How Is Genital Herpes Spread
If you do not have herpes, you can get infected if you come into contact with the herpes virus in:
- Saliva or genital secretions
- Skin in the oral area if your partner has an oral herpes infection, or skin in the genital area if your partner has a genital herpes infection.
You can get herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or who may not know he or she is infected. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a sex partner who has oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from touching objects around you such as silverware, soap, or towels. If you have additional questions about how herpes is spread, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
How Is It Treated
Genital herpes can be treated, but it cannot be cured.Anti-viral medicines can make outbreaks:
Living with genital herpes causes some people to:
- Feel embarrassed or ashamed
- Worry about infecting a sexual partner
- Worry that having herpes will affect relationships with sexual partners
- Avoid dating or sexual relationships
Most people with herpes are able to live with the virusand manage their outbreaks. Talking to trusted healthcare providers and friends can help. Your health careprovider can talk to you about medicines that treatoutbreaks and about ways to reduce the chance ofpassing the virus on to a sexual partner.
Medicines can help lower the chance that you will pass the virus to others.
Increased Risk Of Other Stis
Genital herpes can increase a persons risk of contracting and passing on other common STIs. Visible sores can cause small breaks in the skin, which makes it easier for certain viruses to affect the body. It’s important to note that the virus doesn’t need to be visible to spread – even when no sores are present, the virus is still active in the body.
According to the World Health Organization , those living with human immunodeficiency virus who are not taking medication, or those with a compromised immune system, may experience more severe symptoms and frequent outbreaks or occurrences .
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How Can Herpes Be Prevented
Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of transmitting or acquiring genital herpes because herpes virus shedding can occur in areas that are not covered by a condom.25,26
The surest way to avoid transmission of STDs, including genital herpes, is to abstain from sexual contact, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for STDs and is known to be uninfected.
Persons with herpes should abstain from sexual activity with partners when herpes lesions or other symptoms of herpes are present. It is important to know that even if a person does not have any symptoms, he or she can still infect sex partners. Sex partners of infected persons should be advised that they may become infected and they should use condoms to reduce the risk. Sex partners can seek testing to determine if they are infected with HSV.
Daily treatment with valacyclovir decreases the rate of HSV-2 transmission in discordant, heterosexual couples in which the source partner has a history of genital HSV-2 infection. 27 Such couples should be encouraged to consider suppressive antiviral therapy as part of a strategy to prevent transmission, in addition to consistent condom use and avoidance of sexual activity during recurrences.
What Is Herpes Ii
Herpes II is a sexually transmitted viral infection, which often produces painful sores, usually in the genital area. Once infected, an individual may carry the virus and be subject to recurrent bouts of infection. Some estimate that as many as 20 percent of the adult population in the United States has been exposed to 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.
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:
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Cautions With Other Medicines
Some medicines can affect the way aciclovir tablets or liquid work. They can also make you more likely to get side effects.
If youâre using aciclovir cream on your skin, this is less likely to react with other medicines.
Itâs important to tell your doctor if you take any of the following medicines before taking aciclovir:
- cimetidine, a medicine for stomach ulcers
- mycophenolate mofetil, a medicine given after organ transplants
- probenecid, a medicine for gout
- aminophylline or theophylline, medicines for asthma
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 donât know they have herpes can still spread the virus to others.
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.
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Who Might Get Genital Herpes
Genital herpes affects teens and adults of all genders and races. It can spread if you have multiple sexual partners and dont use condoms.
Women are more at risk. Delicate vaginal tissue can tear, making it easier for the infection to get in. Black women are especially vulnerable. An estimated 1 in 2 African-American women between the ages of 14 and 49 is infected with HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes.
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It Is Common Not To Develop Any Symptoms
Most people never develop any symptoms when they are infected with the virus. At least 8 in 10 people with genital herpes simplex virus do not know that they are infected. In such people, the virus stays inactive in the root of a nerve that supplies the genitals, but never causes recurrent episodes of symptoms. However, even people who do not develop symptoms may, on occasions, have virus in their genital area and therefore be infectious to sexual partners. In fact, this is how many genital herpes simplex infections are passed on.
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General Measures That May Help To Ease Symptoms When They Occur
- Painkillers such as paracetamol may help to ease pain.
- If it is painful when you pass urine, it is often less painful if you pass urine whilst sitting in a warm bath or with water flowing over the area.
