Oral Herpes Poses A Risk Beyond Cold Sores
Dating when you have a cold sore can embarrassing. But embarrassment shouldnât stop you from telling a sexual partner if you feel one coming on or there is one hidden behind your lip.
Even if youâre on the mend, cold sores are highly contagious and may do more than just transmit the infection to your partner. It may increase your risk of a sexually transmitted disease .
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Learn How To Manage Outbreaks
While there’s no cure for genital herpes, there is a lot that can be done to reduce the length and severity of outbreaks.
A number of proven medications speed up the healing process and reduce discomfort. Antiviral medications like acyclovir and valacyclovir offer a simple way to control and minimize herpes outbreaks.
Start taking acyclovir as soon as you notice the first signs of an emerging outbreak. This medication stops the herpes virus from growing and spreading during an outbreak, though it can’t remove the virus from your body completely. Most people experience relief within just a few days.
Improving lifestyle habits may also prevent future herpes outbreaks:
- Stay rested to support a strong immune system
- Eat nutritious foods to support your body’s innate healing response
- Use the Luminance RED
The Luminance RED nourishes the skin with red light, which is metabolized to accelerate the body’s healing process and to strengthen its defenses against future attacks. Regular use of the Luminance RED not only shortens the healing time of active outbreaks, but can also prevent future outbreaks altogether!
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.
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Can The Virus Be Transmitted During Childbirth
- lack of appetite
- shooting pain at the site of the infection
You may notice some tingling, burning, or itching at the site of the infection before small, painful blisters appear. There could be one blister or a small cluster. These blisters will eventually burst and crust over before they begin to heal.
The blisters that develop during a primary infection may take to fully heal. These blisters can still transmit the virus until theyve healed completely.
Sores often itch, and genital sores may cause pain during urination.
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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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.
Staying Safe While Avoiding Panic And Stigma
It can be tempting to freak out a little bit when you realize that herpes is both super-common and something you arent routinely getting tested for. So how do you process that information?
The first step is practicing the same safe sex that you know helps protect you from other STIs. Your best bet here is a barrier method like internal and external condoms for any penetration and physical shields such as dental dams for any oral play. Even though this wont fully protect you from herpes , it will reduce how much of your skin touches your partners.
This is why screening for herpes infection in the absence of any symptoms wouldnt really do much to cut back on casesthe advice would be the same: Practice safe sex with barrier methods. I agree right now with the recommendations not to screen people, but I think if we had a better diagnostic strategy, I would be much more in favor of routine screenings, Dr. Johnston says. It is important for people to know their status so they can protect themselves and their partners.
If you think you have herpes, see a doctor such as your ob/gyn or dermatologist , or go to your local health clinic. A medical expert can evaluate your symptoms, take samples for testing, and eventually offer treatment options if you need them.
You will likely be started on antiviral medications to help you heal faster and make you less contagious, Dr. Bard says.
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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.
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1
Herpes simplex virus type 1 is the
vast majority of HSV-1 cases affect the mouth and its surrounding area. However, it is possible for HSV-1 to affect other areas of the body, such as the genitals.
HSV-1 often develops during childhood and is a lifelong condition. It can spread through non-sexual contact with saliva, such as kissing.
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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
How Is Herpes Spread
Pregnant women who have herpes and are not on antiviral medications can transmit the infection to their babies during vaginal delivery if active lesions are present. If you suspect you might have genital herpes while pregnant, let your doctor know. They can help you with precautions to prevent the virus from being transmitted to your baby. Having HSV does not mean you automatically need a c-section but it does mean you need to be aware of your body and let your provider know of any suspected lesions.
After the initial infection, herpes may remain dormant in your body and can reactivate several times a year depending on different factors such as stress level and overall health.
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Products Used To Treat Genital Herpes
Although this disease cannot be treated completely, there are some treatments and products that help relieve its symptoms. Acyclovir, Valacyclovir, and Famciclovir are products that are usually used to treat genital herpes. Doctors generally prescribe Acyclovir, or Famciclovir to cure the blisters of this diseases. Thus, following the doctors advice, the appropriate products to control this disease should be used as soon as possible.
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How Is Genital Herpes Generally Diagnosed
Nows not the time to be shyyour doctor is the only one who can officially diagnose you with genital herpes, says Van Groningen. This can be easily done through a visual exam of the areamany doctors can recognize the blisters on sightor a swab of a sore that gets sent to a lab for testing.
