Contact Dermatitis Can Be Mistaken For Herpes
Contact dermatitis is a skin condition that can cause red, itchy, cracked, dry, or scaly skin, blisters, or a rash. Like herpes, it recurs, and while it’s not an STD, when it appears in the mouth or genital area, it may be mistaken for herpes. However, unlike herpes, contact dermatitis can happen anywhere on the skin and is caused by direct contact with an irritant or something you’re allergic to, per the Mayo Clinic. It’s not caused by a virus.
Contact dermatitis usually occurs within minutes to hours after touching an irritant. Common causes include poison ivy and reactions to medication, cosmetics, detergents, and jewelry. The skin rash from contact dermatitis usually clears up in a few weeks.
The best way to prevent contact dermatitis is to identify whats causing it and avoid touching that item or substance again. Allergy testing can help identify the cause.
While contact dermatitis is generally not a serious condition, it can be itchy and uncomfortable. When the rash is present, try using cool, wet compresses or anti-itch creams to soothe it. Antihistamine pills can help reduce the itchiness. Avoid scratching the area: Doing so can make symptoms worse and open the door to a bacterial or fungal infection. If your itching is severe, you should see your primary care provider or a dermatologist for topical steroid medication.
Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About An Hsv Test
The best way to prevent genital herpes or another STD is to not have sex. If you are sexually active, you can reduce your risk of infection by
- Being in a long-term relationship with one partner who has tested negative for STDs
- Using condoms correctly every time you have sex
If youâve been diagnosed with genital herpes, condom use can reduce your risk of spreading the infection to others.
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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If You Have Genital Herpes Already Can It Be Spread To Other Parts Of The Body Such As The Arms Or Legs
No. Genital herpes cannot be transmitted to another part of your body such as your arm, leg or hand after the first infection occurs. If you have genital HSV II, you will not get HSV II at another site in your body. The immune system produces antibodies that protect other parts of your body from infection. However, there are cases where a person has multiple site infections from the same virus. This is usually acquired at the time of the first infection. For example, if someone has never had herpes but then has oral and genital sex with an infected partner, they can acquire the infection at both sites.
How Common Is Genital Herpes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 40 million to 50 million adults in the United States have genital herpes. HSV II infection is more common in women and in people who have had more than five sexual partners. Most people with HSV II do not know they have it, because it does not always cause symptoms.
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Are There Oral Herpes Home Remedies
- Drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Avoid physical contact with the lesions and any lesion secretions.
For mild infections, self-care may be adequate for treatment. Other treatments termed âhome remediesâ are not considered cures but can ease or hasten recovery. These remedies include aloe vera gel, cornstarch paste, and tea or mint leaves. A cool compress may reduce pain. There is no cure for the infection. People with severe infection symptoms, especially children, should be evaluated by a medical caregiver.
The herpes virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact with a person who has the herpes virus:
- Most often, from herpes sores or blisters
- Less often, from normal looking skin where the virusfirst entered the body
- The herpes virus enters the body through the:
- Lining of the mouth
- Regular skin that has small cracks or cuts
People with a weak immune system can get a herpesinfection more easily. A weak immune system is causedby some diseases and by somemedicines used to treat serious diseases.
People who dont know they have herpes can still spread the virus to others.
Myth: Ive Never Had An Outbreak So I Definitely Dont Have Herpes
Unfortunately, the lack of a visible outbreak doesnt mean youre herpes-free. Many people infected with the virus never experience an outbreak, Mary Rosser, MD, PhD, director of obstetrics and gynecology at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, tells Health. And when they do, it frequently isnt recognized. This explains why, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , 87.4% of infected individuals have no clue.
Outbreaks can be very mild and even confused with things like heat rash, jock itch, yeast infections, allergic reactions, Fred Wyand, director of communications for the American Sexual Health Association , tells Health. So while some cases do involve pronounced symptoms, most never do.
