Follow Easy Hygiene Best Practices
Several hygiene best practices serve as easy preventative measures to avoid accidentally spreading the virus to your partner.
- Keep the infected area clean and dry
- Avoid touching sores
- Wash your hands immediately after any possible contact with sores
- DON’T pick at sores since this will cause infection
- DON’T make choices that you know can trigger an outbreak
First And Subsequent Episodes
The first genital herpes outbreak will generally be worse than the ones that follow. During a first outbreak, the appearance of lesions will often be accompanied by:
- Pain or burning with urination
- Unusual vaginal discharge
Subsequent attacks tend to be shorter and less severe. They are often preceded by genital pain or shooting pain in the legs, hip, or buttocks several hours or days before the attack.
Over time, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease and become less severe.
Avoid Sex During Outbreaks
Although its unlikely that youre going to want to be intimate during an outbreak, its important to know that this is the time when the virus is most active and most likely to be transmissible, says Wyand. Wait until all your symptoms go away, including any sores, itching, and tingling, he advises.
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Herpes Can Happen To Anyone
Did you know that the virus that causes cold sores or fever blisters on or around the mouth can also infect other areas of the body? The infection is caused by the herpes simplex virus. And its very common.
Most people with herpes infection dont even know it. They may not have symptoms or not notice them.
For people who do have symptoms, a herpes infection may show up as one or more blisters. These can be on or near the mouth, eyes, genitals, or rectum. After the blisters break, they turn into sores or ulcers. These sores are painful and take about a week to heal.
Once someone is infected with herpes simplex, the virus goes into hiding and stays in the body for the rest of their lives. The virus can re-emerge at any time and cause an outbreak. Some people have outbreaks several times per year. Tingling or burning in the area can signal that an outbreak is looming.
There are two types of herpes simplex viruses: HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 is often transmitted during childhood. You can get it from close contact with someone who has the infection. For example, a family member with a cold sore may kiss a child. HSV-1 is the main cause of herpes of the mouth or eyes. Although its possible for HSV-2 to infect the mouth or eyes, its usually found in the genital area.
Theres no cure for herpes. But anti-herpes medicine can speed healing of the sores. If taken every day, this medicine can also lower the risk of future outbreaks.
Dating With Herpes And Talking To Sexual Partners About Herpes
Dating with herpes doesnât need to be a big deal. Most people with genital herpes can still have satisfying sex lives.
Yes, there are some things youâll need to do to date responsibly and take care of your sexual partners â like using protection, even when youâre not experiencing an outbreak â but that doesnât mean your dating life will be nothing but awkward moments and heartbreak.
The most difficult part of having a conversation about herpes with a sexual partner is getting started. You may fear the other personâs initial reaction more than anything else, rather than the conversation that happens after theyâve had time to digest new information.
Here are some conversation prompts to help you get over that initial hump:
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How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Most people with genital herpes have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms. Mild symptoms may go unnoticed or be mistaken for other skin conditions like a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people do not know they have a herpes infection.
Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. This is known as having an outbreak. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. Flu-like symptoms also may occur during the first outbreak.
People who experience an initial outbreak of herpes can have repeated outbreaks, especially if they have HSV-2. However, repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although genital herpes is a lifelong infection, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time.
Ask a healthcare provider to examine you if:
- You notice any symptoms or
- Your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD.
STD symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly genital discharge, burning when peeing, or bleeding between periods .
How To Prevent Further Herpes Outbreaks
Great news ââ you can prevent herpes outbreaks with the right treatment.
The same treatment used to treat outbreaks can also be taken as a preventative measure. But daily suppressive antivirals may not be right for everyone, so youâll need to ask your doctor if this type of treatment is worth it for you.
According to one study, people who see six or more genital herpes outbreaks per year can see a 70%â80% reduction in outbreaks with daily antiviral treatment.
You may also be able to reduce herpes outbreaks by reducing stress. A meta-analysis of the relationship between psychosocial stress and symptomatic herpes simplex virus recurrence revealed âa robust relationship between psychosocial stress and symptomatic HSV recurrence.â You may want to take some deep breaths and develop some solid stress management strategies.
