How To Recognize Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is a very common sexually transmitted disease . It is so common that many people, when they find any skin lesion around the genital areas, are likely to think that it is herpes. They are not entirely wrong to think that way. Genital herpes is the main cause of genital ulcers worldwide.1 And the condition is usually associated with a stigma that can itself cause anxiety and even depression2 and might influence the affected personâs decision to disclose the infection to others or seek care.3
A genital sore is not great news regardless of what is causing it. However, many other conditions causing genital sores have a prognosis different from that of herpes. Some can be worse, but others, unlike herpes,4 can be completely cured. Thatâs why weâre beginning this article with an explanation of how to recognize genital herpes and differentiate it from other genital skin lesions.
A sleeping virus
The herpes virus is known for staying âasleepâ in the body for a long time without showing symptoms. This feature is called latency: once the virus infects a person, after an initial phase that does not necessarily manifest with symptoms, it remains hidden in the body for many years, reactivating every now and then.4 Its reactivation is usually triggered by weakness of the immune system, such as in times of sustained stress, accumulated fatigue, heavy physical activity, or fever, but may not have any apparent cause.5, 6
Herpes skin lesions
Treatment For Genital Herpes
There is no medication to cure your body of the herpes virus. Treatment is aimed at easing symptoms, reducing the frequency of recurrences and reducing transmission.
Symptoms can be improved by:
- ice packs to the affected area
- pain-relieving medication such as paracetamol
- antiviral medication such as acyclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir. These can reduce the severity of an episode if taken early enough . Topical antivirals usually used for cold sores on the lips or face are not suitable for use on the genitals.
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.
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How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Herpes simplex virus doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women diagnosed with HSV-2 should start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy as prescribed, 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.
I Sometimes Get Twinges And Pains Around My Buttocks Or Down One Leg What Does This Mean
Occasionally, herpes simplex virus can cause burning skin sensations, deep aches or sudden twinges in the genital area. When they occur in the thighs or buttocks, they are sometimes compared to sciatica. These symptoms are called prodromes or prodromal symptoms. They are a sign that the virus is trying to reactivate and there may be virus on the skin surface. Sometimes sores will follow, but very often your immune response overcomes the virus before visible signs appear. For email version or posted version of more information on treating genital herpes, select tips to prevent recurrences on the subscription form.
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Lifestyle And Nutritional Support For Phn
Some people have found that eliminating coffee and other acidic and neuro-stimulant foods, beverages, and medications has helped in both decreasing PHN and outbreaks. Other lifestyle modifications, including meditation, guided imagery, yoga, breathing exercises, and moderate aerobic exercise can help. Better nutrition can also help people manage their overall health, deal with infection and other physical stresses, and just feel better. Proper and sufficient hydration, increased intake of essential fatty acids and good oils, and consuming fruits and vegetables with anti-oxidant properties can lead to a stronger immune system and better overall health.
The healthier a persons mind and body, the better they are able to cope with infections, and other physical issues. This seems obvious, but its one of those things that we sometimes need to remind ourselves. There are also some experts who say that the neuralgia, like many other aspects of herpesvirus infections, gets better by itself with time.
The good news is that with time and taking good care of yourself, most people find that neuralgia, like other aspects of Herpes infections, gets better, with fewer and milder occurrences. So thats something to look forward to! More tips on how to improve your physical and emotional well-being to support a healthy and strong immune system can be found on the Living With Herpes and Health & Wellness pages of HerpeSite.
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.
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How To Stop A Cold Sore Before A Blister Forms
The ideal time to stop a blister before it forms is during the prodromal/tingle stage. If you can identify the symptoms , you can be proactive and begin to apply treatment. Selections such as HERP-B-GONE can do a world of good.
While there are no guarantees of stopping a blister, the sooner you act, the sooner the outbreak will be gone. Acting fast can speed up the lifecycle of a cold sore thus relegating the entire outbreak to only 72 hours or so. This is a far cry from the 10-14 day duration that untreated outbreaks require.
- The best time to treat a fever blister outbreak is during the prodromal/tingle stage. If you wait any longer, the blister clusters will have already formed. This makes fast healing a little more difficult as the viral outbreak has already taken hold.
