Dont Forget Your Mental Health
Living and dating with herpes can come with unique stressors. Arming yourself with the right tools and information can help both your physical and mental health Ã¢ and help you feel better about your sex life.
Learning how to cope with your diagnosis can also mean seeking mental health support. The good news is, that support is available.
In Toronto and Vancouver, there are:
If youÃ¢re struggling with your mental health, itÃ¢s important that you talk to your healthcare provider. You can also speak to a counsellor about your herpes diagnosis at the Ontario Sexual Health Infoline at 1-800-668-2437.
If youÃ¢re ever in an emergency, call 911 right away.
Whos Likely To Get Cold Sores
Pretty much everyone can catch cold soresand then experience recurring cold soresregardless of underlying conditions or medical history. 7 In fact, most adults are carriers of the herpes simplex virus, even if theyre never experienced an outbreak of symptoms. 8
When it comes to cold sore complications, however, those with a weakened immune system are at a higher risk. If you have HIV/AIDS, atopic dermatitis, have undergone cancer chemotherapy, or take anti-rejection drugs for an organ transplant, you may be part of this group. 9 Complications from cold sores can include eye infections, the herpes whitlow infection of the fingers, and widespread cold sore infections in other areas of the bodies. 10 If you have reason to believe that youre experiencing one of these complications due to cold sores and a weakened immune system, talk to your doctor right away.
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 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.
Colds Fever And Immunity Busters
Getting another illness like the common cold can bring on herpes outbreaks because your immune system is busy fighting the new thing.
A fever is popularly known to cause HSV-1 outbreaks, or cold sores, giving them the name fever blisters.
Those with compromised or taxed immune systems will have more frequent herpes outbreaks. After all, thats the reason things like UV light, which affects immunity, and fighting off other illnesses are outbreak triggers at all.
An immune system compromised by receiving chemotherapy can lead to more outbreaks, as can an immune system weakened by HIV.
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How Is Genital Herpes Spread
If you do not have herpes, you can get infected if you come into contact with the herpes virus in:
- Saliva or genital secretions
- Skin in the oral area if your partner has an oral herpes infection, or skin in the genital area if your partner has a genital herpes infection.
You can get herpes from a sex partner who does not have a visible sore or who may not know he or she is infected. It is also possible to get genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a sex partner who has oral herpes.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, or swimming pools, or from touching objects around you such as silverware, soap, or towels. If you have additional questions about how herpes is spread, consider discussing your concerns with a healthcare provider.
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How Is Herpes Simplex Diagnosed
Healthcare providers may diagnose herpes simplex based on how the sores look. Your provider may take a sample from the sore. Laboratory analysis of the sample can confirm or rule out the herpes virus.
If you dont have sores, your healthcare provider can use a blood test to check for HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibody, a marker showing youve been exposed to the virus. The blood test doesnt show an active infection . But it informs your provider whether youve been exposed to the herpes virus in the past. If this is your first infection, you may not test positive for herpes if there hasnt been enough time for your body to develop antibodies. The HSV-1and HSV-2 antibody test may be repeated in eight to 12 weeks.
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Sex And Physical Irritation
Friction from intercourse can irritate tissue and trigger a herpes outbreak.
Obviously, that doesnt mean to avoid having sex forever or that youll break out if you do.
But it does mean if youre having early warning signs that an outbreak is coming on, like sensitivity or tingling, then wait for them to pass.
They may be prodrome symptoms that signal contagiousness and an impending outbreak. And making them worse might encourage the outbreak to happen.
So since sex can sometimes trigger outbreaks, just be careful to minimize irritation. Try using a water-based lubricant. However, lubricants that contain the spermicide nonoxynol-9 can irritate soft tissue of the vaginal walls.
Other physical irritations can cause herpes outbreaks:
Can I Get Tested For Genital Herpes
Yes, if you think you have symptoms of genital herpes or have been at risk of infection, you should speak to a healthcare worker.
There are different tests available. If you have symptoms, the most common test is to take a swab from a blister. The fluid can be tested for the herpes simplex virus.Some places may also offer blood tests to check for antibodies to the virus, but these are often not routinely available, so ask a healthcare worker if youre unsure.