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Know What Symptoms To Expect
Symptoms can vary depending on which areas of your body are affected and the type of virus you have. If you experience symptoms at all, they will likely be more severe after the initial infection than they are during recurring outbreaks. The most common symptoms to expect include:
- Sores around the genitals, rectum, or mouth
- Blisters or cold sores around the mouth
- Fever and other flu-like symptoms
- Small bumps that resemble an ingrown hair or pimple
There are two strains of the herpes virus to be aware of: HSV-1 and HSV-2. While HSV-1 is most commonly associated with oral herpes and HSV-2 with genital herpes, either strain can cause either version of the virus.
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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What Does Genital Herpes Look Like
While some people with genital herpes will never have any symptoms, other people can develop symptoms within a few weeks of being infected.
Often, before the lesions appear, patients describe a prodrome, characterized by a tingling or burning sensation in the area where the lesions will develop that can be noticed during urination, along with itching or discomfort in the genital area.
You can also have the following symptoms:
- Blisters on the mouth or lips
- Fever, headache or pain in the joints
- Trouble urinating
The symptoms of genital herpes often go away and come back as recurring outbreaks. For most people, the first outbreak is the worst, and can last from two to three weeks. Future flare-ups are often less severe and do not last as long. Still, some people shed the virus regularly. The following triggers can make outbreaks more likely to occur:
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Menstrual periods
Recurrent genital herpes is most common in the first year after the initial infection and decreases as time goes on.
In many cases, anti-herpes medicine can help patients. When a person experiences a prodrome and suspects a recurrence is going to happen, they begin taking anti-herpes medications that lessen symptoms and shorten the time of the outbreak.
How Do People Get Genital Herpes
People can get infected with genital herpes when the virus comes into contact with a break in the skin in or around the mouth or genital area. This can happen when:
- They receive oral sex from a partner who has oral herpes .
- They touch a herpes sore and then touch their own genitals.
- Their genitals touch the skin in the genital area of someone who is infected .
Genital herpes can spread even if there are no sores because the virus is still in the body. The virus can be in the skin near the genitals and infect another person during sexual contact.
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What Are The Different Types Of Herpes
There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV I and HSV II. HSV I commonly causes oral herpes, or cold sores. This virus can show up as an upper respiratory tract infection during early childhood. HSV II is the cause of most cases of genital herpes. However, it is possible for HSV I to cause genital herpes and HSV II to cause oral herpes.
Clinicians cannot tell the difference between the two types by physical examination alone, but there are differences between the two viruses. For example, genital herpes caused by HSV II is much more likely to recur. This diagnosis can be helpful in establishing a health care plan.
Symptoms Associated With Primary Infection
Primary Infection is a commonly used term for outbreak of the well known genital herpes and they are observed when person is just infected.
The list of symptoms below is rated to be severe in nature:
In most of the reported cases, these ulcers are reported to heal with time and they never even leave any scar behind.
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Prioritize Your Mental Health
Being diagnosed with HSV can cause stress, anxiety, and other feelings that can sometimes be difficult to deal with. If youâve recently been diagnosed with HSV and are feeling overwhelmed, youâre not alone. It’s OK to take time to process your emotions and reach out for help if needed.
If you have medical-related concerns, your doctor may be able to ease your mind by going over treatment options and explaining the risks. You can also ask for additional resources or a reference for a mental health professional who can help you manage feelings of stress or anxiety.
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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Dont Be Afraid To Get Emotionally Intimate
An open and honest conversation about your diagnosis can require emotional intimacy that may be scary to have in a new relationship. Harbushka says to relax and realize that it can be sexy to communicate with your partner about sex and other important intimate topics.
With the right information and adequate protection, you can still enjoy a healthy sexual relationship. Here are some tips to help you and your partner stay safe during sex.
Send The Message Before You Have Sex
The conversation needs to happen before having sex and hopefully not in the heat of the moment. Alexandra Harbushka, founder of Life With Herpes and spokesperson for Meet People With Herpes, says a great way to lead with the topic is talking about both parties sexual health, and insisting that you both get tested.
