Why Do Genital Herpes Outbreaks Occur
Everyone reacts differently to infection with HSV-2 , the most common virus that causes genital herpes. Many people develop no symptoms at all.
Some men and women develop mild symptoms that go unnoticed for the most part. Others develop extremely painful outbreaks with numerous herpetic sores. There are some known triggers for genital herpes symptoms:
- Friction during sexual intercourse irritates the skin and exacerbates symptoms. Using water-based lubricants can help reduce skin irritation.
- Although it is known that sunlight and the common cold trigger oral herpes outbreaks, there is no evidence that they trigger outbreaks of genital herpes.
- Hormonal changes in women during the menstrual cycle can trigger an outbreak of genital herpes.
- People with weak immune systems and are more likely to suffer frequent herpes outbreaks.
- Herpes outbreaks are more common following illness, trauma, or surgery.
Remember, not everyone has the same triggers.
How Often Do Recurrent Herpes Outbreaks Occur
Frequency of recurrent outbreaks vary for different individuals. For some lucky few, the body will build up an antibody tolerance and the disease will become perpetually asymptomatic, never to have an episode again, while others will continue to experience repeated chronic outbreaks for months and years.
Statistically, approximately 80% of the infected individuals will suffer from a recurrent outbreak within the first 6 months of the first episode. On average, the number of recurrent outbreaks is 3 to 5 times a year depending on the general health of the patient.
Additionally, if the infection is herpes type-2, one is also 5 times more likely to experience a recurrent outbreak than a person who is infected with herpes type-1.
The good news is, over years, the frequency of outbreaks typically diminishes with time and the outbreaks become less severe. However, even if an outbreak has not occurred for a long period of time or a person become perpetually asymptomatic, the individual is still a carrier of the virus and may still be contagious to others.
How Is Herpes Transmitted
The source of herpes is not known. Many researchers believe that the virus is transmitted through sexual contact, and consider it a sexually transmitted disease. Herpes may be spread through contact with the blisters at any time that they are visible. Men may have blisters in their urethras, where they cannot be seen. They may be unaware of a mild attack and transmit the disease unwittingly.
Things that increase your risk of getting genital herpes include:
- Having more than one sex partner.
- Having a high-risk partner or partners .
- Having unprotected sexual contact .
- Starting sexual activity at a young age. The younger people are when they start having sex, the greater their risk is of getting genital herpes.
- Having a weakened immune system.
- Being a woman. Women are more likely than men to become infected when exposed to genital herpes. And their symptoms tend to be more severe and longer-lasting. Women also are at a greater risk of having complications from a genital herpes infection.
Having herpes, especially if you have open sores, also increases your risk for becoming infected with HIV if you are exposed to HIV.
Any child with genital herpes needs to be evaluated by a doctor to see if it is the result of sexual abuse. For more information, see the topic Child Abuse and Neglect.
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What Happens If Herpes Is Not Treated
Herpes can be painful, but it generally does not cause serious health problems like other STDs can.
Without treatment, you might continue to have regular outbreaks, or they could only happen rarely. Some people naturally stop getting outbreaks after a while. Herpes typically does not get worse over time.
What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes
Genital herpes infections are very common, but many people donât even know they have them. This is because many people donât have any physical symptoms from the herpes infectionâthat is, their infections are asymptomatic .
Symptoms of genital herpes differ for everyone, and many people may not have classic symptoms or any symptoms at all. Some people may suspect that their symptoms are caused by another type of infection .
Herpes symptoms, for those who experience them, are often unpleasant. The initial herpes outbreak can be shocking and the most severe outbreak.
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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.
Can I Be Treated To Prevent Genital Herpes Transmission To My Partner
Yes. A large study showed that if one partner has herpes and the other partner is uninfected, treating the infected partner with suppressive therapy can prevent transmission of symptomatic herpes in over 90% of cases. This is an option for couples who are interested in having unprotected sex or who are planning to become pregnant.
If you are entering into a new relationship and are aware that you have herpes simplex infection, you owe it to your partner to notify them before having sex.
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How Do You Get Herpes
There are two different herpes viruses: Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 and Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 .
While rare, a mother can pass genital herpes to the baby during vaginal childbirth.
Herpes is most easily transmitted when sores are open and wet, because fluid from herpes blisters easily spreads the virus. But herpes can also shed and be passed to others when there are no sores and the skin looks totally normal. Most people get herpes from someone who does not have any sores. When used consistently and correctly, condoms help protect against herpes and many other STDs.
What Are The Stages Of A Cold Sore
The herpes simplex virus type 1 emerges in five distinct phases that cause painful and unpleasant cold sore outbreaks.
These five stages transition through tingling, blistering, weeping, crusting, and healing:
Though theres no permanent cure for cold sores, its possible to expedite the recovery process and leave your skin looking smooth and attractive once again.
Rarely, leaving cold sores untreated, can lead to complications, especially in people with weak immune systems.
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Genital Herpes And Pregnancy
It is important to avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. A first episode during pregnancy can create a greater risk of transmission to a newborn.
Fortunately, it is rare for women with genital herpes to infect their babies. If you know that you have genital herpes before becoming pregnant, your physician will monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy. If you have an active outbreak at the time of delivery, a C-section may be recommended. Depending on individual diagnosis, though, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists endorses suppressive therapy to reduce the frequency of C-section.
