Can Genital Herpes Be Treated
Your physician can prescribe different medications to help reduce your symptoms and speed up the healing of an outbreak. These medicines work best when you start them soon after an outbreak occurs.
To reduce pain during an outbreak:
- Sit in warm water in a portable bath or bathtub for about 20 minutes. Avoid bubble baths.
- Keep your genital area clean and dry, and avoid tight clothes.
- Take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Avoid aspirin.
Let your physician know if you are worried about your genital herpes. He or she can recommend a support group to help you cope with the virus.
Treatment If The Blisters Come Back
Go to a GP or sexual health clinic if you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and need treatment for an outbreak.
Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by 1 or 2 days if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.
But outbreaks usually settle by themselves, so you may not need treatment.
Recurrent outbreaks are usually milder than the first episode of genital herpes.
Over time, outbreaks tend to happen less often and be less severe. Some people never have outbreaks.
Some people who have more than 6 outbreaks in a year may benefit from taking antiviral medicine for 6 to 12 months.
If you still have outbreaks of genital herpes during this time, you may be referred to a specialist.
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Support And Advice For Genital Herpes
If you have just found out you have genital herpes, you may feel shocked and may have a lot of questions. It may help you to gather as much information as you can about herpes. This can help you to make fully informed decisions about your treatment, safe sex and preventing further recurrences. Talking to a counsellor about your concerns may also help.
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What Causes Recurrent Herpes Simplex Labialis
Herpes simplex labialis is the result of a virus called herpes simplex virus type 1 . The initial acquisition usually occurs before age 20. It typically affects the lips and areas around the mouth.
You can get the virus from close personal contact, such as through kissing, with someone who has the virus. You can also get oral herpes from touching objects where the virus may be present. These include towels, utensils, razors for shaving, and other shared items.
Since the virus lays dormant inside the nerve cells of the face for the rest of a persons life, symptoms arent always present. However, certain events can make the virus reawaken and lead to a recurrent herpes outbreak.
Events that trigger a recurrence of oral herpes might include:
The original acquisition may not cause symptoms at all. If it does, blisters may appear near or on the mouth within 1 to 3 weeks after your first contact with the virus. The blisters might last up to 3 weeks.
In general, a recurrent episode is milder than the initial outbreak.
Symptoms of a recurrent episode may include:
- blisters or sores on the mouth, lips, tongue, nose, or gums
- burning pain around the blisters
- tingling or itching near the lips
- outbreaks of several small blisters that grow together and may be red and inflamed
Tingling or warmth on or near the lips is usually a warning sign that the cold sores of recurrent oral herpes are about to appear in 1 to 2 days.
Can I Get Genital Herpes More Than Once
There isnt a cure for HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes. Infections can come back . 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.
After infection, the virus moves from skin cells to nerve cells. In the nerve cells, it becomes inactive . Certain things may reactivate the virus, such as:
- Illness or fever.
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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.
What Causes Herpes To Flare Up
Oral herpes is contagious to others who do not have it.
The virus is spread from person to person by kissing, by close contact with herpes lesions, or from saliva even when sores are not present. Infected saliva is a common means of virus transmission. The contagious period is highest when people have active blisters or moist sores. Once the blisters have dried and crusted over , the risk of contagion is significantly lessened. HSV can also be spread through personal items that are contaminated with the virus, such as lipstick, utensils, and razors. Despite popular myth, catching herpes from surfaces, towels, or washcloths is a very low risk, since the virus does not usually survive long on dry surfaces.
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How Can I Best Learn To Cope With Herpes Simplex
Some people feel distressed or embarrassed about their herpes simplex infection. Its important to understand that the herpes virus is common. For most people, herpes doesnt significantly interfere with daily life.
To cope with negative feelings, you may consider:
- Connecting with others through support groups or online forums.
- Sharing your feelings with a trusted friend or loved one.
- Speaking with a therapist.
How Are Cold Sores Treated
Treatment for cold sores focuses on relieving and shortening symptoms. For people with frequent outbreaks, treatment works to decrease how often future episodes. Treatments may include:
Prescription or over-the-counter pain medicines. These can help with discomfort, especially if sores are inside the mouth.
Antiviral medicines. These may be pills that are taken by mouth or a cream to apply to sores. They may help shorten an outbreak and reduce the severity of symptoms. They may be used to help prevent future outbreaks if you have disabling recurrent infections.
Self-care such as extra rest and drinking more fluids. These may help relieve the flu-like symptoms of a first outbreak.
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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 Do You Know If You Have Genital Herpes
The only way to know if you have genital herpes is by amedical exam. Your health care provider can examineyou and test for it. Lab samples are taken from a sore,blister, or blood. Your health care provider may ask totest you for other infections at the same time.
Tell current and most recent sex partners of your herpes infection.
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What Causes My Genital Herpes To Flare Up
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Best Foods + Worst Foods To Avoid Herpes Outbreaks
Foods for herpes might relieve symptoms from HSV. Cold sores from oral herpes and genital herpes can both benefit. Certain foods might help prevent herpes outbreaks, while others trigger them. Learn the best foods for herpes and the foods to avoid on a therapeutic herpes diet, plus the reasons why.
Medically reviewed by Meagan Fleming, RN on Jan. 1, 2019
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What Triggers Your Herpes Outbreaks
Herpes is caused by one of two viruses: herpes simplex type 1 or herpes simplex type 2 . Herpes is different from many other common viral infections. Most importantly, it doesn’t go away. The virus tends to lie dormant in the nerve root causing no symptoms whatsoever. But, at any time, it can travel the nerve pathways in a particular part of the bodythe virus can reactivate and cause a flare-up or recurrence.
