Stigma Of Cold Sores Vs Genital Herpes
If you have recently developed genital herpes, and are dealing with a partner who is upset because they think you have cheated on them when you havent, you should talk. It may be a good idea to ask whether they have ever had a cold sore. If so, they could be the source of your genital herpes infection.
Even if they have never had a cold sore, if they are asymptomatically infected with oral herpes they may have put you at risk. Herpes and other STDs can be transmitted even by someone who has never had symptoms. That is why conversations about blame are pointless unless both of you were tested before starting your relationshipand even then it can be counterproductive.
There is an unfortunate stigma about genital herpes infection that is not usually present for cold sores, even though the infections are extremely similar. In part, this is because many people get cold sores starting in their early childhood. The virus is often transmitted by casual affection from a parent or relative.
However, when the same infection becomes associated with sex, people suddenly want to judge it more harshly. It doesnt matter how illogical that may be.
Ignorance of the similarities between the two primary herpes viruses is a big problem. It means that even those people who have cold sores often stigmatize people with genital herpes and freak out over a partners genital herpes infection when they have no concerns about their own oral infection.
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How Long Until After An Outbreak Are You No Longer Contagious
Technically, youre safe as long as your skin is totally healed and youre no longer experiencing pain or tingles. This is when your risk for infecting is low. But youre still contagious as random asymptomatic viral shedding can occur. Wait a week to have sex with a non-infected partner to be safe.
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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Treatment For Genital Herpes
Specific antiviral therapy is available which can decrease the severity of initial genital herpes infection, decrease the severity of recurrences and if taken continuously, reduce the likelihood of recurrences.
For severe infections, salt baths or ice packs may reduce discomfort. Iodine-containing antiseptics such as Betadine will dry out the blisters and may help prevent secondary infection.
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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How Common Is Genital Herpes
Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. CDC estimated that there were 572,000 new genital herpes infections in the United States in a single year.1 Nationwide, 11.9 % of persons aged 14 to 49 years have HSV-2 infection .2 However, the prevalence of genital herpes infection is higher than that because an increasing number of genital herpes infections are caused by HSV-1. 3 Oral HSV-1 infection is typically acquired in childhood because the prevalence of oral HSV-1 infection has declined in recent decades, people may have become more susceptible to contracting a genital herpes infection from HSV-1. 4
HSV-2 infection is more common among women than among men the percentages of those infected during 2015-2016 were 15.9% versus 8.2% respectively, among 14 to 49 year olds. 2 This is possibly because genital infection is more easily transmitted from men to women than from women to men during penile-vaginal sex. 5 HSV-2 infection is more common among non-Hispanic blacks than among non-Hispanic whites . 2 A previous analysis found that these disparities, exist even among persons with similar numbers of lifetime sexual partners. Most infected persons may be unaware of their infection in the United States, an estimated 87.4% of 14 to 49 year olds infected with HSV-2 have never received a clinical diagnosis. 6
The age-adjusted percentage of persons in the United States infected with HSV-2 decreased from 18.0% in 19992000 to 12.1% in 2015-2016. 2
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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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.
Is There Any Resistance To Genital Herpes Medication
Resistance to drugs that treat genital herpes even after 20 years of use is very rare. Herpes medications may not work as well in patients who are very immunosuppressed and have been treated with these drugs for a long time. Each individuals response to treatment may vary. In some cases, patients may need more drugs to suppress their viral outbreaks than others.
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Can Genital Herpes Come Back
Yes. Genital herpes symptoms can come and go, but the virus stays inside your body even after all signs of the infection have gone away. The virus becomes active from time to time, leading to an outbreak. Some people have outbreaks only once or twice. Other people may have four or five outbreaks within a year. Over time, the outbreaks usually happen less often and are less severe.
Experts do not know what causes the virus to become active. Some women say the virus comes back when they are sick, under stress, out in the sun, or during their period.
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Why Its Important To Tell Your Partner
Herpes viruses are extremely contagious. And its not just the risk of spreading a cold sore that you should be worried about.
This is because herpes can spread from the mouth to the genitals or from the genitals to the mouth. Skin-to-skin contact is all that is needed.
Having an open sore also increases your risk of an STI by providing the virus or bacteria a direct route into the body. Herpes can actually promote HIV infection by attracting the immune cells the HIV virus targets and infects.
To this end, it is just as important to discuss both of your sexual histories and not just herpes. As awkward as this may seem, it allows you both to explore whether its time to get STI testing from your healthcare provider or local health clinic.
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Can Genital Herpes Be Prevented
It is safest to:
- always use condoms and dental dams, even when there are no sores or blisters present
- avoid sex when there are sores or blisters present you are most infectious at this time
- avoid sex with someone who has any blisters, sores or other symptoms of genital herpes
- avoid oral sex when there is any sign of a cold sore
Remember: The Stigma Is Out Of Proportion
The stigma surrounding genital herpes is far more intense than the infection deserves. Genital herpes has been around for millennia, and HSV-2 is the most common STI in the United States. In fact, according to the WHO, genital herpes affects over 400 million people worldwide.
The genital herpes stigma prevails largely because people dont understand it. Many assume they can catch genital herpes from a toilet seat or other common surfaces. They arent educated about how HSV-2 spreads or affects the body. Others dont know that genital herpes remains dormant for months or years at a time, allowing those infected with the herpes virus to live completely normal lives.