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What Complications Are Connected With An Untreated Genital Herpes Infection
Just as there are health risks associated with untreated chlamydia in men and women, there are also risks connected with untreated herpesâeven in asymptomatic patients. Not only does the infection increase your likelihood of contracting and transmitting other STDs, but it can also lead to:
- Difficulty urinating, due to inflammation of the urethra
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Myth #: People Cannot Spread Herpes To Others Unless They Have Sores Or Blisters
Fact: People can spread herpes to others at any time, including when they do not have any symptoms.
People with herpes may experience outbreaks and remissions. During an outbreak, a person has active sores or blisters, but in remission, they may have no symptoms at all.
The virus is usually more contagious when a person has an outbreak, but it can also spread when it is in remission.
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How Is Herpes Simplex Treated
Some people have few to no herpes outbreaks and choose not to have treatment. But many people prefer to use medications that shorten outbreaks and reduce symptoms.
During an outbreak, you may use an antiviral ointment or cream to help lessen your symptoms and help them go away faster, but it only works if you start it soon after you start an outbreak. Many people with HSV-2 take daily oral medications to keep outbreaks at bay.
Your provider may prescribe a topical medication or oral medication such as:
Whos At Risk For Stds
Anyone who is sexually active is at risk for an STD, regardless of gender, race, social class, or sexual orientation. That said, teenagers and young adults acquire STDs more easily than older people. By age 25, half of sexually active adults get an STD. Having multiple sex partners also raises the risk. The CDC has noted that some STDs are on the rise in men who have sex with men, including syphilis and LGV.
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Herpes Disclosure Is Necessary
Although it can seem overwhelming to do, telling partners about a genital herpes diagnosis is necessary. Although the risk can be managed, the fact remains that there is always a risk of giving it to your partner. Although herpes seems blown out of proportion in the public eye compared to what it really is, partners should still be informed.
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Fortunately, things like antiviral medication and condom use can mitigate that risk. Antivirals and condom use can bring the rate of transmission rates by 75%, according to studies done by Valtrex . And according to the CDC, 1 in every 6 Americans between 14 and 49 has genital herpes .
Those are just two research-backed talking points you can use in your discussion about a herpes diagnosis. Combine factual information like this with a calm mindset to make your talk go well, using the pointers below.
Put Genital Herpes In Context
People may have an irrational, inaccurate perception of genital herpes. Since its a sexually transmitted virus, they may group it in the dangerous STDs category of their mind, often beside diseases and viruses with much more severe symptoms.
Because of this, its often necessary to follow up the I have herpes part of the conversation with some quick statistics to provide context.
One way to do this is to let your partner know how common it is. According to the World Health Organization, when it comes to HSV-2, an estimated 11 percent of the world population ages 15 to 49 have the virus meaning you can correctly and accurately let your partner know that at least one in ten people is infected with the virus.
To put it in context, you can ask your partner to imagine that one in ten of the people they met that day have the exact same confession to make at some point, assuming they know theyre infected. Sometimes, this is all it takes to put genital herpes in context as a common type of virus.
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How Do I Know If I Have Herpes Symptoms
Most commonly, herpes will not exhibit symptoms at all, and you wont be able to tell if you have herpes. The most common symptom that does present is whats usually referred to as an outbreak. These outbreaks are sores or blisters that develop on or around the mouth or genitals. Typically, the first outbreak will occur within the first few months of contracting the virus. Outbreaks tend to recur, though they typically grow to be less frequent and less painful, especially with the help of available antiviral medications. However, the first outbreak doesnt always occur soon after being infected, and some people can go years without ever having an outbreak or any symptoms. Thats why frequent testing and being honest with your partner is so important.
Here are a few other symptoms of herpes you might exhibit:
fever eczema eye infections
While all of the above symptoms can mean you have herpes, they could also mean you have another STD or virus, so you cant diagnose herpes based on symptoms alone. You can learn more about herpes symptoms elsewhere on our site.
