How Does Genital Herpes Affect Pregnant Women
While genital herpes rarely causes serious health problems in healthy men and women, HSV-2 can be dangerous for pregnant women and the neonate, particularly during the last trimester of pregnancy. The virus may cause premature labor and babies can contract the virus in the womb or when passing through the birth canal.
What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes Simplex
Many people with the infection never experience any herpes symptoms. If you do notice symptoms, youll experience them differently depending on whether youre having your first herpes outbreak or a repeat outbreak. Recurring symptoms are usually milder than the first outbreak. Symptoms dont last as long with later outbreaks. Some people may only have one or two outbreaks during their lifetime. Others may have as many as four or five outbreaks a year.
People who do have herpes symptoms may experience:
- Cold sores around their lips, mouth or tongue. They may look crusty or like fluid-filled blisters.
- Tingling, itching or burning.
- Pain while urinating.
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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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.
Onset Of First Outbreak
The first outbreak of oral herpes usually develops within about one to three weeks after infection. This initial outbreak may last for up to three weeks.
With genital herpes, the first outbreak usually occurs within about two to 20 days. Similar to oral herpes, the initial outbreak may last as long as three weeks.
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Prevention Of Genital Herpes
The best protection against STIs is to always use barrier protection such as condoms, female condoms and dams . Because herpes is spread by skin-to-skin contact, condoms will reduce the risk of transmission, but it will not protect sexual partners completely as condoms do not cover the entire genitals.
Using lubricant with a condom during sex will also reduce the risk of trauma to the genital skin. This has been shown to reduce HSV transmission, especially in the first six months of a sexual relationship. Silicone-based lubricants are recommended.
Remember that herpes transmission can occur when symptoms are present , but may also occur even if there are no genital symptoms through asymptomatic viral shedding.
For people who have frequent episodes of genital herpes, antiviral medication, taken daily, helps to reduce transmission of herpes to a sexual partner.
What Are The Types Of Herpes Viruses
Herpes is a group of contagious viruses that cause blisters and sores. Some of the more common herpes viruses include:
- Type 1: HSV-1, or oral herpes, causes cold sores to form on your lips, gums, tongue and inside of your mouth. It can cause genital herpes in some cases. This type usually spreads through saliva when you kiss someone with open herpes sores. You can also get HSV-1 by sharing items like toothbrushes, lipsticks or eating utensils.
- Type 2: HSV-2 causes genital herpes.
- Herpes zoster: This virus causes chickenpox and shingles.
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Where Does The Herpes Virus Live In The Body
The herpes simplex viruses are latent, meaning they can live in the body without causing symptoms. After the initial infection, the virus gets into the nerve roots and spreads to the sensory nerve ganglia, the junctions where nerves from different parts of the body come together. For the genital area, the ganglia are adjacent to the spinal cord in the lower back. For orofacial herpes , the ganglia are located behind the cheek bone.
How Do I Test For Herpes
If you think you have symptoms of genital herpes or have been at risk of infection, you should speak to a healthcare professional.
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. A herpes blood test exists but is not routinely available.
If you have genital herpes you should be tested for other STIs. Itâs important that you tell your recent sexual partner/s so they can also get tested and treated. Many people who have herpes do not notice anything wrong, and by telling them you can help to stop the virus being passed on.
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Recurrent Episodes Of Genital Herpes
Recurrences are usually less painful and shorter in duration than the first episode of genital herpes. Over time, episodes usually become less frequent and may eventually stop altogether. Infections caused by HSV1 are less likely to recur in the genital area than infections caused by HSV2.
Recurrences may be triggered by:
- no apparent reason noted.
What Else Can Cause Herpesoutbreaks To Get Worse
Ifyou find your herpes outbreaks getting worse, you may be wondering what causesthem. People experience this problem because of many different reasons.However, some of the most common causes include:
- Sexual intercourse
- Exposure to colds or sunlight
- Hormonal changes due to menstruation orpregnancy
- Dental procedures
Ifyou have these risk factors, avoid them. Knowing your triggers can make iteasier to prevent outbreaks in the future.