Overall, genital herpes can be a highly manageable condition, with few physical side effects and no fatalities to date. In fact, you may not even notice the virus at all if your outbreaks are infrequent or mild. Some people find that they dont experience symptoms until years after their first outbreak!
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Valacyclovir For First Herpes Outbreaks
For first-time herpes outbreaks, valacyclovir is most effective when its used within 48 hours of symptoms appearing.
The standard dosage of valacyclovir for first-time herpes outbreaks is 1,000 mg two times per day over a period of 10 days. Valacyclovir usually starts treating herpes symptoms as soon as its in your system, but can take several days to produce a noticeable improvement.
It can take up to 10 days for herpes blisters to heal even with valacyclovir treatment. This makes it important to start treatment as soon as you notice herpes symptoms.
In some cases, your doctor might prescribe valacyclovir for a longer period than 10 days or at a different dosage. In this case, follow your doctors instructions and make sure you complete the full course of the medication, even if the herpes blisters heal before the end of the period.
Could I Have Genital Herpes And Not Know
Unless no one has ever kissed you, and unless youve never had sex, it is possible that youve picked up a herpes virus.
Oral herpes, usually caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 , shows up as cold sores or fever blisters on the mouth. Even a casual peck on the lips from someone with a cold sore can give you the virus. Thats why its so common: As many as 50% to 80% of adults in the U.S. have oral herpes.
Genital herpes, most often caused by the second type of herpes virus , is less common, but plenty of people still have it. Roughly one in five U.S. adults has genital herpes. But up to 90% of those who have it dont know they are infected. You could be one of them.
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Symptomatic Versus Asymptomatic Herpes Transmission
This table summarizes the chance of transmission of herpes when a person is symptomatic and when he or she is asymptomatic .
The table presents information about the overall chance of getting a herpes infection over time, with multiple contacts. Please notice that infected people pass the infection regardless of whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic.
The percentages mentioned bellow are general estimates and may vary from person to person based on immune system strength , skin condition , and race .
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Why Should You Be Concerned About Genital Herpes Transmission
Sexually active people ought to understand how infectious genital herpes is.
First, once youre infected, the virus stays inside your body for life. So youll become its eternal host.
Most of the time the virus will remain dormant and just hang around inside your system without posing any threat. However, there are several periods within a year that the virus will reactivate, cause unpleasant symptoms, and become highly contagious.
Second, if genital herpes infection is not diagnosed, there is a strong chance of escalating to minor and major complications.
You may experience inflammation in other areas of your body. Likewise, you could develop other medical conditions such as meningitis and encephalitis.
Third, the mere fact that youre harboring the genital herpes virus will make you exponentially unattractive to any potential partner.
Its a huge turn off primarily if you have unknowingly transmitted genital herpes infection. Hence, getting tested might just save your love life. Those who are completely aware of their condition are prescribed medications and management plans that minimize transmission of the virus.
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What Percentage Of The Population Has Herpes
What percentage of the population has herpes? More than 3.7 billion people under the age of 50 about 67 percent of the global population are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1 , according to a new report from the World Health Organization.
- HSV-2 infection is more common in women than in men (almost 1 out of 9.
- HSV-2 infection is also more common in blacks than in whites
- Genital herpes is common in the United States. More than one out of every six people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes.
How Is Genital Herpes Diagnosed
HSV nucleic acid amplification tests are the most sensitive and highly specific tests available for diagnosing herpes. However, in some settings viral culture is the only test available. The sensitivity of viral culture can be low, especially among people who have recurrent or healing lesions. Because viral shedding is intermittent, it is possible for someone to have a genital herpes infection even though it was not detected by NAAT or culture. 11
Type-specific virologic tests can be used for diagnosing genital herpes when a person has recurrent symptoms or lesion without a confirmatory NAAT, culture result, or has a partner with genital herpes. Both virologic tests and type-specific serologic tests should be available in clinical settings serving patients with, or at risk for, sexually transmitted infections. 11
Given performance limitations with commercially available type-specific serologic tests , a confirmatory test with a second method should be performed before test interpretation. If confirmatory tests are unavailable, patients should be counseled about the limitations of available testing before serologic testing. Healthcare providers should also be aware that false-positive results occur. In instances of suspected recent acquisition, serologic testing within 12 weeks after acquisition may be associated with false negative test results. 11
Providers are strongly encouraged to look at CDCs STI Treatment Guidelines for further diagnostic considerations.
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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.
Causes And Risk Factors Of Genital Herpes
Two types of viruses cause genital herpes herpes simplex type 1 and herpes simplex type 2 .
Usually, HSV-1 causes oral herpes, which becomes visible in the form of cold sores, or fever blisters, on the face, close to the mouth. Most people contract an oral herpes infection during their childhood or young adult years from nonsexual contact with the saliva of an infected person.
HSV-1 mainly spreads through direct contact with cold sores or saliva. Having oral herpes, or cold sores, does not mean that you have genital herpes. But if you have oral herpes, you can spread it from your mouth to another persons genitals if you perform oral sex on them.
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What Should I Know If I Am Pregnant And I Have Genital Herpes
Its normal to be concerned about the health of your baby when you have any type of STI. HSV can be transmitted to your baby if you have an active outbreak during a vaginal delivery.
Its important to tell your doctor that you have genital herpes as soon as you know youre pregnant.
Your doctor will discuss what to expect before, during, and after you deliver your baby. They can prescribe pregnancy-safe treatments to ensure a healthy delivery. They may also opt to deliver your baby via cesarean.
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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