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.
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What is the best treatment for me?
- Are there any side effects to my treatment?
- Is it safe to have unprotected sex if I dont have any sores?
- Can I give myself genital herpes if I also have oral herpes?
- Can I give someone else herpes even if Im not having an outbreak?
- What is the best way to prevent herpes outbreaks?
- Can I live a normal life with herpes?
- Am I at risk of developing any other diseases?
- Are there any support groups in my area?
- If I give my baby herpes, what is the treatment?
Genital Herpes By Race/ethnicity
As with most infectious diseases, genital herpes is more prevalent among some racial/ethnic groups than others. This is especially true of Black people in the United States who are nearly 4 times as likely to have HSV-2 as White people.
The causes for this disparity are many, including poverty and limited access to health care and diagnosis. Institutional racism and healthcare discrimination can often discourage people from seeking the care they need, as well. Moreover, living in a community where STI rates are already high increases the likelihood of infection.
Even more concerning is the fact that genital herpes increases the risk of HIV, in part because open sores provide HIV easier access into the body and the inflammatory response attracts the very immune cells that HIV targets for infection.
As a result of these intersecting risk factors, a 2013 study in the journal PLoS suggested that genital herpes in Black people increases their vulnerability to HIV three times more than in White people.
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 who dont know they have herpes can still spread the virus to others.
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Is Eye Herpes Contagious
Eye and ocular herpes, as well as the herpes virus in general, is very contagious. Coming in contact with an infected person can contaminate you with the virus. Interestingly enough, the virus can lie dormant and never surface. Theres also a chance that you came in contact with an infected person but do not catch the virus.
What Does A Herpes Outbreak Feel Like
Symptoms usually appear within 2 weeks of exposure.
The first outbreak is usually the worst. At first, you might develop some flu-like symptoms. Then you might feel itchy or have an uncomfortable feeling around your genitals or mouth before the lesions appear.
Future outbreaks are likely to be milder and resolve faster.
You may have heard that herpes is only contagious during an outbreak. However, it can be transmitted even though there are no visible signs. You can have herpes and not know it.
For those reasons, its important to try to talk with your sexual partners before assuming or blaming.
It can be a challenging situation to cope with. Learning you have herpes can stir a variety of emotions. Its normal to have mixed feelings and wonder what to expect.
Its important to make an appointment with your healthcare provider as quickly as possible. If you have herpes, your healthcare provider can provide important information about managing your condition.
Make a list of questions before you go, which can help you get the most out of your visit. Let your healthcare provider know if youre having trouble understanding the information.
The more you know and understand about herpes, the better prepared youll be to manage your symptoms and condition. Your healthcare provider will help you create a treatment plan that works best for your medical needs.
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Atypical Forms Of Genital Herpes
Atypical forms occur obliterated, in the form of chronic inflammation of the external and internal genitalia . The diagnosis is based on laboratory confirmation of the presence of herpes infection. Atypical forms of genital herpes account for more than half of clinical cases 65%.
The atypical form is characterized by mild swelling, areas of erythema, small-point vesicles, persistent burning and itching, abundant, not amenable to therapy, white. With a prolonged course, there is an increase and soreness of the inguinal lymph nodes.
According to the localization of herpetic rashes , there are 3 stages:
- Stage I affects the external genitalia
- Stage III affects the uterus, appendages, bladder, prostate.
The higher the herpetic infection penetrates the genitourinary tract, the more serious the prognosis. An advanced form of genital herpes can lead to a state of immunodeficiency, and in women it increases the risk of infertility, cervical cancer. HSV is dangerous for people with weakened immunity , and who have undergone organ transplantation surgery.
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Do Condoms Help Prevent The Spread Of Genital Herpes
Yes. To prevent transmission of herpes, we recommend that condoms be used 100% of the time. Many patients will shed the virus and be contagious when they dont have symptoms. Studies have shown that asymptomatic shedding occurs between 1% and 3% of the time in patients with HSV II genital infections. Many new herpes infections occur from partners who are shedding the virus asymptomatically, so condoms are highly recommended.
Condoms may not be an attractive option for monogamous couples or for couples who desire to become pregnant. Couples may opt to have serological tests to determine if either partner has an asymptomatic infection. In close monogamous relationships, the risks of transmission can be weighed against other relationship issues, such as intimacy and pregnancy.
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How Do People Get Genital Herpes
Infections are transmitted through contact with HSV in herpes lesions, mucosal surfaces, genital secretions, or oral secretions. 5 HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be shed from normal-appearing oral or genital mucosa or skin. 7,8 Generally, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during genital contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. However, receiving oral sex from a person with an oral HSV-1 infection can result in getting a genital HSV-1 infection. 4 Transmission commonly occurs from contact with an infected partner who does not have visible lesions and who may not know that he or she is infected. 7 In persons with asymptomatic HSV-2 infections, genital HSV shedding occurs on 10.2% of days, compared to 20.1% of days among those with symptomatic infections. 8
When Do First Symptoms Start
As with any infection, there is a delay from the time of the infection to the time that symptoms arise. This period is known as the incubation period. It varies among different infections. With oral herpes this incubation period may be around 3 to 6 days. In genital herpes the incubation period is around 3 to 7 days. Therefore a person is not aware that they have been infected.
The following signs and symptoms of both oral and genital herpes may not always arise immediately after the incubation period. At times there are generalized symptoms mentioned above after the primary infection, particularly with oral herpes. The sores may then arise much later and in this way a person may be unsure as to when they were initially infected.
