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.
The Immune System Vs Herpes
The immune system is your bodys defence against bacteria, fungi, toxins, and viral infections. Involving an array of organs, cells, proteins, and tissues, it battles these different foreign bodies that may cause you disease or harm. And its doing this all the time: everything you eat or touch is targeted and controlled by your immune system.
Usually, when a virus enters your body, it infects cells. As a response, your T cells a crucial part of your immune system identify, bind to, and destroy the cells that are infected. However, with a herpes infection, things are a little trickier. This is because, when herpesviruses infect specific cells, they prevent these cells from realising that they have been infected. This way they hide and, in a way, go to sleep. As a result, the virus can avoid detection by your immune system.
This is how the virus can stay in your system for so long. It may be there in your body, but it isnt causing any trouble most of the time. It is only when it moves from latency i.e. that sleep to its activation phase that things kick off. For example, when you are stressed, tired, or weakened, your cold sore appears, you become contagious, and your immune system tries to kill the virus.
Usually, it doesnt succeed and the herpes and your immune system end up in a sort of equilibrium, as the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research explains.
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.
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How Does Herpes Simplex Spread
Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms. Healthcare providers call this asymptomatic viral shedding.
People may get HSV-1 through
- Touching a persons skin near the mouth.
- Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
- If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.
People may get HSV-2 through
- Oral sex with someone whos infected.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.
You cant get genital herpes from objects like toilet seats. But you could pass genital herpes through shared sex toys.
Screening And Early Detection
Unlike some STIs, routine blood testing is not recommended for people who dont have symptoms of herpes. However, if there is concern about exposure or new symptoms, this testing may be recommended. People should talk with a healthcare provider to determine whether blood testing is necessary.
Although blood testing is not routinely done, screening for STIs should include a thorough exam to check for herpes lesions on the genitals .
The CDC recommends blood testing if you have symptoms of genital herpes. Testing should also be pursued if you are pregnant and are having sex with someone with herpes.
Testing may also be useful if:
- You are not pregnant but are having sex with someone with herpes.
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How Will My Healthcare Provider Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at any sores that are present. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. If sores are not present, a blood test may be used to look for HSV antibodies.
Have an honest and open talk with your healthcare provider about herpes testing and 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 when you got the infection.
Treatment The First Time You Have Genital Herpes
You may be prescribed:
- antiviral medicine to stop the symptoms getting worse you need to start taking this within 5 days of the symptoms appearing
- cream for the pain
If you have had symptoms for more than 5 days before you go to a sexual health clinic, you can still get tested to find out the cause.
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What Are Genital Herpes Infections Like
The first herpes infection is usually the worst one. Genital herpes infections come back over and over again. The first time, you may have one sore or many sores. The sores are painful. Some may be hidden inside the urethra. The urethra is the tube that carries urine from your bladder. The sores make urination painful. Some people also have a fever, a sore throat, deep tiredness and body aches. These problems might last three weeks.
After the first infection, HSV sores can come back any time. They often come back when you are sick with something else and when your immune system isnt strong enough. Genital herpes might come back 4 to 6 times a year at first. After a few years, the herpes sores hurt less. They come back less often.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Most individuals infected with HSV are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for another skin condition. 9 When symptoms do occur, herpes lesions typically appear as one or more vesicles, or small blisters, on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The average incubation period for an initial herpes infection is 4 days after exposure. 10 The vesicles break and leave painful ulcers that may take two to four weeks to heal after the initial herpes infection. 5,10 Experiencing these symptoms is referred to as having a first herpes outbreak or episode.
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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
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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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:
What Effect Does Herpes Have On Immuno
While there is no hard, confirmed evidence of the precise effect of herpes on your immune system, what we do know is that the herpes family of viruses do pose a much greater risk to those people with compromised immune systems.
In people with immune deficiencies caused by diseases such as AIDS or HIV or by chemotherapy infections with HSVs can lead to prolonged and severe periods of active genital or oral herpes. Other herpesviruses such as CMV can cause severe diseases such as meningitis and hepatitis in immuno-compromised people too.