Recurrence Course Triggers And Timing
Course of Recurrence
Most cases of herpes simplex recur. The site on the body and the type of virus influence how often it comes back. Recurrences of genital herpes are more likely with HSV-2 infection than with HSV-1 infection.
The virus usually takes the following course:
- Prodrome. The outbreak of infection is often preceded by a prodrome, an early group of symptoms that may include itchy skin, pain, or an abnormal tingling sensation at the site of infection. Headache, enlarged lymph glands, and flu-like symptoms may occur. The prodrome, which may last from 2 hours to 2 days, stops when the blisters develop. About 25% of the time, recurrence does not go beyond the prodrome stage.
- Outbreak. Recurrent outbreaks feature most of the same symptoms at the same sites as the primary attack, but they tend to be milder and briefer. After blisters erupt, they typically heal in 6 to 10 days. Occasionally, the symptoms may not resemble those of the primary episode, but appear as fissures and scrapes in the skin or as general inflammation around the affected area.
Triggers of Recurrence
Herpes outbreaks can be triggered by different factors. They include sunlight, wind, fever, physical injury, surgery, menstruation, suppression of the immune system, and emotional stress. Oral herpes can be triggered within about 3 days of intense dental work, particularly root canal or tooth extraction.
Timing of Recurrences
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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.
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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Can I Treat Herpes Simplex At Home
Avoiding known triggers, such as illness or stress, can help reduce how often you have herpes outbreaks.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-1 ?
- Over-the-counter creams such as L-lysine, benzocaine or docosanol .
- Applying ice to blisters or sores.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-2 ?
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep your genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
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More Questions From Patients:
Many people with genital herpes have no symptoms, or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed.
The first time genital herpes symptoms appear is called the “first episode” or “initial herpes.” Initial herpes symptoms are usually more noticeable than later outbreaks.
Symptoms of genital herpes in men may include
burning when you pee if you have sores
trouble peeing if you have sores covering your urethra
itching or pain around your genitals
During initial herpes, symptoms may also include
swollen, tender glands in the pelvic area, throat, or under the arms
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Do Herpes Sores Smell
Its most common to have discharge when youre having other symptoms like sores. This liquid also tends to happen along with a strong smell that many people with herpes describe as fishy. This smell usually gets stronger or more pungent after having sex.
What do genital herpes bumps look like? Herpes looks like white, yellow, or red translucent sores or bumps, filled with a clear liquid, whereas pimples are pink or red and are not see-through. While pimples may appear individually as well as in clusters but in recognizable patterns, herpes sores are primarily observed in a bunch.
Can antihistamines help herpes?
Antiviral medications and antihistamines not only successfully cleared the herpes infection and urticaria but also prevented further recurrences.
What does herpes tingling feel like? At the beginning of a herpes outbreak, you may experience a tingling, itching or burning sensation. As the episode progresses blisters may form and as they do the itching sensation usually stops and the blisters start becoming painful rather than itchy.
Herpes Outbreaks May Be Triggered By These Foods
Dear Pharmacist,I have herpes. No one knows why people like us get outbreaks, except that stress plays some role. Are there other triggers?J.J., Pueblo, Colorado
Answer: Obvious triggers include stress, exhaustion, illness and alcohol. Many people report that certain foods can be a trigger and Ill tell you why shortly. The herpes virus is one of the smartest infectious bugs known to man. It is responsible for fever blisters, genital lesions, shingles, and chicken pox. Other virulent strains of herpes infections include mononucleosis, cytomegalovirus, Epstein Barr and HHV-6. No one knows how to eradicate herpes once youre infected, but you are definitely tainted for life as the virus lays dormant in the body. It can also mutate and reactivate at any time. Certain foods contain a natural amino acid called arginine. While arginine provides certain benefits to the body, it also feeds a herpes virus and may lead to a reactivation or outbreak.
Three drugs are approved to treat genital herpes:
These medications are antiviral drugs called nucleoside analogues. The drugs are used initially to treat a first attack of herpes, and then afterward to either treat recurrent outbreaks or reduce frequency of recurrences .
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What Triggers A Herpes Outbreak
As we mentioned, following you first herpes infection, the virus lies dormant in your nerves. Your immune system usually keeps it at bay.
But your immune system can only deal with so much at once. That means if you have dormant herpes and your immune system needs to fend off another virus or bacteria, it may get distracted, allowing herpes to crop up. Thats why cold sores are called cold sores or fever blistersthey typically appear when you catch another bug .
Different types of stress can also trigger outbreaks. Psychological stress, especially the stress caused by extreme emotional upset, can lead to an outbreak . Things that cause physical stress can also contribute. Sunlight is a common trigger of oral herpes outbreaks, while friction from tight clothing or sex, and even hormone changes associated with menstruation, are common triggers of genital herpes outbreaks .
Speak to a healthcare provider about your options and which treatments might be effective for preventing or shortening your outbreaks.
How Is It Spread
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 don’t know they have herpes can still spread the virus to others.
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Recognize The Early Symptoms
You might not be able to stop an outbreak, but you might be able to reduce the severity and length of it. Many people have warning signs of an outbreak, including itching, tingling, genital pain, or shooting pain in the legs, hips, or buttocks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . These signs can occur hours or days before the outbreak, so knowing them gives you the chance to treat the outbreak before it happens.