pills For My Herpes
Reasons for choosing short course/episodic treatment:
Reasons for choosing suppression/prophylactic/long-term treatment:
See section above for the dosing.
There are now UK-based websites, such as MedExpress, which are authorised by the Care Quality Commission to sell aciclovir for treating genital herpes to diagnosed patients.
Beware: Many other websites advertise fake treatments or even cures. They may include testimonials and statements by people who claim to be doctors. They are scams. Do not be fooled.
Some Important Facts Affecting The Risk Of Herpes Transmission
- Herpes is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact
- The first outbreak is the most contagious
- There is a greater statistical chance of passing herpes when youâve been recently diagnosed whether you have symptoms or not
- Herpes infects skin areas that are thin and moist because itâs easier for the virus to penetrate those areas. For that reason, females are three times more likely to be infected than males
- Younger people having casual sex are more likely to contract herpes
- HSV-1 in the genital area recurs less often than HSV-2
- Being positive for HSV-2 gives some protection against getting HSV-1. The opposite is not true
- If a person with one type of herpes acquires a different type, the flare-up symptoms are milder
- Sex toys should not be shared. But if they are shared, they should be cleaned with water and soap before being used
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Preventing The Spread Of Herpes
Even when you do not have sores, you can pass the virus to someone during sexual or other close contact. To protect others:
- Let any sexual partner know that you have herpes before having sex. Allow them to decide what to do.
- Use latex or polyurethane condoms, and avoid sex during symptomatic outbreaks.
- Do not kiss or have oral sex when you have a sore on the lips or inside the mouth.
- Do not share your towels, toothbrush, or lipstick. Make sure dishes and utensils you use are washed well with detergent before others use them.
- Wash your hands well with soap and water after touching a sore.
- Consider using daily antiviral medicine to limit viral shedding and reduce the risk of passing the virus to your partner.
- You may also want to consider getting your partner tested even if they have never had an outbreak. If you both have the herpes virus, there is no risk for transmission.
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What Happens At A Sexual Health Clinic
The doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic will:
- ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners
- use a small cotton bud to take some fluid from 1 of your blisters or sores for testing
The test cannot:
- be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores
- tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from
Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after youre infected with the herpes virus.
If you have genital herpes, your previous sexual partners should get tested.
The doctor or nurse at the clinic can discuss this with you and help you tell your partners without letting them know its you who has the virus.
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Is Genital Herpes Infection Related To Hiv
Herpes and HIV are caused by different viruses. But patients infected with these viruses are more likely to transmit either disease to their sexual partners. Patients with herpes are more vulnerable to HIV infection. People newly diagnosed with herpes should be tested for HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections.
Patients who are infected with both herpes and HIV also may have a higher concentration of HIV viruses in their body because of the interaction between the herpes virus and the HIV virus. When HIV damages a persons immune system, the person may be more likely to shed herpes simplex virus asymptomatically.
Myth #: Herpes Can Affect Your Fertility
Herpes has no impact on fertility, says Hawkins however, people may be confused because there can be an issue with herpes when it comes to pregnancy. If someone is pregnant and gets an outbreak close to when shes going to deliver a baby, that could be problematic, she says. In very rare cases, the outbreak can be transmitted to the baby during birth this is called neonatal herpes and the condition is potentially deadly. In such a situation, doctors may recommend a cesarean to protect the baby from infection.
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Herpes Causes And Risk Factors
Causes of herpes include acquiring the virus through sexual contact, coupled with immune system suppression and sometimes nutritional deficiencies.
HSV-1 is primarily transmitted by oral-oral contact. On the other hand, HSV-2 is considered a sexually transmitted disease and usually passed during oral or vaginal sex.
A scary finding is that more cases of genital herpes than ever before are now being caused by HSV-1 , and about 85 percent of people with genital herpes dont even know it. Studies show that about 50 percent of the new genital herpes infections in young adults are due to HSV-1 and about 40 percent in older adults. The fact that most people dont ever find out theyre infected is one of the reasons that transmission rates are steadily climbing.
Risk factors for acquiring herpes include:
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How Do You Get Tested For Genital Herpes
Many doctors will begin treatment based only on the appearance of the sores if the sores seem typical of herpes. Doctors may also take a swab of the sore and send the swab to the laboratory to see if the virus is present. A number of types of tests may be ordered to establish the diagnosis, including:
- a culture of the virus
- polymerase chain reaction to demonstrate the genetic material of the virus and
- tests using antibodies to the genital herpes virus to demonstrate the presence of the virus in clinical specimens.
These types of tests generally require at least a few days for results to be obtained. In some cases, blood tests to confirm the presence of an immune response to the herpes virus may be ordered.
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How To Get Rid Of Herpes Naturally
Not every person with a herpes infection actually experiences breakouts of cold sores throughout his or her lifetime or even after initially becoming infected. How often someone has a herpes cold sore outbreak, how severe the outbreaks are, how contagious someone is after infection and how long the sores take to heal all depend on someones individual immune response.
1. Boost Nutrient Intake
If youre going to keep the herpes virus from frequently causing outbreaks, the first step in how to get rid of herpes is to improve immune function by boosting nutrient intake. Include these healing foods in your diet to keep the virus dormant as much as possible:
2. Avoid Inflammatory Foods
Certain foods can raise inflammation, weaken immune defenses and make skin irritation even worse. Avoid the following foods as much as possible to limit outbreak severity and duration.
3. Consider Supplements
- Antiviral herbs: These include elderberry, calendula, echinacea, garlic, astragalus and licorice root.
- L-lysine : Can help treat and prevent outbreaks.
- Lemon balm extract: Apply as a topical cream for healing.
- Vitamin C : Vitamin C boosts immune function improving herpes.
- Zinc : Zinc benefits include supporting immune function, keeping viruses dormant and rebuilding skin tissue to speed up healing.
- B-complex : B vitamins help your body deal with stress and can prevent outbreaks.
4. Try Essential Oils
How Herpes Is Treated
There is no cure for herpes.
- The health care provider may prescribe antiviral medicine to help speed up the healing process. It also shortens the time when the virus can spread from the herpes sores.
- Pain may be treated with medicine such as Tylenol or Motrin or by applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the affected area.
- If sores are in the mouth, avoid foods high in acid, like citrus fruits and juices.
- The infected area should be kept clean and dry.
- Wash hands often and avoid touching the sores to prevent spreading the virus.
- It is important to stay healthy by getting enough rest, having proper nutrition and exercise and managing stress well.
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