What is Genital Herpes?
Genital herpes is an STI that can be contracted by any sexually active person. Herpes is very common throughout the United States. In fact, nearly 1 in 6 people ranging in age from 14-49 have genital herpes.
It can be passed from one partner to another through oral, vaginal, or anal sex. You, or your partner, may not even be aware that the herpes strain is being transmitted.
Although both men and women are at risk for STI, women are at a much higher risk. This is because the virus is more easily sexually transmitted from men to women than women to men.
There are two types of herpes; HSV1 (Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1) and HSV2 (Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2). Each spreads through skin to skin contact, however, only HSV1 known to cause cold sores or fever blisters as well.
Herpes is highly contagious and can be transferred to one partner from another through the fluids excreted from a blister or sore. Even if you are not showing signs of an outbreak, herpes can still be passed from partner to partner through the skin.
Genital Herpes Symptoms
Most people don’t know they have genital herpes. Symptoms can be minor or even non-existent if you have herpes.
The most commonly known symptoms or genital herpes include painful blisters or sores around the genitals or anus. The can appear as a single sore or be clustered together.
Often, genital herpes goes undetected. Many people mistake HSV2 for other minor skin conditions such as a pimple or ingrown hair.
While there are not always clear signs that you may have herpes, there are symptoms associated with genital herpes that you should be aware of besides outbreaks. Take a look at some of these lesser-known signs that you could have herpes.
- Flu-like symptoms (especially during the first outbreak)
- Smelly discharge
- Genital dryness or itchiness
- Burning when urinating
- Bleeding in between periods
If you or your partner have any of the above symptoms, you should consider making an appointment with your healthcare provider.
Diagnosing Genital Herpes
Often, your healthcare provider will be able to diagnose you just by looking at the affected area. Once you are suspected of having genital herpes, your doctor will take a sample and test fluid from a sore.
Blood tests can also be performed to determine if you have genital herpes and are showing no signs. If you suspect you or your partner have contracted the herpes virus, ask your doctor to test you as soon as possible to prevent further spreading.
Treatment for Genital Herpes
There is no cure for genital herpes. However, there are ways to manage the virus. If you are diagnosed with genital herpes, your doctor may provide you with daily medication. This medication can help prevent and shorten outbreaks.
In the early stages of herpes, you may have up to 4 or 5 outbreaks a year. Generally, you’ll experience more outbreaks early on. Even though herpes is something you will need to deal with your whole life, outbreaks should become less often over time.
Prevent Getting Genital Herpes
While genital herpes does not usually cause serious health problems, it is still important to take proper safety precautions when having oral, vaginal, or anal intercourse.
Herpes can be passed from person to person without even knowing it, which is why it’s especially important to take precautions against possible transmission.
So, what can you do?
- Abstain from sex. Abstaining from sexual contact is one of the best ways to prevent contracting genital herpes and other STIs.
- Commit to a monogamous relationship. Because genital herpes can go undetected, you may want to consider scheduling a doctor’s visit for both you and your partner.
- Use condoms correctly. Although, not 100% effective, condoms can prevent spreading of genital herpes in some cases. Be aware, genital herpes can still be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact while having intercourse.
Prevent Transmitting Genital Herpes
If you or your partner have genital herpes, you should talk to your doctor about preventive measures to ensure you do not infect your partner.
Because genital herpes is so contagious, you should avoid touching sores or blisters. Otherwise, you may run the risk of infecting other parts of your body. Always, wash hands thoroughly if you come in contact with a sore.
For those who have multiple outbreaks a year, your doctor may prescribe a medication called ‘daily suppressive therapy’ which can lower the risk of your partner getting genital herpes.
It’s always important to maintain open communication with your sexual partner(s) about any STIs that you may have and agree on options moving forward.
Knowing your body is the first step in preventing or transmitting genital herpes. If you or your partner notice any symptoms such as unusual sores, you should both schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Getting tested regularly along with being open and honest with your healthcare provider is essential to maintaining a healthy sexual lifestyle
Don’t hesitate to give us a call with any concerns regarding genital herpes or other STIs. We’d be happy to confidentially answer any questions you may have or schedule an appointment with your doctor.
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