Can I Still Have Sex If I Have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should talk to your sex partner about their risk. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely. Having sores or other symptoms of herpes can increase your risk of spreading the disease. Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partners.
You may have concerns about how genital herpes will impact your health, sex life, and relationships. While herpes is not curable, it is important to know that it is manageable with medicine. Daily suppressive therapy can lower your risk of spreading the virus to others. Talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns and treatment options.
A genital herpes diagnosis may affect how you will feel about current or future sexual relationships. Knowing how to talk to sexual partners about STDs is important.
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.
Can You Spread Herpes Without An Outbreak
Yes. It is possible for a person to spread herpes without an outbreak. As long as the person has a herpes infection, they can spread it even if an outbreak has never occurred.
Fortunately, many people who have a herpes infection never have an outbreak. If an outbreak does occur, visible symptoms such as sores and blisters will show up in the affected area. These symptoms may become visible about two and a half weeks after exposure.
When a person has an initial outbreak, they may experience symptoms such as painful urination and muscle and joint pain.
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How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Herpes Simplex
You can reduce your risk of contracting HSV-1 by avoiding physical contact with someone who has a cold sore. People can still spread HSV-1 when cold sores arent present, but its less likely.
If someone has an active HSV-1 infection, avoid:
- Sharing utensils, cups, lip balms or other personal care products.
- Touching the skin near their mouth.
If youre sexually active, you can take these steps to protect yourself and others from the herpes virus and other STIs:
- Be monogamous with one sexual partner or limit your number of partners.
- Get tested for STIs and complete any prescribed treatment.
- Tell your sexual partners if you have genital herpes so they can get tested.
- Use condoms during intercourse and dental dams during oral sex.
Wash your hands often if you have an outbreak or are around someone with symptoms.
If your sexual partner has genital herpes, these actions can lower your risk of getting the virus:
- Dont have sex when your partner has active symptoms. Condoms may not cover all sores, so you may still get the virus.
- Make sure your partner takes antiviral medication as prescribed.
- Wait to have sex until scabs fall off active lesions.
Does A Cold Sore On My Mouth Mean I Have Genital Herpes
No, a cold sore on your mouth usually means you have herpes simplex virus type 1 . You can get HSV-1 by kissing someone or sharing utensils, towels, razors, or lipstick with someone who has HSV-1.
HSV-1 cannot turn into HSV-2 , but you can get a cold sore on your mouth from HSV-2 if you give oral sex to someone with HSV-2. Cold sores caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2 are contagious. You can spread it to other people or other parts of your body if you touch an open sore and then touch another part of your body. That means if you have a cold sore and give oral sex to someone, that person will get the herpes virus on his or her genitals.
Avoid touching your cold sore as much as possible. If you touch your cold sore, wash your hands right away to avoid spreading the infection to other parts of your body or other people.
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Should You Get Tested
Its a good idea for the partners of people with genital herpes to have a blood test for herpes antibodies. This can help them to decide whether to use antiviral medication as protection, for example. Both partners may already have the same virus type. Then theres no reason to take medication to protect each other.
If one of the partners has HSV-1 or cold sores and the other one has HSV-2 or genital herpes, they could infect one another with the other virus. If one partner has herpes viruses in their body and the other doesnt, condoms are one way to prevent infection.
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.
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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.
My Partner Doesnt Have Genital Herpes So How Can I Have Caught It
Your partner could be one of the two out of three people with herpes simplex who have it so mildly they do not realise. So they could have sex when the virus is active. Mild symptoms can appear as a pimple, a little cut or an itchy bit of skin and yet these are very infectious. When people with these mild symptoms learn to recognise them, then they can avoid sex at these times. Another possibility is that your partner does not have herpes simplex and you caught it from a previous partner. It is possible to have a first outbreak many years after first catchin it.
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How Big Is The Risk Of Infection
The likelihood of being infected with genital herpes during sex depends on many factors, including how often you have sex, whether and how frequently you use condoms, and how long your partner has already been infected. Someone who has had the virus for a long time is less contagious than someone who has just been infected. In general, women have a higher risk of becoming infected than men. Having other sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV also increases the risk of transmission.
In studies with couples where one partner had genital herpes, the other partner became infected within one year in 5 to 10% of the couples. The people in these studies only rarely used condoms, though and if they did, it was mostly during an outbreak. One of these studies showed that infection occurred in an estimated 1 out of 1,000 sexual acts.
Is There A Cure For Herpes Simplex
There is no cure for herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, its a lifelong infection.
What is the outlook for people with herpes simplex?
For many people, the first herpes outbreak is the most severe. Many outbreaks are less frequent and milder after the first year of infection. Some people may have only one outbreak and never have another again.
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What Is Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex is a virus that causes skin infections. The infection lasts your lifetime, and it causes painful or itchy sores and blisters that come and go. Herpes simplex virus typically doesnt cause severe problems. But it can be dangerous in infants and people with weakened immune systems. There are two types of herpes simplex:
- Herpes simplex 1 tends to affect your mouth or face. It causes cold sores. HSV-1 spreads through contact with saliva .
