In a lifetime, we can catch several types of infection or disease. When we talk about genital herpes, it often embarrasses most people. There are very few ways to protect yourself, but often the simple fact of being informed about this disease can be very valuable in the prevention method.
Often people are embarrassed or anxious to talk about it. This disease affects about half of Americans and 20% of Canadians. This makes it one of the most popular ITS in North America unfortunately. Keeping up-to-date on most STDs and STIs greatly helps to protect the principal from new sexual partners.
What is genital or oral herpes?
Herpes viruses are viral, highly contagious, and responsible for several skin problems and mucous membranes. The virus is distinguished into two categories or two types:
Type 1 HSV1, often responsible for cold sores or cold sores.
Type 2 HSV2, all too often it is the one who is responsible for genital herpes.
Both types can be at the origin of the infection commonly called herpes. Mostly, the problems related to herpes occur in adulthood but some cases can be born from birth just at an old age.
The virus belongs to the group of Alphaherpesvirinaes and more precisely to the family Herpesviridae. This category also includes viruses such as chickenpox, shingles, and cytomegalovirus. It is primarily targeted virus skin and nerve tissue.
What causes herpes?
Herpes is among the most prevalent type of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which is often referred to by its taxonomical term, the human alphaherpesvirus. It is common in the United States, as presented by numerous studies. There are two types of herpes, namely human alphaherpesvirus 1 (HSV-1) and human alphaherpesvirus 2 (HSV-2).
The two types of herpes belong to the family of human herpesviral, which is a new set of viruses that generates viral infections in the human body once contracted and can be transmitted to another human body through sexual contacts. It is contagious.
Moreover, the herpes simplex virus (HSV) caused herpes. Hence, its taxonomical name’s derivation. In most cases, if not always, the HSV-2 causes genital herpes. The HSV-1, on the other hand, leads to common breakouts, such as fever blisters and cold sores. However, genital herpes can also cause common breakouts.
In other words, the human alphaherpesvirus 1 (HSV-1) and the human alphaherpesvirus 2 (HSV-2) caused herpes, and despite the fact that it is contagious or communicable, you can only get herpes when you have sexual encounters with an infected person. Other than that, you will not get the viral infection as long as your partner didn’t contract the virus.
Can herpes be cured?
No, the herpes is incurable. It cannot be treated, and there is no known procedure or medication that can successfully cure this sexually transmitted disease. Once an individual gets infected by the immedicable virus that brought this untreatable disease, it stays with him or her.
It stays in the body and remains inactive, not until triggering factors activate the virus. So, as long as the virus is not triggered, then it will get activated, causing outbreaks.
By saying so, there are medications that doctors can prescribe. These drug prescriptions taken in doses and through topical applications can prevent outbreaks or shorten the episodes of flare-ups.
Some of the anti-herpes medications need to be taken every day while others are according to the directed amounts of thickness or thinness and timeframe of application, as stipulated in the cream or ointment packaging.
Nevertheless, the drugs taken orally are proven to be more effective than the creams and ointments, studies revealed. These oral medications will not likely let an infected person pass the virus on to his or her partner.
When they take a dose of anti-herpes medicine, they are less likely to transfer, spread, and infect their partners during sexual contact or intercourse.
The Main Symptoms of Genital Herpes
- Vesicles, often numerous in the genital and anal regions. They may also be present on the buttocks or thighs.
- Swollen glands at the level of the groin
- Many pains in regions affected by herpes
After the symptoms are gone, the herpes simplex virus goes into the inactive stage. When this is the case, the infection has no symptoms just in the next phase. When the disease returns, often the symptoms are less acute than the previous time. Do not be alarmed with this disease because many people all over the globe are caught with this incurable infection.
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (HSV-1)
This category of the virus is very contagious. The transmission of this virus is very volatile and is very popular all over the world. It is estimated that around 3.7 billion people worldwide under the age of 50 are infected with the HSV-1 herpes simplex virus.
Generally, infections of this type are contracted in childhood and there is no way to cure this infection. Often it’s a type of infection that is often spread around the mouth. Inside the mouth or around. It is possible that type 1 of herpes also spreads to the genitals or anus.
Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2 (HSV-2)
Type 2 herpes is transmitted mainly through sexual intercourse. This type of infection is the most common of the two types. The herpes infection is unfortunately incurable and the sores (pimples) can occur all life.
Herpes is a global problem, it is estimated that the largest number of people infected are in Africa, followed by America. Often the first ones to know that they have herpes are teenagers.
Often, when symptoms occur, vesicular lesions (ulcers), headaches, fever, and body aches are signs that you have herpes.