There is a blood test available, but its not necessarily the most accurate way to test for genital herpesit doesnt differentiate between HSV-1 and HSV-2. The blood test also wont be able to tell you how long youve had the virus.
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How Herpes Is Treated
There is no cure for herpes.
- The health care provider may prescribe antiviral medicine to help speed up the healing process. It also shortens the time when the virus can spread from the herpes sores.
- Pain may be treated with medicine such as Tylenol or Motrin or by applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the affected area.
- If sores are in the mouth, avoid foods high in acid, like citrus fruits and juices.
- The infected area should be kept clean and dry.
- Wash hands often and avoid touching the sores to prevent spreading the virus.
- It is important to stay healthy by getting enough rest, having proper nutrition and exercise and managing stress well.
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What Is Neonatal Herpes
Neonatal herpes can be a very serious infection. Babies generally contract the virus from their birthing parent during childbirth even if the parent doesnt have active lesions. They may also get HSV-1 if an adult with an active cold sore kisses them. Breastfeeding babies can also get HSV-1 from the breast if there are lesions present. But babies cant get herpes from breast milk, so its safe to pump and feed.
Herpes simplex can be more dangerous for young babies because they dont have a fully developed immune system. But most babies with neonatal herpes can recover fully with treatment.
The dangers of neonatal herpes are much higher if the infection spreads to the babys organs. If youre pregnant and have herpes, speak with your healthcare provider about how to lower the risk of passing the infection to your baby.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Ii
Typically, the first signs of herpes II is a cluster of blister-like lesions in the genital area which spread and merge, break and crust over within four to 15 days. The fluid from these itching, painful sores is highly infectious. Other frequent symptoms are painful urination, urethral or vaginal discharge and swollen lymph nodes. The first exposure or primary episode consists of headache, fever, chills and muscular weakness. Recurrent episodes are less severe and are limited to the affected area.
How Can You Avoid Genital Herpes
Most women get genital herpes through sexual contactwith a person who has herpes sores. You can get thevirus without having sex. To avoid infection:
- Avoid skin-to-skin and sexual contact.
- Have safer sex:
- Reduce the number of sexual partners.
- Condoms, when used correctly, can reduce therisk of getting genital herpes. Each time you have sexuse a condom :
- Before vaginal sex
- Before oral sex
For more information, see Safer Sex.
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How Does Genital Herpes Spread
Herpes can be spread when an infected person has lesions blisters and open sores on their body or when you do not have any symptoms. Taking antiviral medicine can help you reduce the risk of spreading genital herpes to your sexual partners. You can also:
- Inform your sexual partner that you have genital herpes.
- Use a condom every time you have sex.
- Refrain from having sex when you have symptoms.
- Abstain from performing oral sex if you have blisters or open sores around your mouth.
What If I Am Pregnant
It is important to tell your obstetrician that you or a partner have had genital herpes, so that they can monitor you for symptoms and manage your pregnancy safely. There is a risk you can pass the virus on to your baby if you have a vaginal delivery during a first attack of genital herpes. If this happens you may be recommended to have a caesarean delivery.
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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.
Help Fight the Stigma of Herpes
How Painful Is Herpes Simplex
Some people experience very mild genital herpes symptoms or no symptoms at all. Frequently, people infected with the virus don’t even know they have it. However, when it causes symptoms, it can be described as extremely painful. This is especially true for the first outbreak, which is often the worst. Outbreaks are described as aches or pains in or around the genital area or burning, pain, or difficulty urinating. Some people experience discharge from the or .
Oral herpes lesions usually cause tingling and burning just prior to the breakout of the blisters. The blisters themselves can also be painful.
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What Should I Do If I Have Genital Herpes
If you have genital herpes:
- See a doctor or nurse as soon as possible for testing and treatment.
- Take all of the medicine. Even if symptoms go away, you need to finish all of the antiviral medicine.
- Tell your sex partner so they can be tested and treated if necessary.
- Avoid any sexual contact while you are being treated for genital herpes or while you have an outbreak.
- Remember that genital herpes is a lifelong disease. Even though you may not have a genital herpes outbreak for long periods of time, you can still pass the virus to another person at any time. Talk with your doctor or nurse about how to prevent passing the virus to another person.
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.
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