Herpes is a very contagious sexually transmitted infection. The herpes virus can affect the genitals, mouth and less often, other areas on the body. The main symptom of herpes is sores that blister, weep and then heal.
Herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections in the US, with many people being infected without knowing it because of lack of symptoms. There are two main forms of herpes infection including herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2). Keep reading to find out more about the herpes virus.
People who are infected with herpes may not experience any symptoms. If they do experience symptoms they may come and go without treatment. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- May appear in a small cluster
- Last for a week or just under
- Blisters that itch, crust over and heal
- Appear in genital area, anus, thighs, mouth and bottom
- Flu-like symptoms
- Swollen areas in the lower abdomen
- Painful urination
- Burning, tingling or itching in the affected area
- Cold sores
The symptoms of genital herpes will often reoccur. The frequency of outbreaks and recurrences depend on the type of HSV infection that the individual has. People who have HSV-2 will often experience outbreaks more often than those who have HSV-1. After the initial outbreak of herpes the symptoms are often less severe and the duration of the outbreak is not as long.
Genital herpes is caused by be herpes simplex virus-1 or herpes simplex virus-2. The main way of transmission for the herpes virus is sexual intercourse. A person who is experiencing an outbreak of herpes blisters is very contagious during sexual intercourse or activity. If the other person’s skin is exposed to a sore the virus will be able to infect that individual. A person may also be able to transmit the virus even if they are not exhibiting any symptoms including sores. Herpes can also cause cold sores if it infects the mouth. This means it can also be spread through kissing and oral sex.
If you are concerned that you may have herpes you should visit your doctor. Although you may have feelings of embarrassment you shouldn’t worry because herpes is extremely common. Your doctor will be able to help you identify and treat your issue without causing you any shame. Your doctor will need to perform a physical examination of the area. The doctor will then take a swab sample from the sores which will be sent off to the lab for testing. Your doctor may also want to do a blood test to check for certain antibodies.
There is no cure for genital herpes yet, but there are many treatment options that can help to alleviate and minimize the severity of symptoms. It is important to follow treatment options from your doctor in order to achieve the best results. Make sure to not pick or scratch the affected area as that can cause the virus to spread or will exacerbate the skin. It is very important to wash your hands and clean your towels regularly to reduce the likelihood of transmission and spreading. Some of the most common treatment options for herpes include:
- Antiviral medications
- Can greatly reduce the severity and length of outbreaks
- Should be administered as soon as possible
- Keeping the affected area clean and dry can promote healing
- Epsom salt soak baths
- Wearing loose cotton clothing
It is very important to reduce your risk of getting herpes, or spreading herpes to others by practicing safe sexual practices. If you have tested positive for herpes you must tell you partner and future partners. To reduce the risk of spreading the virus condoms or a dental dam should be worn. Although these precautions can reduce the risk they do not provide full protection because they do not cover all of the skin. Sexual activity should be avoided if there is an active outbreak of herpes sores. Pregnant women should meet with their doctor to reduce the risk of the herpes virus affecting their baby.