If you have genital herpes you should be tested for other STIs.
Its also advised that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated. Many people who have genital herpes do not notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on.
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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
Some Good News About Recurring Cold Sores
While recurring cold sores may be inevitable, there is a silver lining. The first time you experience a cold sore outbreak tends to be the worst, causing the most severe symptoms like headaches, swollen lymph nodes, and cold sore eruptions both around the lips and in the mouth. 11 Recurring outbreaks of cold sores are often less serious, with the only symptoms being cold sores around the lips. 12 So while its likely that youll get cold sore eruptions in the same spot every time, theres a good chance that the symptoms themselves will be less severe.
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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.
How Do You Get Herpes
Whether a person is experiencing an outbreak or not, they have the ability to spread herpes to others.
HereÃ¢s the thing: once you contract herpes, the virus sticks around in your body for life.
Most of the time, it will lay dominant in your system, but it may occasionally cause flare ups or outbreaks .
In the case of oral herpes, the virus is spread by skin-to-skin contact from someone who already has the virus. Some of the most common methods of transmission include:
Ã¢ Sharing cutlery or cups
Ã¢ Sharing lip balm
Ã¢ Performing oral sex
As for genital herpes, this is only spread by having sexual intercourse with an infected person . Genital herpes tends to be most infectious when sores are beginning to develop right through to when scabs go away, but you can still contract the virus even if your infected partner is asymptomatic.
There Are 2 Herpes Simplex Viruses That Can Cause Infection
- One causes most genital herpes.
- The other virus can also cause genital herpes but more often causes blisters of the mouth and lips.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 1 out of 6 people ages 14 to 49have genital herpes.
Women are more easily infected with herpes than men.
Talk To Your Doctor About Antiviral Medications
There are two brands of antiviral medications available to treat herpes. Either can be used to take daily as a suppressive therapy or episodically when there is an outbreak. Discuss with your doctor how often you are experiencing outbreaks and your symptoms. Together you can decide which, if any, medication is best for you.
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Herpes Outbreak Triggers: Takeaways
- Stress that is long-term, or stress accompanied by poor coping habits, can cause outbreak recurrences.
- Sun can bring about cold sores, so sun protection can help.
- The friction of sex can exacerbate herpes. Be wary if prodrome signs are present.
- Menstruation correlates with slightly higher rates of prodrome symptoms, but not necessarily outbreaks with sores.
Herpesyl is a 100% natural blend that targets and eliminates herpes virus in the body.
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.
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What Questions Should I Ask My Doctor
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- What is the best treatment for me?
- What happens if I dont treat a cold sore?
- What are the side effects of antiviral medications?
- How can I reduce the risk of future outbreaks?
- Whats the best way to prevent getting another STI?
- How can I protect my partner from getting genital herpes?
- Should I lookout for signs of complications?
How Common Is Genital Herpes
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 40 million to 50 million adults in the United States have genital herpes. HSV II infection is more common in women and in people who have had more than five sexual partners. Most people with HSV II do not know they have it, because it does not always cause symptoms.
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It Is Only A Taboo Because No One Will Talk About It
Things stop being taboo when we stop staying silent about them. We need to normalize herpes, and Dr. Loanzonâs book aims to do that by sharing her experience and journey. She has already heard from many readers who see themselves in her story: âWeâre all having the same experience, yet nobody is talking about it. One of my girlfriends who is a plastic surgeon just told me, âSeveral years ago, breast cancer was a taboo thing, and now everybody knows someone who has breast cancer.â Iâd really like to move into that commonplace topic.â
Is It Safe To Breastfeed If I Have Genital Herpes
Yes as long as there isnt an open lesion on your chest or breast. If you have an active outbreak while breastfeeding, its possible to spread the infection to your nipples through touch. Careful hand-washing can prevent this spread. You shouldnt nurse from a breast that has herpes sores. You can pump breast milk until the sores heal. Dont give your baby expressed breast milk if the pump comes into contact with an open sore.