When you have your first episode of genital herpes, recurrence is very common but you should have less severe symptoms.
Type 2 of herpes simplex usually only transmits through sexual intercourse. Simple skin-to-skin contact with an infected area can transmit the infection. Liquid secretions can also travel the infection.
This is why we strongly suggest that everyone washes their hands in the bathroom and before eating. The mucous membranes of the mouth are very good places to contract diseases or infections.
Studies show that the influences between herpes and HIV add up to three times the risk of contracting HIV infection again. Recidivism is more common. In advanced HIV, herpes can complicate things. In rare cases, you may contract other diseases such as meningoencephalitis, oesophagitis, hepatitis, retinal necrosis, or disseminated infection.
Generally, one is diagnosed with an infected person when we see the small buttons on the skin. Laboratory examinations are based on only two types of sampling. Tests on the lesions or a blood test. For lesions in the lip, visual examination is sufficient in most cases.
How do you get checked for herpes?
Getting yourself checked for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), like herpes, is highly advisable. So, when you notice sores on your genitals or surrounding the area of your genitals, you should set an appointment with your specialist to have yourself checked.
The only logical way for you to know, if your suspicion is right or wrong, is to undergo a physical examination and laboratory tests with your doctor. From the results of the test, the doctor can provide his correct diagnosis to you.
Once you made an appointment for a checkup with your primary physician or gynecologist, you will need to prepare for it. So, what can you do while waiting for the scheduled date of appointment? You may list down or take note of some important questions with regard to the details of your symptoms and other pertinent data associated with them.
Specify the symptoms that you observed and the date you started to notice them. It would also be helpful to determine when you began noticing the symptoms, including the last person you have had sexual contacts with, and if you got involved with multiple partners.
Were you diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection before? Also, provide your doctor with other details, such as if you are taking medications or any supplements regularly, and if you are using condoms.
Additionally, include too, if you are experiencing pain in the pelvic or when you urinate, and if you have unusual discharges. From there, the doctor would know what tests you need.
What promotes the outbreaks of herpes?
There are certain factors that can promote the more common occurrence of herpes
- Stress is the main factor of recurrence (physical or emotional)
- Overexposure to sunlight
- The period
- Another disease
Often, the rashes are less severe after the first time the symptoms. They are also less frequent over time.
Cold Sores: Prevention and Treatments
The cold sore spreads mainly through oral contact. It is also called “wildfire.”
Oral herpes is mainly characterized by vesicles on the lips, very often this type of infection is the consequence of type 1 herpes. The creams with cortisone bases are prescribed to reduce the vesicles. Always keeping the good hygiene is an important part of not spreading the buttons on the body or infecting another person.
There is some natural remedy for this type of herpes. Often we talk about helping to heal the wound and not irradiate the infection. The essential oil of raking is an excellent home remedy because there is a certain antiviral effect.
There is the oral route by drops or in the form of capsules. There is some lip balm also available in pharmacies that can help the healing of vesicles and pimples.
What causes neonatal herpes?
Neonatal herpes is the most dangerous form of the disease. This is when a newborn is infected with herpes. Without rapid treatment, the mortality is very high as well as serious sequelae.
When a newborn is infected with herpes during delivery, this can lead to a neurological disability that persists or even death. The risks are increased when the mother contracts the infection at a late stage of her pregnancy. Oftentimes, the chances are very low to pass it on to their offspring when the woman has herpes for a certain time.
Can I have a baby if I have herpes?
When there’s a presence of the herpes virus in the birth canal in the course of the delivery of the woman with herpes, it is possible for the herpès simplex virus (HSV) to get transmitted and spread out to the baby. This event will cause neonatal herpes, which is a critical condition and sometimes deadly.
It is because it can pose enormous infections and complications that lead to lifelong damage to the infant’s central nervous system. This impairment can result in other problems, such as mental retardation, and in the worst-case scenario, death.
Administering adequate medications in the early stage may help in preventing and lowering lifelong damage effects. However, infected babies will still have to suffer serious repercussions or effects despite administering antiviral prescriptions. Neonatal herpes is an uncommon yet critical condition.
Nonetheless, most newborn babies with moms who have herpes are born healthy.
To make things clear, newborn babies are only at a higher risk to contract neonatal herpes when the mother gets infected with herpès simplex virus at à later stage in her pregnancy. The reason for this occurrence is that newly infected moms do not have the necessary antibodies that can fight against the virus.
So, they don’t have natural protection for their babies when they give birth. In addition to that, a new herpes infection is almost always active. Hence, there are higher chances that the virus is present in the birth canal of the mother during delivery. Make sure to get regular checkups.
