Herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that any sexually active person can get and it’s highly contagious.
Most people who have herpes have no, or very mild symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they can include blisters on the genitals or sores around the mouth, which sometimes could be mistaken for another skin condition, such as a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people who have herpes do not know it.
Herpes can cause painful sores and can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems, but it usually doesn't lead to serious health problems. 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 touch the sores or fluids, immediately wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading your infection.
Herpes caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV) are categorized into oral herpes and genital herpes, based on the part of the body infected.
Oral herpes caused by HSV-1 (Herpes Type 1) involves the lips, mouth, throat, and rarely, your eyes. It may result in small blisters in groups often called cold sores or fever blisters or may just cause a sore throat.
Genital herpes caused by HSV-2 (Herpes Type 2), often simply known as herpes generally, may have minimal symptoms or form blisters that break open and result in small ulcers. These typically heal over two to four weeks. Tingling or shooting pains may occur before the blisters appear. The blisters from genital herpes can affect the vulva, vagina, cervix, anus, penis, scrotum, butt or inner thighs.
Cases of genital herpes are typically caused by HSV-2, which is primarily transmitted through sexual contact. HSV-1, which most commonly causes oral herpes, can cause genital herpes through oral-genital contact.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is easily transmissible between humans. It is passed from one person to another by close, direct contact. The most common mode of transmission is through vaginal, anal, oral sex or kissing. When somebody becomes infected with HSV, it will generally remain dormant.
Symptoms of Herpes Simplex Virus
Most people do not have apparent symptoms for many months, or even years after becoming infected. Those who do have symptoms during the initial period will usually notice them about 4-7 days after being infected.
Primary infection symptoms
Primary infection is a term used for an outbreak of genital herpes that occurs when a person is first infected.
Primary infection symptoms, if they are experienced, are usually more severe than later recurrences.
Symptoms can last up to 20 days and may include:
Blisters and ulceration on the cervix.
Flu-like symptoms. Fever, muscle aches, or swollen lymph nodes (glands) in the neck (oral herpes) or groin (genital herpes) are possible.
Problems urinating. People (most often women) with genital herpes may have trouble urinating or have a burning feeling while urinating.
Malaise (feeling unwell).
Cold sores around the mouth.
Red blisters - these are generally painful; they soon burst and leave ulcers on the external genital area, thighs, buttocks, and rectum.
In most cases, the ulcers will heal, and the patient will not have any lasting scars.
Recurrent infection symptoms
These symptoms tend to be less severe and do not last as long because the patient's body has built up some immunity to the virus. In most cases, symptoms will not last for more than 10 days.
Burning/tingling around genitals before blisters appear
Women may have blisters and ulceration on the cervix
Cold sores around the mouth
Red blisters - these are generally painful; they soon burst and leave ulcers on the external genital area, thighs, buttocks, and rectum
Eventually, recurrences happen less often and are much less severe. Patients with HSV-1 will have fewer recurrences and less severe symptoms than people infected with HSV-2.
How Can I Reduce My Risk of Getting Herpes?
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting herpes:
Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and has negative STD test results.
Using latex condoms the right way every time you have sex.
Do not have sex while symptoms are present (genital, anal, or skin-to-skin).
Do not kiss when there is a cold sore around the mouth.
Do not have many sexual partners.
Herpes symptoms can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered by a latex condom. However, outbreaks can also occur in areas that are not covered by a condom so condoms may not fully protect you from getting herpes.
Tests and Diagnosis
The best test for herpes involves taking a swab from the sore as soon as possible after it develops. Results will usually come back within 7 to 10 days, but some clinics may take longer.
Blood tests are not routinely done, but in some cases (e.g. pregnancy), blood tests may be helpful. Most blood tests are accurate 12 to 16 weeks after possible exposure to HSV. A positive herpes test does not tell you how long you have had the virus or where it will show up on the body.
There is no cure for herpes. Once a person has the virus, it remains in the body. The virus lies latent in the nerve cells until something triggers it to become active again. These herpes “outbreaks,” which can include the painful herpes sores, can be controlled with medication.