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What Causes Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex virus enters the body through the skin. After the initial infection and symptom onset, the virus will have periods of inactivity.
However, the virus doesn’t go away. It stays dormant in the body’s nerve cells. During this time, you likely won’t experience symptoms. Periodically, it can be reactivated and cause additional outbreaks.
Have You Met With Your Doctor Yet
Do you believe you have herpes? Dont live in fear and take action to protect yourself and others.
If you are sexually active, it is important to have a regular sexual health check-up as there is a chance you can pick up an STI. These dont always cause symptoms, but they can put you at greater risk of long-term health problems.
Although your sex life isnt anyone elses business, its important to be honest with your doctor, otherwise, youre doing yourself, and possibly your sexual partners, a disservice.
Need help finding a doctor who is right for you? Check out our doctor profile videos and patient reviews.
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Im Pregnant How Could Genital Herpes Affect My Baby
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, prenatal care visits are very important. Some research suggest that a genital herpes infection may lead to miscarriage or make it more likely to deliver your baby too early. You can pass herpes to your unborn child before birth, but it more commonly passes during delivery. This can lead to a deadly infection in your baby . It is important that you avoid getting genital herpes during pregnancy. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had a genital herpes diagnosis or symptoms. Also tell them about any possible exposure to genital herpes.
If you have genital herpes, you may need to take anti-herpes medicine towards the end of your pregnancy. This medicine may reduce your risk of having signs or symptoms of genital herpes when you deliver. At the time of delivery, your healthcare provider should carefully examine you for herpes sores. If you have signs or symptoms of genital herpes at delivery, a C-section is likely to occur.
Be Open With Your Partner Before Sex
If you have a confirmed or suspected HSV-2 infection, it’s important to make sure your partner is informed before becoming sexually active.
Condoms can help keep the virus from spreading, but they don’t prevent all types of transmission. In fact, the transmission of HSV-2 via oral sex is possible even if there are no sores present on the genitals or mouth.
Though it’s impossible to completely eliminate the chances of transmission, prevention techniques are very effective. For example, one large study reported that only 1.9% of susceptible partners became infected with clinically symptomatic HSV-2 when given the antiviral valacyclovir as a precautionary treatment.
It’s essential to be open and honest with your partner. By improving communication, educating yourselves, and managing expectations, you can better reduce the risk of spreading a genital herpes infection to your partner.
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What Are The Signs And Symptoms Of Hsv
Most commonly, HSV-1 causes sores around the mouth and lipsoften called cold sores or fever blisters. HSV-1 can cause genital herpes, but most cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-2. Typically, someone with HSV-2 will have sores around the genitals or rectum.
Symptoms are usually the most intense during the first outbreak and become less intense over time. Symptoms can last 2-4 weeks before resolving on their own without medicine, and even longer during the initial infection.
Some of the symptoms associated with HSV include itching, tingling or burning sensation, tiredness, swollen lymph nodes and flu-like symptoms, but many with HSV may have no symptoms at all.
While there are some tell-tale signs of HSV, not everyone may show visible signs or symptoms, resulting in them unknowingly transmitting it to a partner via contact, Dr. Gelow said. Unfortunately, there are no studies that show how often this happens, but we do know that the virus sheds 10-20% of the time in those who are asymptomatic.
Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster
Like HSV-1 and HSV-2, shingles can cause a painful, blistering rash. The shingles rash usually shows up on the back, side, abdomen , neck and face. It is often only on half of your body, following the pattern of your nerves. See your healthcare provider if you have a new rash and suspect you may have shingles.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Herpes simplex is a virus. Once you have herpes, its a lifelong condition. A herpes infection can lead to outbreaks , but youll also have times when you have no symptoms. The main sign of herpes is sores that appear on the infected skin. Some people choose not to treat herpes, especially if symptoms are mild. Others take antiviral medications to reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/17/2022.
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How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
To find out if someone has genital herpes, health care providers do tests on:
- fluid from a sore
People with genital herpes need to tell recent, current, and future sex partners about their infection. Because someone may never have symptoms or may not have symptoms for months to years after infection, a current partner may not be the source of the infection.