If You Have Genital Herpes Already Can It Be Spread To Other Parts Of The Body Such As The Arms Or Legs
No. Genital herpes cannot be transmitted to another part of your body such as your arm, leg or hand after the first infection occurs. If you have genital HSV II, you will not get HSV II at another site in your body. The immune system produces antibodies that protect other parts of your body from infection. However, there are cases where a person has multiple site infections from the same virus. This is usually acquired at the time of the first infection. For example, if someone has never had herpes but then has oral and genital sex with an infected partner, they can acquire the infection at both sites.
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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.
How Can I Prevent Genital Herpes
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 needed treatment.
- Tell your sexual partners if you have genital herpes so they can get tested.
- Use condoms, including 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.
- Make sure your partner takes antiviral medication as prescribed.
- Wait to have sex until scabs fall off.
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Continuous Genital Herpes Outbreaks Dispite Surpressive Therapy
I contracted genital herpes from an assault 7 years ago. Ive always battled with the the occasional mild outbreak, usually around my period time. However, about two years agoI had a huge outbreak, bigger than my first. Since then Ive taken daily alciclovir, as perscribed by my doctors. However, the outbreaks have gotten more frequent. Around October time, I started getting them every two weeks, but since around Christmas, i have lesion, then that heals, then another appears, then that heals etc etc. Im really at my wits end. Can anyone offer advice?
2 likes, 102 replies
Posted 5 years ago
Ive had to tell multiple partners that i was infected with HSV. I was PETRIFIED. horribly. most important thing is to tell them before there is any sexual relations. Ive made the mistake of telling partners after i had already had relations with them and a few of them felt like i trapped them with this although none of them have it. The guy im currently with was one of the guys i told before we had any relations. He was very understanding about it because he knew the guy who gave it to me. He accepts me despite the fact that i have hsv and im 99% sure that its because i told him before anything happened. So, best advice i can give about telling someone is to tell them before there is any sexual contact maybe not the first thing you tell him but definitely before. Hope this helps!
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What Happens During An Outbreak
Genital herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. You catch it by having intimate contact with someone who has the virus.
In between episodes, most people dont know they have been infected by it. The virus remains in your nervous system and can be reactivated from time to time to give you symptoms. Outbreaks can occur in the genital area if the first infection was in the genitals. They cause crops of small painful blisters in the genital area and back passage . Herpes can also cause recurrent cold sores if the primary infection was around the mouth.
No one knows why outbreaks occur, although sunlight, physical illness, excess alcohol, and stress are all thought to be trigger factors. They often do become less frequent over time.
Recurrent episodes of genital herpes generally dont last as long as the first outbreak. They are sometimes preceded by itching or tingling in the genital area. Recurrent outbreaks usually last about 7-10 days, shorter than the primary infection which can last up to two weeks. They are also often milder than a primary infection but as R35506 found, the shallow ulcers left when the blisters break can still be quite painful.
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Sexuality In Midlife And Beyond
The physical transformations the body undergoes with age have a major influence on sexuality. This Special Health Report, Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond, will take you through the stages of sexual response and explain how aging affects each. Youll also learn how chronic illnesses, common medications, and emotional issues can influence your sexual capabilities. Finally, youll find a detailed discussion of various medical treatments, counseling, and self-help techniques to address the most common types of sexual problems.
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How To Treat An Hsv
Herpes outbreaks can range from a minor inconvenience to a major annoyance. Outbreaks of genital herpes can be particularly frustrating, as they can have a major effect on your personal relationship with your partner or partners.
Luckily, herpes is relatively easy to manage using modern medication. Most doctors recommend the use of antiviral medication like valacyclovir, which suppresses the herpes virus from multiplying within the body.
During an outbreak, this can prevent viral replication and speed up healing. Between outbreaks, the use of antiviral drugs can prevent viral shedding and reduce your risk of passing on herpes to other people through oral or sexual contact.
Want to learn more about treating herpes? Our comparison of valacyclovir, acyclovir, famciclovir and other herpes drugs explains how modern herpes medicine works, why its effective and how you can use it to minimize the negative effects of HSV-1 or HSV-2 outbreaks.
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.
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Initial Outbreaks Of Hsv
If youve been infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2, youll usually go through an initial outbreak. Your first herpes outbreak is also referred to as the primary outbreak, which usually happens one to two weeks after your virus exposure, and tends to be the most severe physical experience from the virus.
Not everyone with HSV-1 or HSV-2 will have an initial outbreak. Some people are completely asymptomatic, which means they can be infected with the virus without experiencing any real herpes symptoms.
During a first herpes outbreak, most people experience the physical effects of herpes , plus additional flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, sore throat and general body aches.
Herpes outbreaks usually start within several days of exposure. If youre worried that youre going through an initial outbreak of herpes, the best thing to do is check your symptoms and talk to your doctor about testing and treatment options.
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How Is Genital Herpes Transmitted
Genital herpes is spread through direct sexual contact of mucous membranes , herpes lesions and fluids, as well as through genital fluids and saliva .
Viral shedding occurs when someone is contagious and able to pass on the virus.
If herpes blisters are present, viral shedding will occur, making the person very contagious . If no blisters are present, this does not not mean that they are not contagious. Viral shedding can still happens in absence of active lesions, which means a person can still pass on the genital herpes virus to an unsuspecting partner .