- Herpes simplex 2 is a sexually transmitted disease . It causes sores on skin that comes in contact with the genitals of an infected person.
Sometimes a herpes infection can affect other parts of your body, such as your eyes or other parts of your skin.
What Is Asymptomatic Shedding
Asymptomatic shedding occurs when the herpes virus is present on the skin but no visible symptoms develop. The virus sheds” from the skin and can be spread to others. This is different from symptomatic shedding, which occurs when someone infected with the herpes simplex virus experiences genital sores, blisters, or other obvious symptoms during a herpes outbreak.
The herpes virus is contagious in both situations, but its virtually undetectable during asymptomatic shedding.
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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.
How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
Often, your doctor can diagnose genital herpes by looking at visible sores. Your doctor or nurse may also use a cotton swab to take a fluid sample from a sore to test in a lab.
Genital herpes can be hard to diagnose, especially between outbreaks. Blood tests that look for antibodies to the herpes virus can help diagnose herpes in women without symptoms or between outbreaks.
A Pap test is not used to detect genital herpes.
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What’s Involved In Herpes Testing
If there are blisters or sores, a healthcare provider may gently swab the area to take a fluid sample and test it. If there are no sores, but you are concerned you may have been exposed, a blood test may done. Herpes tests are not normally recommended unless you have symptoms.
Who Response To Herpes
As well as increasing awareness about HSV infection and its symptoms, improved access to antiviral medications and heightened HIV prevention efforts for those with genital HSV symptoms are needed globally.
In addition, development of better treatment and prevention interventions is needed, particularly HSV vaccines. WHO and partners are working to accelerate research to develop new strategies for prevention and control of genital and neonatal HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections. Such research includes the development of HSV vaccines and topical microbicides. Several candidate vaccines and microbicides are currently being studied.
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Could I Pass Herpes Simplex To A Partner If I Have No Symptoms
This sometimes happens but is not likely. When the virus is inactive inside the nerve cells it cannot be caught by a partner. If there is virus on the skin surface where you get your symptoms, it may be passed on.
Before the outbreak begins, there may be a tingly or itchy feeling at the place where this will happen. This means that diagnosed people are less likely to pass it on when there is nothing to see on the skin, because they are usually more aware of these prodromes , whereas undiagnosed people often ignore highly infectious and obvious symptoms, because they do not know what they are. This is not asymptomatic as you can feel something and you should not have sex at this time.
Asymptomatic shedding means without sensation and a scientific test can virus on the skin when the person feels nothing. This applies to type 2. Type 1 doesnt like the genital region and is less likely to recur and to shed asymptomatically. This happens only in some people, mostly in the first six months. After a year or two, if a person is not having many outbreaks, they will rarely have virus on the skin without symptoms.
How Do You Treat Herpes
Theres no cure for herpes, but prescription medications can ease symptoms, end outbreaks sooner, and lower the chances of passing the virus to other people.
You can also help ease the pain caused by herpes outbreaks by taking a warm bath, wearing loose clothing and putting an ice pack on the sores.
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Is Genital Herpes Caught From A Cold Sore
If a person with a cold sore on the mouth does oral sex he or she can give his/her partner cold sores on the genitals which is genital herpes. Also, cold sores on the face may be caught from someone with genital herpes through oral sex.
Only the face of a person with cold sores is infectious so they can have sex, but should not kiss or do oral sex when they have a cold sore. See the description of the two types.
You will find Herpes Simplex the Guide booklet useful too.
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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How Is Herpes Simplex Caught And Passed On
The facts about passing on/transmitting herpes are clear:
Herpes is passed directly from the affected area of skin , by direct skin to skin contact, with friction, when the virus is present.
It can be passed from the face of one person to the genitals of another through oral sex, when the virus is active.
You can pass it on from the affected area, when the virus is present on the skin surface: from the first warning signs that a recurrence is starting , through the time when there are sores or blisters, until they have healed and fresh skin has grown back.
Get this two-page summary which covers the basics.
About six in ten adults by age 25 carry herpes simplex virus type 1 and one in ten carries type 2. Even more people carry herpes simplex virus in older age groups but most dont know. Only around one in three of those infected with either type is aware of this.
Herpes May Be More Common Than You Think
The World Health Organization estimates that globally, 3.7 billion people younger than 50 have oral herpes and 417 million people aged 15-49 have genital herpes.
Dr. Maya Benitez says there has always been a stigma surrounding sexually transmitted diseases, especially herpes.
Stigma aside, it’s stressful to be diagnosed with something with no cure and no direct definitive treatment. And anxiety and stress can trigger outbreaks, says Dr. Benitez.
“It is important for people to learn about the disease and understand it, so that if diagnosed, people will know how to live with it,” she says.
“The likelihood of contracting herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from sharing objects such as silverware, soap, or towels is low, but it is possible”
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