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Next Steps For An Experimental Herpes Cure
Wilder: When do you anticipate moving to human trials?
Jerome: We want to do that as quickly as we possibly can, but first there are a few things we need to work out. We, first of all, want to generate similar data for herpes simplex virus 2 in a model system. Thats being lined up and happening now.
We are spending a lot of effort on ensuring safety and conducting studies looking at potential side effects. Getting to a human clinical trial is probably going to take at least the next three years, because the last thing we want to do is hurt someone.
Wilder: Reading your paper, I couldnt help wondering about other herpesviruses. Viruses like herpesviruses 4 and herpesvirus 6 can cause a great deal of complications for people. Could the meganucleases approach be effective for those other viruses?
Jerome: Sure, absolutely. Weve thought a lot about this.One point I want to make is that the research is very much focused on herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 right now. Our paper studied herpes simplex virus 1 because of the experimental model we used.
Herpes simplex virus 2 behaves almost identically. We do have to tweak the meganucleases a bit, and weve done that so that they recognize herpes simplex virus 2. We are working actively on right now.
Some of the most exciting work were doing must move beyond the herpesviruses. Weve thought some about HIV, although that tends to be a very difficult target in terms of getting the scissors to the right cells.
Terri Wilder, M.S.W.
Is Genital Herpes Contagious
Yes. When blisters or crusts are present, the virus can be passed by direct contact to others. But the virus can be just as contagious even when you cannot see any sores. Using condoms helps to prevent the spread of infectionbut condoms cannot protect you completely. Because HSV also causes cold sores on the mouth, a person with cold sores can spread HSV through mouth contact with the genital area of another person. The virus can also be carried on hands from the mouth to another area. You can even spread the virus to yourself by touching cold sores on your mouth and then touching other areas of your body.
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Is Herpes Simplex Related To Herpes Zoster
Herpes simplex and the varicella-zoster virus are related, but they arent the same. VZV causes chickenpox and shingles.
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.
What About A Herpes Vaccine
Researchers have been experimenting with potential herpes vaccines for decades, but to date, only the shingles and chickenpox variants of herpes can be prevented with a vaccine.
Clinical trial testing for herpes vaccines has proved difficult for many reasons, including asymptomatic infection and unpredictable viral shedding.
However, a new study from the University of Cincinnati, Northwestern University, and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln hopes to accomplish what others have not. The studys research team has genetically edited a form of herpes simplex virus and rewired it so that it cant hide out in the nervous system during dormant periods. Early results suggest theres hope for a vaccine, but just as with the CRISPR herpes cure, final results are still years away.
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What Are The Different Types Of Herpes
There are two types of herpes simplex virus: HSV I and HSV II. HSV I commonly causes oral herpes, or cold sores. This virus can show up as an upper respiratory tract infection during early childhood. HSV II is the cause of most cases of genital herpes. However, it is possible for HSV I to cause genital herpes and HSV II to cause oral herpes.
Clinicians cannot tell the difference between the two types by physical examination alone, but there are differences between the two viruses. For example, genital herpes caused by HSV II is much more likely to recur. This diagnosis can be helpful in establishing a health care plan.
Who Might Get Genital Herpes
Genital herpes affects teens and adults of all genders and races. It can spread if you have multiple sexual partners and dont use condoms.
Women are more at risk. Delicate vaginal tissue can tear, making it easier for the infection to get in. Black women are especially vulnerable. An estimated 1 in 2 African-American women between the ages of 14 and 49 is infected with HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes.
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What Is Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is a viral infection. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is called HSV for short. One form of the herpes virus causes cold sores around the mouth or lips. This kind can be passed around if someone touches the cold sore and then touches another person.
Genital herpes is caused by another form of the virus. It causes sores in the genital area and can be spread from person to person by direct skin contact with a person who has the infection.