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Overview Of The Immune System
The human body is equipped with an immune system that acts as guard against invading pathogens, which are ubiquitous in the environment. Broadly, the human immune system is of two types, the innate and the adaptive immunity. The innate immunity consists of both the structural component, and the proteins which recognize molecular patterns not present in human cell. They constitute the first line of defence against pathogens. The adaptive immunity is a more specific defence against specific pathogens mediated by the B-cells and the T- cells. One attribute of this immunity is that its effect is long lasting.
1.2.1. The Innate Immune System
Together, all these work in consortium to prevent the human cells from infection caused by pathogens by removing them and helping to recruit the adaptive immune response.
1.2.2. The Adaptive Immune System
Contact Your Physician Or Clinic
Because the only sure way to diagnose genital herpes is with lab tests, youll need to contact your primary care physician, gynecologist, or local health department for testing. There are six ways to test for HSV-2:
- Swab culture of the blister
- Polymerase chain reaction test
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Prevention Of Genital Herpes
The best protection against STIs is to always use barrier protection such as condoms, female condoms and dams . Because herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact, condoms will reduce the risk of transmission, but it will not protect sexual partners completely as condoms do not cover the entire genitals.
Using lubricant with a condom during sex will also reduce the risk of trauma to the genital skin. This has been shown to reduce HSV transmission, especially in the first six months of a sexual relationship. Silicone-based lubricants are recommended.
Remember that herpes transmission can occur when symptoms are present , but may also occur even if there are no genital symptoms through asymptomatic viral shedding.
For people who have frequent episodes of genital herpes, antiviral medication, taken daily, helps to reduce transmission of herpes to a sexual partner.
Why Do You Get Herpes And What Can You Do About It
Stress also causes cold sores to bloom.
In itself, the evil is harmless, therapy with antivirals can reduce itching and pain by 20 to 30 percent. However, this means that only the symptoms are treated. Once you get it, the plague keeps coming back unless you do something to boost your immune system and change your habits.
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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.
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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Other Triggers For Genital Herpes Outbreaks
Other triggers of genital herpes may include:
- Sexual intercourse. Some people find that the friction of sexual intercourse irritates the skin and brings on symptoms. Using a water-based lubricant can help reduce irritation. Don’t use one that contains the spermicide nonoxynol-9, however. Nonoxynol-9 can irritate mucous membranes, such as the lining of the . Oil-based lubricants are a no-no, too. They weaken latex, making condoms more likely to break. Even if the friction of intercourse seems to be a trigger for symptoms, it probably won’t cause a flare-up every time you have sex.
- Colds and sunlight. The common cold and sunlight seem to trigger outbreaks of oral herpes , but no proof exists that they trigger genital herpes outbreaks.
- Hormones. Hormonal changes, like those that occur in the menstrual cycle, can affect genital herpes outbreaks. No one knows why.
- Surgery, weak immune system. Trauma to the body, such as having surgery, may make herpes symptoms appear. It’s possible that having a weakened immune system does, too. People whose immune systems are weakened by HIV, for example, tend to have outbreaks more often than people with normal immune functioning.
Remember that triggers may not be the same for everyone, and doctors are not certain how much lifestyle affects outbreaks of herpes symptoms. If you think something in particular triggers symptoms, ask your doctor what you should do about it.
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 Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex viruses spread from person to person through close contact. You can get a herpes simplex virus from touching a herpes sore. Most people, however, get herpes simplex from an infected person who does not have sores. Doctors call this asymptomatic viral shedding.
How people get herpes around their mouth
A person with HSV-1 can pass it to someone else by:
Touching the persons skin, such as pinching a childs cheek
Sharing objects such as silverware, lip balm, or a razor
How people get herpes on their genitals
You can get genital herpes after coming into contact with HSV-1 or HSV-2. Most people get genital herpes from HSV-2, which they get during sex. If someone has a cold sore and performs oral sex, this can spread HSV-1 to the genitals, and cause herpes sores on the genitals.
Mothers can give the herpes virus to their baby during childbirth. If the baby is born during the mother’s first episode of genital herpes, the baby can have serious problems.