- A numbing ointment that you can buy at pharmacies, called lidocaine 5% gel, may relieve itching or pain. Some people also apply ointment about five minutes before passing urine if this is painful. Note: some people are sensitive to anaesthetic ointments, and the ointment then makes skin symptoms worse. Applying VaselineÂ® before passing urine may be a helpful alternative to anaesthetic ointment.
- Ice wrapped in a tea towel placed over the sores for 5-10 minutes may be soothing. Do not put ice directly on to skin, as this may cause an ‘ice burn’.
- Have plenty to drink. This can help to make your urine less strong and less concentrated. This may make passing urine less painful.
- Do not use scented soaps, bubble bath, etc, as these may irritate. Gentle cleaning of the sores with just cotton wool and plain or salt water is best. Gentle drying with a hairdryer on its lowest setting may be more comfortable than with a towel.
- When you resume sexual activity after an episode has cleared, a lubricant may help, as some people find the friction of having sex may trigger a recurrence.
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 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.
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 Cure For Herpes
No, there is no cure for herpes. Once you have the conditionyou will be a carrier for life. As noted above, over half of the globalpopulation has one strand or other of the disease and its not a seriousillness.
If you do have herpes, it is important to consider how itwill affect your lifestyle and some major life choices:
Some women who have herpes maychoose to have a cesarean section to reduce the risk of passing the illnessonto their child during childbirth. Speak to your gynaecologist about youroptions here.
- Telling newpartners
Herpes can be passed on at anytime, but it is most likely to be passed on during an outbreak. If you have anew partner, you should tell them you have the condition and discuss youroptions. If you have genital herpes, using a condom is an effective way of reducing transmission. The same goes with HSV-1 refrain from kissing when you are having an outbreak.
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What Causes Symptoms To Come Back
When symptoms recur, they usually come on during times of emotional stress or illness. Thatâs because, during these times, your bodyâs immune system may be less able to suppress the virus and keep it from becoming active.
Symptom triggers can include:
- Interfere with a personâs sense of security and intimacy
In some cases, though, complications from genital herpes can be serious, even life-threatening.
Although itâs rare, pregnant women can pass on the herpes infection to their child. This can result in a serious and sometimes deadly infection in the baby. Thatâs why taking steps to prevent an outbreak at time of delivery is recommended starting at 34 weeks into the pregnancy. If you have signs of an active viral infection when itâs time to deliver, your doctor will likely recommend a cesarean section for delivery.
If you have any reason to believe you may have an HSV infection as the result of a sexual encounter â either genital or oral â contact your health care provider.
How Does Genital Herpes Affect A Pregnant Woman And Her Baby
Neonatal herpes is one of the most serious complications of genital herpes.5,16 Healthcare providers should ask all pregnant women if they have a history of genital herpes.11 Herpes infection can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy or childbirth, or babies may be infected shortly after birth, resulting in a potentially fatal neonatal herpes infection. 17 Infants born to women who acquire genital herpes close to the time of delivery and are shedding virus at delivery are at a much higher risk for developing neonatal herpes, compared with women who have recurrent genital herpes . 16,18-20 Thus, it is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. Women should be counseled to abstain from intercourse during the third trimester with partners known to have or suspected of having genital herpes. 5,11
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What Should I Know About Storage And Disposal Of This Medication
Keep this medication in the container it came in, tightly closed, and out of reach of children. Store it at room temperature and away from excess heat and moisture .
It is important to keep all medication out of sight and reach of children as many containers are not child-resistant and young children can open them easily. To protect young children from poisoning, always lock safety caps and immediately place the medication in a safe location â one that is up and away and out of their sight and reach.
Unneeded medications should be disposed of in special ways to ensure that pets, children, and other people cannot consume them. However, you should not flush this medication down the toilet. Instead, the best way to dispose of your medication is through a medicine take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or contact your local garbage/recycling department to learn about take-back programs in your community. See the FDAs Safe Disposal of Medicines website for more information if you do not have access to a take-back program.
What Is Herpes Simplex Virus
HSV is a virus that can cause painful ulcers in your mouth or on your genitals. There are two main herpes simplex viruses HSV-1 and HSV-2. HSV-1 infections most commonly affect your mouth, but they may also result in sores on your genitals. HSV-2, on the other hand, primarily affects your genitals. In the U.S., over 50% of adults have HSV-1, and 15% of sexually active people have HSV-2.
Once youve been infected with HSV, the virus stays in your body long term, causing sores or blisters to appear periodically . In rare cases, it can cause life-threatening infections like meningitis and encephalitis.
When you think of herpesviruses, HSV is likely what comes to mind. But both types of HSV are actually part of a larger family of herpesviruses, including:
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