Is there a treatment for genital or oral herpes?
Currently, there is no cure for herpes, unfortunately. It is possible to reduce the number of infections and the number of vesicles with certain drugs. The best way to reduce the symptoms is to take the drugs at the first sign of the disease.
Some people have several outbreaks a year, while others do not even have it once a year. In some cases more serious, it is advisable to take a medication every day. You should talk with your pharmacist or GP during a genital herpes outbreak.
What can be done to reduce the discomfort of herpes?
- Avoid scratching lesions
- Do not wear tight clothing
- You can put ice or a damp cloth on your wounds
- Keep the lesions dry
All doctors are unanimous, when you have a herpes simplex contract you must abstain from sexual intercourse when you have symptoms of the infection (pimples, ulcers, or sores). Type 2 herpes is much more contagious when symptoms begin to be visible.
Studies are currently underway to find some methods for the prevention of herpes and certain STIs or STDs.
The drugs usually reduce the effects of herpes
- Valaciclovir 500 mg
- Aciclovir 200 mg
- Aciclovir cream 5%
- Ibacitabine gel at 1%
- Docosanol cream 10%
- Patches available in pharmacies (for the visual only)
Your doctor may have given you other medications for oral or genital herpes.
It is very important that you consult your doctor if you think you have an STD or STI.
Can you die from herpes?
No, as long as you take the precautionary measures and medical prescriptions from your doctor. Both types, the human alphaherpesvirus 1 (HSV-1) and the human alphaherpesvirus 2 (HSV-2) are contagious and extremely unpleasant.
However, it is nothing to worry or stress out. In simpler terms, no one will die from genital herpes, fever blisters, or cold sores.
Nonetheless, the herpes simplex virus poses a huge threat to newborn babies when they get infected during birth. Although it is uncommon, viral infection can cause issues with newborn babies’ brains, internal organs, and skin. So, if you are aware that you have herpes while pregnant, it is always best to consult your attending physician or doctor to talk about it.
Herpes is not deadly or fatal, but it can pose more serious problems and complications with people who have Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The latter greatly affects the proper functioning of the body’s immune system, and thus, it will be hard to treat patients effectively when there are outbreaks of the herpes simplex virus.
For this reason, patients with HIV need to take higher doses of antiviral medications or treatments to control the breakouts when herpes gets activated due to several triggering factors.
Do STD/STI tests to check for herpes?
Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) or Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) tests can confirm if you have herpes only when you have the symptoms.
Hence, other health organizations advised not to undergo testing for STD/STI when they didn’t experience any signs or indicators. By saying so, STD/STI testing varies according to your risk factors with the symptoms you noticed.
Most of the time, symptoms or signs may not manifest, and that is why, experts would use the term Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), instead of using the Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD), because it is possible that infection is present but not the disease.
So, even before you set up an appointment for STD/STI testing, make sure to discuss everything with your doctor first about any symptoms that you experienced.
Your questions now would be, what types of STD/STI testings do you need, and how many times should you undergo screening? The testing is dependent on your sexual interactions, age, and other risk factors.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea screening are two types of STI testings conducted particularly for individuals who have multiple sexual partners, HIV patients, or people who have partners that had sexual contact with men.
Screening is of utmost importance because it provides an analysis of whether you have the infection or not when you don’t have the symptoms. The doctor will know if you need to have STD/STI testing to confirm herpès simplex virus when the symptoms are highly significant. Otherwise, he or she will not request any testing.
Can my partner have herpes and not me?
When you learned that your partner has the herpès simplex virus, one of the questions that might be running in your head is, will you get it too? You may also wonder about the condition and your risks when your partner has herpes.
Well, the answers to your questions greatly depend on quite a few things, and that includes your sexual encounters.
Among the many things to consider is, if you and your partner use à condom during your sexual contact. It is also best to take note of how long you’ve been sexually intimate together.
When you have had sex with your partner, who has herpes, once or a couple of times, and if you used condoms every time, then your risk of getting infected is likely lower than that of when you have unprotected sexual contacts over time.
However, you may get infected during any of your sexual encounters. Despite any absence of cold sores on your partner’s genitals or even on your own, the possibility of getting it is still there. Most often, the symptoms of the herpès simplex virus are low-key or subtle. Thus, you might not determine that you are already infected.
Sometimes, the symptoms get mistaken to be caused by other things, such as a razor burn, pimples, hemorrhoids, or bug bites. Even with the absence of the symptoms, the herpès simplex virus is contagious or infectious, so you might still have it without having the signs or indications. In this case, consulting your doctor is best.
Some images of different kinds of Herpes Simplex
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