How Often Do Outbreaks Occur
The number of outbreaks someone has varies from person to person. The average number of outbreaks for a person with genital HSV-2 is four to five per year. The average for genital HSV-1 is less than one outbreak per year.
Usually, there are more outbreaks during the first year, and many people find that outbreaks become less severe and less frequent with time.
Herpes triggers are highly individual, but with time, many people learn to recognize, and sometimes avoid, factors that seem to reactivate HSV in their own bodies. Illness, poor diet, emotional or physical stress, friction in the genital area, prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light , surgical trauma, and steroidal medication may trigger a herpes outbreak.
The frequency of outbreaks can often be managed through effective stress management, and getting adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise. For people with frequent outbreaks, suppressive therapy with any one of the antiviral treatments can reduce outbreaks by as much as 80%.
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Is There A Way To Prevent Getting Herpes
You can protect yourself and your partner by taking steps to prevent an outbreak of herpes. Some things that you can do include:
-If you already have herpes, dont have sex until the outbreak is completely gone, even with a condom.
-Try to learn the signs of an impending outbreak, such as itching, tingling and burning, and stop having sex as soon as you notice.
-If you wear contact lenses, dont wet your lenses with your saliva. This could spread your herpes infection to your eyes.
-Dont have sex with your partner until your herpes sores are completely healed.
-Always tell your partner if you are infected with the herpes virus before you have sex. Even though it can be embarrassing and difficult, herpes is very common, and telling your partner will help keep the infection from spreading.
Should You Pop A Cold Sore
In todayâs world of obsession with pimple popping and more, it may be very tempting to pop a cold sore, but do not do it, said Dr. Omar Ibrahimi, a Harvard trained, board-certified dermatologist. Doing so can lead to scarring, as well as spreading of the cold sores on yourself and others.
Keep in mind that the herpes virus is in the blister, so by popping it, you can spread it to other people and on other body areas including your eyes, said Viseslav Tonkovic-Capin, MD, a Kansas City-based dermatologist. Also, a blister is a natural band-aid, and if you remove it, you are increasing the chance of infection and scarring. Therefore, popping a cold sore is discouraged.
When it comes to washing your face when you have a cold sore, Dr. Ibrahimi said its okay, you just have to be careful: I would suggest using a makeup face wipe for younger patients and avoiding the area with a cold sore or being very gentle when washing the face. Adults can wash their face but should avoid rubbing or irritating the area with the cold sore and be extra gentle in that area.
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What To Look Out For
“Genital herpes outbreaks can differ in severity. While some people encounter multiple painful blisters, some only have one single sore.” – Dr Zenon Andreou
“Genital herpes outbreaks can differ in severity. While some people encounter multiple painful blisters, some only have one single sore.”
How Will My Healthcare Provider Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at any sores that are present. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. If sores are not present, a blood test may be used to look for HSV antibodies.
Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider about herpes testing and other STDs.
Please note: A herpes blood test can help determine if you have herpes infection. It cannot tell you who gave you the infection or when you got the infection.
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What Is The Prognosis For Oral Herpes Can They Be Cured
Currently, there is no cure or vaccine for herpes simplex virus. Avoiding risk factors, such as sunburn and stress, can help prevent additional outbreaks. Cold sores will usually heal within 2 weeks without treatment. However, there are established cold sore treatments available to help decrease healing time, reduce pain, and in specific cases, suppress the recurrence of the virus.
Cold sores, if they recur, are most likely to do so during the first year after infection. They usually resolve on their own within 1-2 weeks. After the initial outbreak, cold sores may never appear again, or appear only when something triggers them. Usually people with cold sores lead normal lives and are not terribly affected by them unless they happen to recur very often .
Is Genital Herpes Related To Shingles
Shingles, also called herpes zoster, is caused by the varicella zoster virus , which causes chickenpox earlier in life. The natural history of varicella zoster infection is similar to genital herpes infection in that VZV also becomes latent in the sensory nerve roots. Later in life the virus may exit, causing shingles.