Maternal And Neonatal Herpes
If a woman is infected with the HSV during pregnancy, it is possible for the virus to be passed on to the newborn baby, normally during delivery. Although this is rare, the resulting neonatal herpes can pose serious risks to newborns.
Signs that a pregnant woman is infected with the herpes simplex virus are the same as those in non-pregnant people. The risk of neonatal herpes is highest in cases where the pregnant woman develops herpes for the first time in the late stages of pregnancy, as the body is unlikely to have the necessary antibodies for combatting the virus. Women with HSV in a latent form, i.e. who have had the virus previously without recurrence, have a very low risk of passing the virus onto the newborn baby.
Good to know: When acute/florid HSV infection is present around the time of the expected date of delivery, a Cesarean birth will usually be recommended before the waters break to avoid the transmission of infection from mother to child.
Signs that a newborn baby has neonatal herpes include:
- Blue skin and tongue
If there is a suspicion of neonatal herpes, a doctor or midwife should be contacted as a matter of urgency. Treatment will typically involve the use of antiviral drugs administered intravenously over several weeks.
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Pimples Vs Herpes Blisters Why Do They Happen
Before we delve into what herpes looks like, lets first take a look at why it happens. It is a sexually transmitted disease, caused by skin-to-skin contact with the infected area of someone who has the Herpes Simplex Virus .
HSV comes in two forms, of which HSV-1 presents itself as blisters on the mouth , including cold sores and fever blisters, and is thus associated with oral herpes. Meanwhile, HSV-2 affects the genital region and causes genital herpes. This does not mean that anyone with blisters on their mouth must have been infected with HSV-1, as they could very well have inherited HSV-2 from an infected partners genitalia via oral sex.
On the other hand, pimples are linked to hygiene issues. They arise when dirt or oil clogs up the pores on the skin, increasing the likelihood of bacterial infection and inflammation. The pores may also be clogged by other conditions such as folliculitis or contact dermatitis .
Understanding Herpes With H Hunter Handsfield Md
Herpes expert H. Hunter Handsfield, MD, explains the basics about genital herpes, including the difference between genital HSV-1 and HSV-2 infection, testing options and the importance of knowing virus type, and the three-prong strategy for prevention. See more herpes videos at sexualhealthTV.com.
Have a question about herpes youd like Dr. Handsfield or our other experts to answer? Visit our Ask the Experts page to learn how.
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What Is Suppressive Therapy
Suppressive therapy involves taking an oral antiviral drug every day for prolonged periods. It interferes with the herpes virus reproductive cycle and so prevents or dramatically reduces the number of recurrences. When recurrences do occur, they are usually less severe and shorter lasting.
If you find the frequency of your outbreaks unacceptable, or if you are finding it difficult to cope emotionally with having recurrences of genital herpes, tell your doctor and discuss the use of suppressive therapy.
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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Myth: I Got Tested For Stds Recently So I Know Im In The Clear
Even if youve been hyper-responsible about getting tested, thatâs irrelevant when it comes to herpes. The CDC doesnât recommend testing for the virus, so a herpes test is typically not included in the routine STI panel. This is because a blood test for herpes only tells you whether youve been exposed to the virus, explains Dr. Dardik. âAnd a positive result only âraises a whole host of concerns of âwhen?â and âhow?â and âwhere?,â which are not answerable by that test. Itâs not going to change your management and provide more answers, which is why its not routinely offered,â she adds.
Complicating things further is that the herpes virus which infects the mouth and genitals is very similar to the herpes virus that causes shingles and chicken pox. If youâve had either of those illnesses, your results may be skewed, says Dr. Rosser.
So how do you know if you have herpes? The best way to tell is to wait until you have a lesion or outbreak of lesions. Then your doctor can run tests on the lesions to determine whether they are in fact herpes, and what type youâre dealing with.
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.
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