What Does Genital Herpes Do To The Body
Herpes simplex virus involves a complex cycle of events. Herpes simplex viruses are considered latent infections, meaning they are a type of persistent, lifelong viral infection passed through sexual contact. The virus enters the body through the genital or oral mucosal tissues or sores of the skin, and then replicates. Following the incubation period, one or more lesions may appear. This is considered the primary infection.
While the blisters form, rupture, crust over, and finally disappear, the virus makes its way into a group of nerve cells near the spinal cord that supply the nerve fibers in the primary infected area. Viral DNA can remain dormant here until the body is stressed. When this happens, the virus reactivates, begins multiplying again, and travels through the nerve fibers back to the skin. This reaction causes eruptions of blisters in the same area of skin that was previously affected. This is referred to as a secondary infection. When that infection clears, the virus can become latent again, sometimes for months or years, and then the cycle starts all over.
The herpes virus can infect different parts of the body, including various organs and tissues. This is particularly true if the infected person has a compromised immune system.
The herpes simplex viruses can cause inflammation and infection in the following body systems:
Type Of Herpes And Where Its Located
Both HSV1 and HSV2 can infect a person orally and/or genitally, however, both infections will cause milder symptoms when they are outside of their preferred location. HSV1 prefers to infect above the waist, and HSV2 prefers to infect below the waist.
Experts estimate that around 30% of genital herpes infections are caused by HSV1, but only 2-5% of those infections cause recurring genital outbreaks. Therefore, most people infected with HSV1 genitally have very few, if any, genital herpes outbreaks. To further emphasize the difference in recurrence between a genital HSV2 infection and a genital HSV1 infection, one study showed that genital HSV2 causes physical symptoms 10 times more often than genital HSV1.
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What Is The Treatment For Cold Sores
For most people with just one or two blisters on their lip or near their nose, keeping the blister clean, dry and leaving it alone are all that is needed. Below are some tips that can help with healing.
- Use sunblock lip balm if youre outside in the sun.
- Cold sore patches can protect the skin while it heals.
- Ice, held against the blisters, or a warm wash cloth may help ease any pain.
- Avoid acidic or salty food if it makes your cold sore feel worse.
- Rinse your mouth with salt water or a pain relieving mouthwash.
- You can buy an antiviral cream called aciclovir from your Pharmacy. Read more about aciclovir cream.
- A kanuka honey based cream called Honeva is also available and has been shown to be as effective as aciclovir for treating cold sores.
- Take pain relief such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.
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Where Do Symptoms Appear
When a person has genital herpes, the virus lies dormant in the bundle of nerves at the base of the spine. When the virus reactivates , it travels nerve paths to the surface of the skin, sometimes causing an outbreak.
Genital herpes, regardless of whether it is HSV-1 or HSV-2, does not cause symptoms on the mouth or face. For more on oral-facial herpes, see the oral herpes page.
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How Are Genital Herpes Diagnosed
Other STIs, like syphilis, cause similar symptoms. In addition to a physical exam, your healthcare provider will take a fluid sample from the blisters to test for the herpes virus. If your blisters are healed or you dont have blisters, a blood test can check for HSV-2 antibody, a marker that shows you have been exposed to the virus.
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Coping With Your Feelings
Finding out that you have genital herpes may cause you to have negative thoughts or feelings about yourself or about sex, such as:
- Feeling ashamed or embarrassed.
- Being afraid of the consequences of the infection.
- Being angry at the person who infected you.
- Feeling frustrated with treatment or recurrent outbreaks.
- Feeling scared to have sex.
A counselor or support groups for people with herpes may be helpful.
Recognize The Early Symptoms
You might not be able to stop an outbreak, but you might be able to reduce the severity and length of it. Many people have warning signs of an outbreak, including itching, tingling, genital pain, or shooting pain in the legs, hips, or buttocks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . These signs can occur hours or days before the outbreak, so knowing them gives you the chance to treat the outbreak before it happens.
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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.
Herpes Outbreak Frequency: How Often Do They Occur
People with symptomatic HSV-1 can have anywhere from several outbreaks per year to one every couple years or so, depending on the individual. Outbreaks tend to be worst during the initial herpes outbreak, as the body hasnt had time to produce its own immune response to herpes.
Oral HSV-1 outbreaks usually involve the development of cold sores around the lips and mouth. The sores usually begin as an itching, burning sensation before forming into small blisters over several days.
When cold sores caused by HSV-1 are open, they can weep out infectious fluid, leading to a high risk of transmission. Its best to abstain from kissing or sexual activity if you have an open cold sore, as theres a risk of infecting your partner with HSV-1 through direct oral contact. If your question is, “When is herpes contagious?” the answer is, “All the time.”Open cold sores are highly contagious, but even if you’re not experiencing an outbreak, it’s still possible to transmit herpes.
Our guide to kissing and cold sores goes into more detail about how you can reduce your HSV-1 transmission risk during an outbreak.
By acting quickly and treating a cold sore in the early stage, you may be able to limit its development and speed up the healing process. Our guide to how to get rid of a cold sore as quickly as possible and the list of foods to avoid during herpes outbreak covers simple tactics that you can use to quickly control an HSV-1 outbreak.
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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.
Where To Get Tested For Herpes In Nyc
At New York Urology Specialists, we offer same-day Herpes testing and treatment for men and women.
We also perform comprehensive STD testing for other infections. We offer confidential appointments. Our prices are affordable with or without insurance. Call/text today: or make an appointment online.