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How Will My Doctor Know If I Have Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at your symptoms. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. In certain situations, a blood test may be used to look for herpes antibodies. Have an honest and open talk with your health care provider and ask whether you should be tested for herpes or 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 how long you have been infected.
Recurrent Episodes Of Genital Herpes
Recurrences are usually less painful and shorter in duration than the first episode of genital herpes. Over time, episodes usually become less frequent and may eventually stop altogether. Infections caused by HSV1 are less likely to recur in the genital area than infections caused by HSV2.
Recurrences may be triggered by:
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Symptoms Of Genital Herpes In Women
Genital herpes outbreaks in women can range from asymptomatic to severe. Some women don’t even know they have the virus, but it can still be passed.
It’s essential to bring up any unusual skin changes or symptoms with your healthcare provider. Once a person has become infected with herpes simplex virus, it lives in the nerve cells for life regardless of the presence of symptoms.
Herpes And Newborn Infants
Herpes infection in a newborn can cause a range of symptoms, including skin rash, fevers, mouth sores, and eye infections. If left untreated, neonatal herpes is a very serious and even life-threatening condition. Neonatal herpes can spread to the brain and central nervous system, causing encephalitis and meningitis. It also can lead to intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, and death. Herpes can also spread to internal organs, such as the liver and lungs.
Infants infected with herpes are treated with acyclovir, an antiviral drug. They usually receive several weeks of intravenous acyclovir treatment, often followed by several months of oral acyclovir. It is important to treat babies quickly, before the infection spreads to the brain and other organs.
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Genital Herpes: Common But Misunderstood
First recognize the symptoms and signs, then take action to prevent outbreaks
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause small, painful sores in the genital area. The symptoms may include low-grade fever, itching, burning, and trouble urinating. But many people with the disease dont realize they have been infected with HSV, because either they have only mild or infrequent symptoms, or no symptoms at all. In women, herpes outbreaks can also be mistaken for vaginitis, urinary tract infections, or even hemorrhoids.
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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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How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnancy
Genital herpes doesnt affect fertility or your ability to conceive. Pregnant women diagnosed with herpes genitalis should start a daily antiviral at 36 weeks of pregnancy 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.
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Duration Of Genital Herpes
The first episode of genital herpes usually begins with inflammation, followed by a small group of blisters that break and weep after a few days and eventually crust over and heal. The first outbreak is usually the worst and ends within about three weeks. The CDC recommends antiviral medication for everyone having a first outbreak of genital herpes.
After the initial outbreak, outbreaks tend to last for less time and have less severe symptoms. Research has indicated that the number of symptomatic outbreaks may decrease over time.
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What Are Genital Warts
Genital warts are soft growths that appear on the genitals. They are caused by the human papillomavirus , and though they can affect both men and women, women are more vulnerable to outbreaks and complications.
You cant tell the difference between genital warts vs genital herpes from how you contracted them, as both viruses are transmitted through sexual activity.
Some genital warts are obvious growths that resemble a cauliflower, but others are so small that theyre not visible to the human eye.
Its also possible for genital warts to develop on the lips, mouth, tongue, fingers, or throat of a person who has oral sexual contact with a person infected with HPV.
In addition to the presence of warts, HPV also causes other symptoms including:
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Herpes Pregnancy And Newborn Infants
Herpes can pose serious risks for a pregnant woman and her baby. The risk is greatest for mothers with a first-time infection because the virus can be transmitted to the infant during childbirth. Guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend using specific diagnostic tests for women in labor to determine the risk of transmission. Babies born to mothers infected with genital herpes are often treated with the antiviral drug acyclovir, which can help suppress the virus.
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Male Herpes Transmission Rates
Herpes is highly contagious, even when there is no outbreak. Herpes is most contagious during the outbreak, and when its dormant it is generally not contagious. However, sometimes the virus becomes active even without an outbreak. This is called a viral shedding period. So it can be transmitted even without an outbreak happening, and its difficult or impossible to know when viral shedding is occurring.
Heterosexual men are slightly more likely to pass the virus to their female partner than a woman is to a man. 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 genitalia has more exposed soft tissue. This is probably why 1 out of 4 American women has herpes, whereas 1 out of 5 American men does.
Transmission rates can also be lowered with Valtrex and condom use, and avoiding sex during outbreaks.
- The likelihood of passing genital herpes to a partner is highest during an outbreak .
- When a person is not experiencing an outbreak, there is a 4-10% chance of transmitting it.
According to studies done by Valtrex, these are the rates of transmission per year of regular sex:
- If partners avoid sex during outbreaks: 4% chance transmission from female to male 8% male to female
- If partners also use condoms or antiviral medication: 2% female to male 4% per year male to female
- If partners also use condoms and antiviral medications: 1% female to male 2% male to female
Causes And Risk Factors Of Genital Herpes
Two types of viruses cause genital herpes herpes simplex type 1 and herpes simplex type 2 .
Usually, HSV-1 causes oral herpes, which becomes visible in the form of cold sores, or fever blisters, on the face, close to the mouth. Most people contract an oral herpes infection during their childhood or young adult years from nonsexual contact with the saliva of an infected person.
HSV-1 mainly spreads through direct contact with cold sores or saliva. Having oral herpes, or cold sores, does not mean that you have genital herpes. But if you have oral herpes, you can spread it from your mouth to another persons genitals if you perform oral sex on them.
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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.
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.
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