What Happens If I Dont Get Treated
Genital herpes can cause painful genital sores and can be severe 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. 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, immediately wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading your infection.
If you are pregnant, there can be problems for you and your developing fetus, or newborn baby. See Im pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby? above for information about this.
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The Science Behind The Hunt For A Herpes Cure
Wilder: I read that you started thinking up a possible cure for herpes around 10 years ago.
Jerome: Well, that was when I first became aware of what today has become an area of research that we call gene editing. A lot of your readers may have heard of a particular type of gene editing protein called CRISPR. Its made a lot of news over the past two or three years — including the lay press, not just the scientific literature. But, actually, CRISPR is only one type of protein for gene editing. There are other types, as well.
When I first became aware of that, I realized that gene editing proteins have the unique capability of very specifically looking for the DNAthe stuff of lifeof, in this case, a virus, and ignore everything else. I realized that gene editing proteins could actually find an infectionwhether it was HIV, herpes, or hepatitis Bdestroy that DNA, and leave the rest of the body alone.
Remember that these sleeping viruses that I mentioned are long-lived forms of DNA within the body. So if we could destroy the viruses in a very selective manner, we might have a possibility to think about cure.
Wilder: As you mentioned, the current drugs that are prescribed dont get rid of the latent virus. What is it about this virus that makes it so challenging to eliminate?
Jerome: Once the virus goes to sleep in the nerve cells, it coils itself up into a little circle. In a lot of ways, that little circle looks a lot like our own DNA.
A Cure For Herpes There Is Progress To Report
It takes a persistent scientist to stop a persistent virus.
A decade ago, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center virologist Dr. Keith Jerome began exploring the idea that lifelong infections with herpes viruses might be cured by using the DNA-cutting tools of gene therapy.
Initial research showed these techniques could knock out small quantities of latent virus, and the work of improving the results fell to Jeromeâs senior staff scientist, Dr. Martine Aubert. Five years ago, the team reported they had damaged the genes of 2%-4% of herpes virus in infected mice. Aubertâs work was an important proof of principle, but far short of a cure.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
On Aug. 18, the team led by Jerome and Aubert published a paper in Nature Communications showing that, through a series of incremental improvements on their original method, they had destroyed up to 95% of herpes virus lurking in certain nerve clusters of mice.
âThis is the first time that anybody has been able to go in and actually eliminate most of herpes in a body,â said Jerome, who is also spearheading research at Fred Hutch and the University of Washington on COVID-19. âIt is a completely different approach to herpes therapy than anybodyâs ever had before.â
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How Can I Protect My Sex Partners
You can take steps to protect others from herpes. Keep in mind that you can spread it even when you dont have symptoms.
Avoid sex during outbreaks: Youre more likely to give your partner herpes while you have an outbreak. Avoid sexual contact from the time you notice the first signs, such as tingling or pain, until the scabs fall off and your skin is back to normal.
Try not to touch your sores: If you do, wash your hands right away. A good cleaning may stop the spread to another part of your body or to your partner.
Use condoms: They wont totally protect your partner, but they can lower the chances of spreading the virus.
Talk to your doctor: They might prescribe a drug to make it less likely youll give herpes to someone else. As with condoms, the medicine wont 100% protect your partner.
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Can You Get A Herpes Outbreak Right After Another How Do You Know If Youre Having A Second Herpes Outbreak
People with symptomatic HSV-1 may experience several outbreaks per year. The herpes virus takes up permanent residence in the nerve roots and can never be totally eliminated. Some people will experience a second crop of lesions, bumps, and itchiness however, general feelings of being unwell are not usually present with recurring infections.
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How Do I Talk With People About Having Herpes
It might feel scary to admit you have herpes, but talking about things can really ease your mind. You could lean on a close, non-judgmental friend that you trust to keep the conversation private. Parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, and other family members can also be a source of comfort. Remember, herpes is really common, so its possible the person youre talking to has herpes, too.
There are a lot of online support groups for people who have herpes, and the American Sexual Health Association has a list of support groups that meet in person.