Schedule an appointment with our specialists at New York Urology Specialists today about managing genital herpes and preventing its spread to sexual partners. Our offices are located no more than 20 minutes by train or car from any location in the Bronx, and we are easily accessible from all other New York City boroughs.
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Always Use A Condom And/or Barriers
People who use condoms every time they have sex have are 30% less likely to contract genital herpes .
Condoms should be used before any genital or sexual contact beginsânot just during ejaculation. Since outbreaks and viral shedding may occur in areas not covered by a condom, total protectionâeven with perfect and consistent condom useâcannot be guaranteed .
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Can I Treat Herpes Simplex At Home
Avoiding known triggers, such as illness or stress, can help reduce how often you have herpes outbreaks.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-1 ?
- Over-the-counter creams such as L-lysine, benzocaine or docosanol .
- Applying ice to blisters or sores.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-2 ?
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep your genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
- Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as a topical analgesic.
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How Can You Prevent Sexually Transmitted Infections
Here are some ways to help prevent STIs.
- Limit your sex partners. Sex with one partner who has sex only with you can reduce your risk of getting an STI.
- Talk with your partner or partners about STIs before you have sex. Find out if they are at risk for an STI. Remember that it’s possible to have an STI and not know it.
- Wait to have sex with new partners until you’ve each been tested.
- Don’t have sex if you have symptoms of an infection or if you are being treated for an STI.
- Use a condom every time you have sex. Condoms are the only form of birth control that also helps prevent STIs.
- Don’t share sex toys. But if you do share them, use a condom and clean the sex toys between each use.
Vaccines are available for some STIs, such as HPV. Ask your doctor for more information.
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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Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases
Some other sexually transmitted diseases might also show symptoms that mimic herpes blisters.
Chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea are examples of such. The symptoms of your genital herpes might occur alongside that of other sexually transmitted infections.
Blisters, rash, painful sores on your genital area can be from other sexually transmitted diseases and not herpes.
While you cannot be so sure about which disease it is, it is most advisable you visit your physician for a diagnosis to figure out what is causing your herpes.
Other blisters that can be mistaken for herpes include:
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Is Anyone Else Experiancing Outbreaks Every 2 Weeks:
Im new to this site! Im 25 years old I caught genital herpes 3 years ago and only ever had my first outbreak..then for the past 3 months ive had the constantly every 2 weeks.doctor gave my supressive therapy but still ive experianced an outbreak now..does anyone else feel so down when they have outbreaks?
6 likes, 110 replies
Posted 4 years ago
Hey jenni I have been experiencing outbreaks for the past year every three months now Im experiencing it every two weeks. I take vitamins on a daily basis, exercise daily and sleep. I know I straw myself out occasionally but this is getting ridculous. How am I suppose to have a relationship with someone if I am breaking out all the time. I did suppressive therapy for years and quit awhile ago. Not sure that that really helps. I just dont know what to do anymore to not get break outs. Please someone give me advise. Thanks
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Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Many people who have genital herpes may not be aware they have the infection, because they may not have any symptoms.
The first episode of herpes can cause considerable pain and distress. Symptoms of the first episode may include:
- flu-like symptoms such as feeling unwell, headaches and pains in the back and legs, with or without enlarged glands in the groin
- small blisters around the genitals these break open to form shallow, painful ulcers, which scab over and heal after one to two weeks
- small cracks in the skin with or without an itch or tingling
- redness or a distinct rash
- some people also have considerable pain and swelling in the genital area, and hence may have additional pain and difficulty passing urine.
What Does A Herpes Outbreak Feel Like
As mentioned above, the onset of a herpes outbreak is often associated with tingling, itching, or burning around the affected area.
Blisters and ulcers are unfortunately painful and can cause discomfort.
If this is your first outbreak your symptoms will likely be worse than any recurring outbreaks. Common symptoms associated with initial outbreaks are fever, headache, and other flu-like symptoms.
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How Can I Protect Myself From Herpes
To prevent getting genital herpes:
- Do not have sex with someone who has an open sore on their sex organs.
- Always use a condom during sex.
- Limit your number of sex partners.
Taking antiviral medications can reduce the risk of a person with genital herpes from spreading the disease, but that doesnt eliminate the risk. Be sure to practice the measures listed above to decrease risk.
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What Triggers Recurring Cold Sores
As mentioned, after being infected by the herpes simplex virus once, the stored dormant virus in your cells means you can develop cold sores from a number of triggers.5
Do you keep getting cold sores one after another? One of the following may be the culprit: 6
- Environmental exposure to sun and wind
Whats The Typical Frequency Of Cold Sores
Theres no algorithm to predict the exact frequency of cold sore outbreaks. Many different factors influence the frequency and duration of herpes occurrences.
More than anything, cold sores develop in response to certain triggers. The herpes virus lies dormant and inactive within the nerve cells of your skin until one or more of these triggers disrupts its slumber:
Once a cold sore develops, it may last three to seven days before the sores scab over and heal.
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When To Seek Medical Care
If you develop tender, painful sores on the lower back or buttocks, see a physician as soon as possible, since treatment is much more effective if started early.Recurrent outbreaks rarely require immediate medical attention. However, because some people have milder forms of genital herpes, you should also see a doctor for any recurring rash on the lower back or buttocks, even if you think it is from bug bites, ingrown hairs, or any other condition.If you have an underlying medical condition such as cancer or HIV, if you have undergone organ transplantation, or if you are pregnant, you are at higher risk for more serious complications. Seek medical advice as soon as possible, especially if you are at high risk for complications.