Herpes Outbreak Frequency: What You Can Expect
Medically reviewed by Michele Emery, DNP
If youre reading this, its likely that you or someone you care about may have herpes. Well, first, we want to remind you that HSV-1 and HSV-2 are exceptionally manageable viruses, and that the anxiety and fear youre experiencing right now, while normal, may be unwarranted. Depending on the type of herpes virus youre infected with and your symptomatic status, your herpes outbreak frequency can become a common occurrence or be something youll rarely, if ever, have to deal with.
In this guide, well look at the statistics for herpes outbreaks. Well also look at how outbreaks can differ between HSV-1 and HSV-2, as well as whether or not people with an asymptomatic herpes infection need to worry about outbreaks at all.
Finally, well cover some of the treatments you can use to make treating and managing herpes outbreaks an easier process.
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.
What Happens If Hsv
The possible complications include vaginal yeast infections , bladder problems with trouble urinating, and in rare cases meningitis. Complications are very rare in later outbreaks. People who have genital herpes are at greater risk of being infected with other sexually transmitted infections such as HIV.27 de jun. de 2018
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How Can I Reduce My Risk Of Getting Genital Herpes
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting genital herpes:
- Be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who is not infected with an STD
- Using latex condoms the right way every time you have sex.
Be aware that not all herpes sores occur in areas that are covered by a latex condom. Also, herpes virus can be released from areas of the skin that do not have a visible herpes sore. For these reasons, condoms may not fully protect you from getting herpes.
If you are in a relationship with a person known to have genital herpes, you can lower your risk of getting genital herpes if:
- Your partner takes an anti-herpes medication every day. This is something your partner should discuss with his or her doctor.
How Can I Protect Sexual Partners Against Herpes Infection
If you have genital herpes, there are several steps you can take to avoid passing the herpes virus to your sexual partners:
Tell your partner you have genital herpes. Even if your partner does not have any visible herpetic sores, they may already be infected. The blood test for herpes can detect the infection even when no blisters are present. It is only fair to tell future partners about a diagnosis of genital herpes before initiating sexual contact. Taking antiviral medications can suppress viral loads and decrease the risk of infecting your partner. Taking antiviral medications by sex partners is another option to decrease the chances of sexual partners getting herpes infection.
Remember, you can transmit HSV infection to a sexual partner even when you are not having an outbreak, and there are no visible or symptomatic sores. The skin looks normal right before an outbreak, but contact during this time can spread the infection. The use of male latex condoms can reduce the chances of genital herpes transmission. However, condoms do not provide complete protection. The virus can still spread through areas not covered by the condom or through contact with semen or vaginal secretions.
Avoid touching the sores. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water following any contact with sores. This prevents transmission of the genital herpes infection to others as well as the re-infection of the infected person.
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Clearing Up The Misconception
In some cases, these beliefs may be true. People do lie about their infection status and cheat on their partners. However, your partner may not have cheated or realized they had herpes.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , herpes is often asymptomatic , or the symptoms are so minor that most people dont know that theyre even infected.
A person may never find out unless they get screened or one of their partners has a first herpes outbreak and sends them to get tested. In other words, when someone says, I didnt know I had herpes, they may be telling you the truth.
As for the assumption that your partner cheated on you, there are problems with that too. People who are infected with herpes are more infectious at certain times than others.
Asymptomatic shedding does occur, but not at the same levels all the time. That means that transmission of the virus could occur one night or one year into a sexual relationship.
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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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Why Are My Herpes Outbreaks Getting Worse
Manypeople with herpes go to the forum and ask a so common question Why aremy herpes outbreaks getting worse? If youre in the same situation, thisarticle is for you.
Herpesis a common skin infection in the United States. It has 2 main types includingoral herpes and genital herpes . Accordingto the NCHS, half of Americans have oral herpes and 12% of adults have genitalherpes. This means that anyone can contract herpes at some point in theirlifetime.
Differentpeople may have different symptoms. While some people have 1 or 2 outbreaks peryear, others have more than 5 outbreaks. Without treatment, herpes can go awayon its own in 2-3 weeks. However, symptoms are very painful and you can developoutbreaks frequently. In some cases, herpes may get worse and there are manyreasons for this.
What Causes Recurrent Herpes Simplex Labialis
Herpes simplex labialis is the result of a virus called herpes simplex virus type 1 . The initial acquisition usually occurs before age 20. It typically affects the lips and areas around the mouth.
You can get the virus from close personal contact, such as through kissing, with someone who has the virus. You can also get oral herpes from touching objects where the virus may be present. These include towels, utensils, razors for shaving, and other shared items.
Since the virus lays dormant inside the nerve cells of the face for the rest of a persons life, symptoms arent always present. However, certain events can make the virus reawaken and lead to a recurrent herpes outbreak.
Events that trigger a recurrence of oral herpes might include:
The original acquisition may not cause symptoms at all. If it does, blisters may appear near or on the mouth within 1 to 3 weeks after your first contact with the virus. The blisters might last up to 3 weeks.
In general, a recurrent episode is milder than the initial outbreak.
Symptoms of a recurrent episode may include:
- blisters or sores on the mouth, lips, tongue, nose, or gums
- burning pain around the blisters
- tingling or itching near the lips
- outbreaks of several small blisters that grow together and may be red and inflamed
Tingling or warmth on or near the lips is usually a warning sign that the cold sores of recurrent oral herpes are about to appear in 1 to 2 days.
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How Herpes Is Treated
There is no cure for herpes.