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How Long Do Sores From Herpes Simplex Last
If youre infected with HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes, you may notice tingling or burning around your mouth in the days before a cold sore appears. These blisters break open and ooze fluid before forming a crust. Usually, sores last for seven to 10 days.
If youre infected with HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes, your first outbreak may last between two to four weeks. Recurrent outbreaks usually last between three to seven days.
Who Might Get Herpes Simplex
People of any age can contract herpes simplex. You are more likely to get the virus if you:
- Were assigned female at birth.
- Have had multiple sex partners.
- Started having sex at a young age.
- Have a history of any sexually transmitted infection .
- Have a weakened immune system.
- Dont use condoms for intercourse and dental dams for oral sex.
Who gets HSV-1, commonly known as oral herpes?
Anyone can get HSV-1. Most people contract HSV-1 during childhood. It spreads when an adult who has the virus has close contact with a child, such as when a family member kisses a child.
Who gets HSV-2, commonly known as genital herpes?
Genital herpes affects sexually active teens and adults of all genders and races. It can spread if you have multiple sexual partners and dont use condoms or dental dams.
People assigned female at birth are more at risk. Delicate vaginal tissue can tear, making it easier for the infection to get in. Black people who were AFAB are especially vulnerable, with an estimated 1 in 2 people AFAB between the ages of 14 and 49 infected with HSV-2.
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Scheduling Appointments For Herpes Treatment And Genital Herpes Hsv
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How To Keep A Flare
Antiviral medication is the best way to manage a flare-up. Another key step is to know your triggers. Many people find certain things cause reactivation, including food, stress, clothes, sunlight, and certain medications.
Other strategies for managing flare-ups include:
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Eating a well-balanced, whole-foods diet
- Getting regular exercise
- Using warm water to ease discomfort
- Using a separate towel for genitals and washing after each use
- Wearing loose, cotton undergarments
- Avoiding touching blisters or sores
Also, avoid putting ointments and creams on the sores. These prevent air from reaching the sores and slow healing.
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Tips To Prevent Herpes Outbreaks
Upgrading your habits to healthier ones can prevent herpes recurrences. Based on the studies and factors above, here are some tips:
Get Restful Sleep
Get good sleep. Itll impact every aspect of your life, your focus, your health, and your emotions. Not only should you get plenty of sleep, but make sure to allow yourself relaxation time.
Do a Food Makeover
Switch out processed foods and fast food for whole ones. Get plenty of veggies, lean meats, and healthy fats. Wholesome meals can be easy to prepare at home.
Similarly, foods high in lysine may help to counter the replication of the herpes virus. High-lysine foods include fish, cheese, and yogurt. For more about lysine and arginine, you can get our complete food charts here. You can also try lysine supplements if theyre right for you.
Speaking of supplements, there are several that are popular for preventing outbreaks. While studies backing them are usually limited in their scope, and they arent evaluated by the FDA, some studies do look promising.
Heres a complete herpes supplement guide.
The stress studies we went over earlier suggest that not just any stress, but long-term stress, coping problems, or neuroticism could exacerbate and trigger herpes outbreaks.
How Can Herpes Be Prevented
Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of transmitting or acquiring genital herpes because herpes virus shedding can occur in areas that are not covered by a condom.25,26
The surest way to avoid transmission of STDs, including genital herpes, is to abstain from sexual contact, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for STDs and is known to be uninfected.
Persons with herpes should abstain from sexual activity with partners when herpes lesions or other symptoms of herpes are present. It is important to know that even if a person does not have any symptoms, he or she can still infect sex partners. Sex partners of infected persons should be advised that they may become infected and they should use condoms to reduce the risk. Sex partners can seek testing to determine if they are infected with HSV.
Daily treatment with valacyclovir decreases the rate of HSV-2 transmission in discordant, heterosexual couples in which the source partner has a history of genital HSV-2 infection. 27 Such couples should be encouraged to consider suppressive antiviral therapy as part of a strategy to prevent transmission, in addition to consistent condom use and avoidance of sexual activity during recurrences.
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