Treatment for genital herpes will depend on whether you have the infection for the first time (a primary infection) or your symptoms keep coming back (a recurrent outbreak).
Antiviral medication can lessen the severity of an outbreak, lower the chances of passing the virus to a partner and shorten the time it takes for a sore to heal. Medication works best if it is started as soon as possible after an outbreak begins.
You can talk to your doctor or health care provider for more information about this medication.
What Triggers an Outbreak?
The herpes virus stays in your body forever, even if you have no symptoms. You may have an outbreak when you're sick, after you’ve been out in the sun, or when you’re stressed out or tired. If you’re a woman, you could get one when you start your period.
How to Feel Better During an Outbreak
Avoid sun or heat that could cause more blisters.
Don't use perfumed soaps or douches near your blisters.
Wear loose-fitting clothing and cotton underwear.
Bathe in warm water to soothe sores.
Keep the area dry.
Apply an ice pack, wrapped in a clean covering, to sores.
Only use medications, ointments or creams as directed by your health care provider.
Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen (over-the-counter pain medication) if needed.
Drink plenty of fluids to keep urine diluted (to lower pain when urinating or peeing).
If urinating (peeing) is painful, try urinating in a warm shower or bath, or try pouring warm water over the genitals when urinating.
Can I still have Sex if I have Herpes
If you have herpes, you should tell your sex partner(s) and let him or her know that you do and the risk involved. Using condoms may help lower this risk but it will not get rid of the risk completely. Having sores or other symptoms of herpes can increase your risk of spreading the disease. Even if you do not have any symptoms, you can still infect your sex partners.
What is the Link between Pregnancy and Herpes?
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, it is even more important for you to go to prenatal care visits. You need to tell your doctor if you have ever had symptoms of, been exposed to, or been diagnosed with genital herpes. Sometimes genital herpes infection can lead to miscarriage. It can also make it more likely for you to deliver your baby too early. Herpes infection can be passed from you to your unborn child and cause a potentially deadly infection (neonatal herpes). It is important that you avoid getting herpes during pregnancy.
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, you may be offered herpes medicine towards the end of your pregnancy to reduce the risk of having any symptoms and passing the disease to your baby. At the time of delivery your doctor should carefully examine you for symptoms. If you have herpes symptoms at delivery, a ‘C-section’ is usually performed.
What is the Link between HIV and Herpes?
Genital herpes can cause sores or breaks in the skin or lining of the mouth, vagina, and rectum. The genital sores caused by herpes can bleed easily. When the sores come into contact with the mouth, vagina, or rectum during sex, they increase the risk of giving or getting HIV if you or your partner has HIV.
Herpes at a Glance
The herpes simplex virus, or herpes, is categorized into 2 types: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
HSV-1 is mainly transmitted by oral-to-oral contact to cause oral herpes (which can include symptoms known as “cold sores”), but can also cause genital herpes.
HSV-2 is a sexually transmitted infection that causes genital herpes.
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 infections are lifelong.
An estimated 3.7 billion people under age 50 (67%) have HSV-1 infection globally.
An estimated 417 million people aged 15-49 (11%) worldwide have HSV-2 infection.
Most oral and genital herpes infections are asymptomatic.
Symptoms of herpes include painful blisters or ulcers at the site of infection.
Herpes infections are most contagious when symptoms are present but can still be transmitted to others in the absence of symptoms.
Infection with HSV-2 increases the risk of acquiring and transmitting HIV infection.
Some people who contract herpes have concerns about how it will impact their overall health, sex life, and relationships. It is best for you to talk to a health care provider about those concerns, but it also is important to recognize that while herpes is not curable, it can be managed.
The good news is, outbreaks usually become less frequent over time, and even though herpes can sometimes be uncomfortable and painful, it's not dangerous. People with herpes have relationships, have sex, and live perfectly healthy lives.
....making efforts to "STAYWELL"