Recurrences in shingles cause blister lesions in a single area of skin called a dermatome. Shingles is not a sexually transmitted infection and is independent from genital herpes.
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What Are The Best Natural Remedies For Herpes
When experiencing a herpes outbreak, one of the most important things someone can do is keep the area clean, cool, and dry, since heat and dampness can irritate the sores. Maintaining a healthy immune system can go a long way too, according to Dr. Hayag. A strong, healthy immune system can keep herpes under control, prevent outbreaks, and reduce the duration of symptoms, she says. Supplements like zinc, vitamin C, and echinacea are vital to increasing your immune function and easy to incorporate into your daily routine. And when it comes to natural remedies, there are several that can provide much-needed relief.
Oral Antiviral Medication For Early Cold Sores
Antiviral medication is designed to prevent the spread of the virus by stopping it from replicating within your body. This means a cold sore doesnt have the same environment in which to grow as it normally would, shortening its lifespan and making it smaller and less obvious.
Used early, antiviral medications like valacyclovir are scientifically proven to reduce the amount of time required for cold sores to heal. This means you can effectively zap a cold sore in its early stages and cut down the total amount of time required to heal.
Other oral antiviral medications used to treat cold sores include acyclovir and famciclovir, both of which have a similar mechanism of action to valacyclovir. All of these medications are available on prescription, meaning youll need to see your doctor before taking them.
Our guide to valacyclovir goes into more detail about how antiviral medications work to stop cold sores from developing and speed up the healing process, as well as things like common dosage instructions, potential side effects and the amount of time required for valacyclovir to work.
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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.
How To Relieve Herpetic Nerve Pain
Herpes nerve pain and left leg pain can be extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately, these symptoms typically will fade the same way outbreaks do. Of course, you would probably still prefer to shorten that time frame.
Antivirals: The best thing to do is to take any antiviral medication your doctor has prescribed you , and watch your diet for any known herpes triggers and manage those. This can speed up the healing time and also prevent it from becoming a full-blown outbreak. Many people in forums have noted that nerve pain stops just as any outbreak would when they take an antiviral medication.
Comfort: For immediate relief, you should of course avoid touching or lying on the area or wearing restrictive clothes. Taking a shower, a bath, or lying still with a heating pad may also help.
Over-the-counter pain medicine like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can be helpful.
Topical Creams: Creams that contain the active ingredient capsaicin may stop the pain signals from reaching your brain. In fact, one such cream is used specifically for post-herpetic neuralgia related to shingles, another for the herpes virus. See our guide to topical remedies.
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What Do I Do If I Have Genital Herpes
Some people have a lot of fears and misconceptions about herpes, but its a common STD. It can be painful and uncomfortable during outbreaks, but its not deadly and it doesnt cause serious health problems. So if you have genital herpes, try not to panic or feel too bad about it. Millions of people are living with herpes, so youre not alone. And even though theres no cure for herpes, there are plenty of ways to treat the symptoms and manage the infection. Your doctor will tell you about the best treatment options for your situation.
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How Is Herpes Simplex Diagnosed
Healthcare providers may diagnose herpes simplex based on how the sores look. Your provider may take a sample from the sore. Laboratory analysis of the sample can confirm or rule out the herpes virus.
If you dont have sores, your healthcare provider can use a blood test to check for HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibody, a marker showing youve been exposed to the virus. The blood test doesnt show an active infection . But it informs your provider whether youve been exposed to the herpes virus in the past. If this is your first infection, you may not test positive for herpes if there hasnt been enough time for your body to develop antibodies. The HSV-1and HSV-2 antibody test may be repeated in eight to 12 weeks.
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What Effects Does Herpes Have During Pregnancy
Itâs really important to speak to a healthcare worker if you have herpes during pregnancy, especially if it’s your first outbreak. If you have herpes there’s a risk that your baby can develop âneonatal herpesâ. This can be very dangerous or even fatal for your baby. Your healthcare provider will be able to prescribe antiviral treatment to keep your baby safe and help you have a healthy pregnancy.
Speak to a healthcare worker for more information or if you have any concerns.