- The health care provider may prescribe antiviral medicine to help speed up the healing process. It also shortens the time when the virus can spread from the herpes sores.
- Pain may be treated with medicine such as Tylenol or Motrin or by applying an ice pack wrapped in a towel to the affected area.
- If sores are in the mouth, avoid foods high in acid, like citrus fruits and juices.
- The infected area should be kept clean and dry.
- Wash hands often and avoid touching the sores to prevent spreading the virus.
- It is important to stay healthy by getting enough rest, having proper nutrition and exercise and managing stress well.
Why Do My Cold Sores Keep Coming Back
Once you have the HSV-1 virus, it remains in your body for life. Unlike other viruses, the body is unable to clear HSV-1. The virus is adept at hiding in nerve cells away from the immune system, and it can remain dormant for months, even years, before reactivating.
The blisters form sores that crust over and heal in a couple of weeks. Several factors can trigger an outbreak. The most common triggers include:
Learning your triggers is part of reducing the frequency of cold sore outbreaks.
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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.
Genital Herpes Hiv And Sexual Health
Genital herpes is one of the most common co-infections for people living with HIV and can be a more serious condition if youre HIV positive meaning that outbreaks may last longer and blisters can be more severe. If youre having recurrent outbreaks of genital herpes, you should have an HIV test, as this may be a sign of a weakened immune system caused by HIV.
Having an STI such as genital herpes can increase your risk of getting and passing on HIV, as the blisters and sores provide an easy way for HIV to get into your body and cause an infection. People living with HIV who arent on treatment or who have a lower CD4 count are especially vulnerable to other infections, like herpes.
If youre taking antiretroviral treatment for HIV, its important to discuss with your doctor how treatment for herpes may interact with your HIV drugs.
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What Is Herpes Simplex
Herpes simplex is a virus that causes skin infections. The infection lasts your lifetime, and it causes painful or itchy sores and blisters that come and go. Herpes simplex virus typically doesnt cause severe problems. But it can be dangerous in infants and people with weakened immune systems. There are two types of herpes simplex:
- Herpes simplex 1 tends to affect your mouth or face. It causes cold sores. HSV-1 spreads through contact with saliva .
- Herpes simplex 2 is a sexually transmitted disease . It causes sores on skin that comes in contact with the genitals of an infected person.
Sometimes a herpes infection can affect other parts of your body, such as your eyes or other parts of your skin.
Myth #: A Blood Test Is The Best Way To Know If You Have Herpes
Blood tests are not always accurate and testing for herpes can be tricky. It can take two weeks to six months after being exposed to herpes before it is detected in the blood. To make matters more complicated, if you are low risk for herpes and asymptomatic, it increases your risk of a false positive result. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends against routine testing for herpes unless you or your partner have symptoms. The most accurate test is when you are able to take a swab sample from a new herpes lesion, but often times the diagnosis is made by a clinician based on your history and report of symptoms.
Because the blood test can be expensive and inaccurate, it is not typically included in a sexually transmitted disease evaluation unless you ask your provider for it specifically.
In short, if you dont have symptoms, you dont necessarily need a blood test. If you do experience an outbreak, a skin swab not a blood test is your best bet for confirmation.
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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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Genital Herpes Treatment In Pregnancy
You may be offered antiviral treatment:
- to treat outbreaks in pregnancy
- from 36 weeks to reduce the chance of an outbreak during birth
- from diagnosis until the birth if you first get herpes after 28 weeks of pregnancy
Many women with genital herpes have a vaginal delivery. You may be offered a caesarean, depending on your circumstances.
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Does A Cold Sore On My Mouth Mean I Have Genital Herpes
No, a cold sore on your mouth usually means you have herpes simplex virus type 1 . You can get HSV-1 by kissing someone or sharing utensils, towels, razors, or lipstick with someone who has HSV-1.
HSV-1 cannot turn into HSV-2 , but you can get a cold sore on your mouth from HSV-2 if you give oral sex to someone with HSV-2. Cold sores caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2 are contagious. You can spread it to other people or other parts of your body if you touch an open sore and then touch another part of your body. That means if you have a cold sore and give oral sex to someone, that person will get the herpes virus on his or her genitals.
Avoid touching your cold sore as much as possible. If you touch your cold sore, wash your hands right away to avoid spreading the infection to other parts of your body or other people.
What Is Neonatal Herpes
Neonatal herpes can be a very serious infection. Babies generally contract the virus from their birthing parent during childbirth even if the parent doesnt have active lesions. They may also get HSV-1 if an adult with an active cold sore kisses them. Breastfeeding babies can also get HSV-1 from the breast if there are lesions present. But babies cant get herpes from breast milk, so its safe to pump and feed.
Herpes simplex can be more dangerous for young babies because they dont have a fully developed immune system. But most babies with neonatal herpes can recover fully with treatment.
The dangers of neonatal herpes are much higher if the infection spreads to the babys organs. If youre pregnant and have herpes, speak with your healthcare provider about how to lower the risk of passing the infection to your baby.
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What Are The Complications Of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes may cause painful genital ulcers that can be severe and persistent in persons with suppressed immune systems, such as HIV-infected persons. 5 Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can also cause rare but serious complications such as aseptic meningitis . 5 Development of extragenital lesions may occur during the course of infection. 5
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.
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What’s Involved In Herpes Testing
If there are blisters or sores, a healthcare provider may gently swab the area to take a fluid sample and test it. If there are no sores, but you are concerned you may have been exposed, a blood test may done. Herpes tests are not normally recommended unless you have symptoms.
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.
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