What to Expect If You Have Genital Herpes

Genital Herpes, commonly known as herpes is a very common STD which affects both men and women. HSV-2 is the virus responsible for causing genital herpes (HSV-1 causes cold sores). Painful herpetic sores, especially around the genitals is a red flag for this STD.

How Is Genital Herpes Transmitted?

Genital herpes is transmitted through direct contact, including kissing, sexual contact (be it vaginal, oral, or anal sex), or skin-to-skin contact. It is also important to know that genital herpes can be transmitted with or without the presence of sores or other symptoms.

People who are unaware that they are infected, or by do not recognize that they have the infection (because they show no visible symptoms) can also transmit the disease. It is also very important to know that the herpes virus can also be spread from one place on your body to another. This happens if you touch the sores on your genitals and rub it against another part of your body, maybe your arm, mouth or eyes.

Is Genital Herpes a Serious Problem?

Genital Herpes may be a very common STD affecting up to 16 percent of people between the ages of 14 and 49, but it produces mild symptoms, and most people with HSV-2 (the virus responsible for causing genital herpes) have no recognized or serious symptoms.

This doesn’t apply to every person living with genital herpes. In some people, HSV-2 can cause recurrent painful genital ulcers (commonly known as outbreaks) in many adults. The infection has been shown to be particularly severe in people with suppressed immune systems.

More serious than the pain these outbreaks bring is the psychological distress the infection cause among people who know they are infected.

In the United States, HSV-2 may play a major role in the heterosexual spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Herpes can make people more susceptible to HIV infection and can make HIV-infected individuals more infectious.

Pregnant women should try and avoid contracting genital herpes during pregnancy. This is because the infection is fatal to the infant if the mother is shedding virus at the time of delivery. Also, if the first herpes outbreak happens during pregnancy creates a greater risk of transmission to the newborn.

If a pregnant woman has been diagnosed with genital herpes, it is important that her doctor knows. If a woman has active genital herpes at delivery, a cesarean-section delivery is usually performed. Fortunately, infection of an infant is rare among women with HSV-2 infection.

What Happens When Someone Is Infected with Genital Herpes?

During the early stages, most people infected with HSV-2 (the virus responsible for genital herpes) are not aware of their infection. If you have been diagnosed with herpes, it is important to know the stages of genital herpes.

  • Primary Stage: This is the first stage and usually starts 2 to 8 days after infection (it may take longer in some people). This stage usually comes with flu-like symptoms. More often than not, the infection causes groups of small, painful blisters. The fluid in the blisters may be clear or cloudy.

The area under the blisters will be red. The blisters break open and become open sores. You may not ever notice the blisters, or they may be painful. It may hurt to urinate during this stage. While most people have a painful primary stage of infection, some don’t have any symptoms at all. They may not even know they’re infected.

  • Latent Stage: this stage is completely free of blisters, sores, and other symptoms in the primary stages. The virus is traveling from your skin into the nerves near your spine.

  • Shedding Stage: In this stage, the virus begins to multiply in the nerve endings. If these nerve endings are in areas of the body that make or are in contact with body fluids, the virus can get into those body fluids (saliva, semen, or vaginal fluids). There are no symptoms during this stage, but the virus can be spread during this time.

  • Recurrences: This is common in many people with digital herpes. Many people who had blisters and sores during the first outbreak usually have them again, this is called a recurrence. Usually, the symptoms during recurrences are not as bad as they were during the first attack.

Is There a Cure for Genital Herpes?

As of 2018, there is still no treatment that can cure herpes, if you get it, it’s for life. However, there are antiviral medications which can shorten and prevent outbreaks for whatever period of time the person takes the medication. The following antiviral drugs have been approved by FDA and work.

  • Aciclovir: Aciclovir, also known as acyclovir is primarily used for the treatment of herpes simplex virus infections. The usual recommended adult dosage is 800 mg administered every 4 hours, 5 times daily. Aciclovir reduces the frequency of herpes outbreaks.

  • Famvir: This drug is used to treat both adolescents and adults with genital herpes. It is also used to treats outbreaks of herpes simplex that cause cold sores around the mouth, sores around the anus, and genital herpes. In people with frequent outbreaks of genital herpes, Famvir is used to help reduce the number of future episodes.

  • Valtrex: is an antiviral drug which can be found under the name Valacyclovir. It is one of the most widely used and effective drugs on the market for treating and controlling cold sores, shingles, and genital herpes.

Genital herpes is completely preventable. With this in mind, prevention is the best option, that is if you have not been diagnosed with it. The consistent and correct use of latex condoms is a great way to stay protected, but not the best. This is because condoms do not provide complete protection, because a herpes lesion may not be covered by the condom and viral shedding may occur.

If you or your partner has genital herpes, it is best to abstain from sex when symptoms are present and to use latex condoms between outbreaks.

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