Treatment If The Blisters Come Back
Go to a GP or sexual health clinic if you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and need treatment for an outbreak.
Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by 1 or 2 days if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.
But outbreaks usually settle by themselves, so you may not need treatment.
Recurrent outbreaks are usually milder than the first episode of genital herpes.
Over time, outbreaks tend to happen less often and be less severe. Some people never have outbreaks.
Some people who have more than 6 outbreaks in a year may benefit from taking antiviral medicine for 6 to 12 months.
If you still have outbreaks of genital herpes during this time, you may be referred to a specialist.
What Effects Does Herpes Have During Pregnancy
ItÃ¢s really important to speak to a healthcare worker if you have herpes during pregnancy, especially if itâs your first outbreak. If you have herpes thereâs a risk that your baby can develop Ã¢neonatal herpesÃ¢. This can be very dangerous or even fatal for your baby. Your healthcare provider will be able to prescribe antiviral treatment to keep your baby safe and help you have a healthy pregnancy.
Speak to a healthcare worker for more information or if you have any concerns.
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Can You Reinfect Yourself With Herpes
Although it is rare, sometimes you can reinfect yourself in another place on your body. If you scratch or rub active herpesblisters or ulcers and then touch another location on your body, you may spread the virus. Areas that are most often infected are the eyes, mouth, the genital area, and any area of broken skin.
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How To Check If You Have Asymptomatic Herpes
If you have no herpes symptoms but believe you might have been exposed to the virus, you can take a herpes test to verify whether or not youre infected.
The most accurate herpes testing method for asymptomatic people is an IgG test, which checks for the presence of IgG antibodies in your blood. These antibodies can signal a herpes infection using certain testing methods, they can also be used to differentiate between HSV-1 and HSV-2.
IgG antibodies can take several months to form after a herpes infection, meaning youll typically need to wait for 12 to 16 weeks before taking an IgG test to make sure you receive an accurate result.
If youre concerned that you might have asymptomatic herpes, the best approach is to speak to your doctor about testing options. Your doctor will be able to schedule a test based on the date of your potential exposure to the virus and provide you with an accurate diagnosis. If you discover you do have HSV-1 or HSV-2, the most important thing is to not panic. These viruses are extremely common, and there are a variety of anti-viral medications out there to help minimize the severity and requency of outbreaks. Most notably, vacyclovir.
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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What Happens If I Dont Receive Treatment
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another body part like your eyes. Do not touch the sores or fluids to avoid spreading herpes to another part of your body. If you do touch the sores or fluids, quickly wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading the infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your unborn fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? for information about this.
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Ingrown Hair Or Herpes
Razor burn is an uncomfortable skin irritation that happens after shaving causing bumps or blisters in the genital area. Sometimes the hair follicle is blocked, resulting ingrown hair confusing it with herpes.
Symptoms of genital herpes:
- A cluster of blister-like watery sores or lesions
- Bumps typically smaller than 2 millimeters
- Repeated outbreaks of these sores
- Yellow discharge if the sore ruptures
- Sores possibly tender to touch
The main difference between ingrown hair and genital herpes is that ingrown hair develops as isolated lesions or bumps. They dont grow in clusters or groups.
Symptoms of ingrown hair:
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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.
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Recognizing The Signs: The Prodrome
Early in the phase of reactivation , many people experience an itching, tingling, or painful feeling in the area where their recurrent lesions will develop. This sort of warning symptomcalled a prodromeoften comes a day or two before lesions appear. To be on the safe side, its best to assume virus is active during these times.
How Will My Doctor Know If I Have Herpes
Your healthcare provider may diagnose genital herpes by simply looking at your symptoms. Providers can also take a sample from the sore and test it. In certain situations, a blood test may be used to look for herpes antibodies. Have an honest and open talk with your health care provider and ask whether you should be tested for herpes or 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 how long you have been infected.
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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 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 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.
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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What Are The Risks Of Oral Herpes
Some of the important risk factors for oral herpes are: Contact with infected saliva. Kissing or other close physical contact with infected person. Cross-infection of type 1 and 2 viruses can occur from oral to genital contact.
Why do I get mouth herpes? Causes of Oral Herpes Oral herpesis spread most commonly from individuals with an active outbreak or sore. You can catch oral herpes by engaging in intimate or personal contact with someone who is infected. Is oral herpes always contagious? Most oral and genital herpes
Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic
You can see a GP, but they’ll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital herpes.
Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.
Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment.
They’ll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.
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Signs And Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Many people with genital herpes have mild symptoms or no herpes symptoms at all. In addition, people often mistake mild symptoms for another skin condition, such as a pimple or an ingrown hair.
You should be examined by your doctor if you notice possible herpes symptoms or if your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD. Look out for symptoms such as unusual sores, burning when urinating, or, for women, bleeding between periods.
Genital herpes sores sometimes cause severe pain and are more likely to do so in people with suppressed immune systems.
If you touch your sores or the fluids from the sores, you may transfer herpes to another part of your body, such as your eyes.
If you do touch the sores or fluids, immediately wash your hands well to help prevent the spread of your infection.
Some people have only one herpes outbreak. Others have many outbreaks. Repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first one. Although the infection stays in the body for life, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years.
Women most frequently experience blistering sores on these parts of the body:
How Is Genital Herpes Treated
There is no cure for the herpes simplex virus. The blisters usually heal and go by themselves, so you may not always need treatment. There is antiviral medicines for herpes, which can: shorten outbreaks, relieve discomfort and stop symptoms from getting worse.
The antiviral treatment is most effective when you take it within the first five days of symptoms appearing. Avoid touching the blisters as this can also increase the risk of spreading the infection. If your herpes treatment requires you to apply cream to a sore, just gently pat the cream on, being careful not to rub around the surrounding area.
You can ease your symptoms by:
- keeping the affected area clean using plain or salt water to prevent blisters or ulcers from becoming infected
- applying petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline, to any blisters or ulcers to reduce the pain when passing urine
- asking a healthcare provider to recommend painkilling creams
- avoiding tight clothing because it may irritate the blisters and ulcers.
Dont have sex until you or your partner have finished your treatment, and the blisters or ulcers have gone. If its your first outbreak, its sometimes advised that you check back with a healthcare provider before having sex again, to ensure that your symptoms have gone.
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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.
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
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How To Prevent Herpes
But most people have sex at some point in their lives, so knowing how to have safer sex is important. Using protection like condoms and dental dams when you have sex helps to lower your risk of getting an STD.
Herpes can live on areas of your body that arent protected by condoms , so condoms wont always protect you from herpes. But they do lower your chances of getting herpes.
Dont have sex with anyone during a herpes outbreak, because thats when it spreads most easily. But herpes can also spread when there are no sores or symptoms, so its important to use condoms and dental dams, even if everything looks and feels A-OK.
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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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