If you have been diagnosed with herpes or suspects you may have contracted herpes, you are most likely experiencing confusion, concern, and uncertainty about what to do next. These feelings are common and very understandable. The vast majority of people experience them when learning they have tested positive for herpes. There are many resources available to help you learn more about the virus, what to expect, and how to live a happy and fulfilling life with the disease. Following are some basic facts you should know about the herpes virus.
How does the herpes virus transmit or spread?
In general, the herpes virus is transmitted through physical contact and the exchange of bodily fluids. There are two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV), type 1 or oral herpes, and type 2 or genital herpes. Oral herpes is transmitted through direct contact between a contagious area or sore and broken skin. Kissing is one of the most common ways to transmit oral herpes, oral sex is another. Genital herpes is transmitted by any sexual contact of the genitals. It is important to know that herpes can be spread even when you are experiencing no physical signs of the virus.
What are the symptoms of herpes?
The symptoms of oral herpes are cold sores or fever blisters on or around the lips, above the upper lip, in the nose, or on the cheek or chin. The symptoms of genital herpes include painful blisters or ulcers around the genital area, as well as itching, burning or tingling of the skin around the genitals. Other symptoms of both types of herpes, especially those associated with the initial infection, include fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes. These are very similar in nature to flu-like symptoms.
How often does a herpes outbreak occur?
Herpes outbreaks do not occur on a regular or predictable schedule. The first outbreak is typically the most severe and painful and takes the longest to heal. After this, outbreaks can occur an average of four times per year. For some people, the herpes virus remains dormant for months or even years before an outbreak. The frequency of herpes outbreaks tends to decrease over time, the duration of each outbreak typically shortens, and the pain and recovery times decrease as well.
What triggers a herpes outbreak?
Herpes outbreaks can be triggered by any number of things or a combination of things. Herpes triggers can be very different from person to person. One of the most common triggers is stress. The more stress you are experiencing, the more likely you are to experience an outbreak. Other triggers include illness, surgery, vigorous sex, poor diet, and for women their monthly period.
How does genital herpes affect a pregnant woman and her baby?
In general, women with genital herpes give birth to healthy babies. However, in some cases an outbreak of genital herpes during pregnancy can have serious health issues on the unborn fetus including miscarriage and stillbirths. For some babies, a herpes infection can cause severe brain injury and blindness. If you have genital herpes, it is best to consult with your doctor before becoming pregnant.
How can I protect my partner from contracting herpes?
There are several easy and simple steps you can take to prevent the spread of herpes. If you have oral herpes, you should refrain from kissing anyone on the mouth or performing oral sex as soon as you feel an outbreak coming and for several days after your sores have healed. Never kiss infants, children or pregnant women during an outbreak.
Preventing the spread of genital herpes is more difficult than oral herpes. Abstinence should be practiced as soon as you feel the warning signs of an outbreak and during any active outbreak of the virus. Wait seven days after the sores heal before resuming any sexual activity. Consistently using condoms during all sexual activity greatly helps in preventing the spread of the disease. However, you should take care in exposing any bare skin not covered by a condom during any sexual activity, including oral sex.
For more information about herpes and how to better take care of yourself, please consult with a medical professional and do research at several of the medically focused herpes specific websites.