You must know… Ask yourself!
“Do I have herpes?”
This is definitely not a question any of us relish asking, let alone answering.
Though the thought of herpes might make you nervous, you should take comfort in knowing that you're not the only one.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 776,000 Americans contract new herpes infections every year. So as you can see, herpes can affect anyone and everyone.
Now without further ado, let's address some of the questions you may have about this common and treatable sexually transmitted disease (STD).
What is Herpes?
Herpes is a viral infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
Oral herpes (HSV-1) is the primary cause for blisters called “cold sores” that can be found on the mouth, lips, nose, chin, cheeks and throat.
A person can acquire a HSV-1 infection through direct contact with an open or active sore.
Genital herpes (HSV-2) sores typically appear on or around the genitals, including the penis, vagina, anus and rectum. HSV-2 infections are spread through oral, vaginal or anal sexual contact with an infected partner.
HSV-1 infected individuals can initiate oral-genital contact and give their partner genital herpes; conversely, a person with HSV-2 can give their partner oral herpes, but this is less common.
For both HSV-1 and HSV-2, sores or blisters tend to appear about four to six weeks after exposure.
What Are the Symptoms of Herpes?
As mentioned earlier, the most common symptom of herpes is the appearance of blisters in the mouth (HSV-1) or genitals (HSV-2).
A person can have HSV without showing any signs or symptoms.
Here are a few signs to look for in cases of oral herpes:
- Mild or severe itching of the mouth or lips
- Sores or blisters on the lips or inside the mouth
- Swollen glands in the neck, armpit or groin
- Body aches and pains
And for those who believe they may have genital herpes, look for the following common symptoms:
- Tingling sensation in the genitals, buttocks or thighs
- Sores or blisters on or around the genitals
- Body aches
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin
Can you get herpes from kissing?
Though kissing your partner may seem like the safest sexual act on planet earth, unfortunately, it is not.
Herpes can lie dormant for many years without causing any visible symptoms. Because of this, you may be kissing a herpes-infected person and not know it.
Not to kill the romance here, but herpes is a highly contagious disease that is often transmitted through closed-mouth or open-mouth kissing.
This is a common occurrence – it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
You may want to rethink going to first base with your partner until she/he has been tested.
What tests can I take to detect herpes?
There are a few reputable online STD testing companies like STDcheck.com that offers type-specific blood tests that can detect the presence of a HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection in 1-2 days.
For HSV-1, you can order an Oral Herpes test that looks for antibodies to the virus in the bloodstream.
There is also a type-specific Genital Herpes testthat identifies HSV-2 antibodies in your blood. Doctors recommend waiting four to six weeks before taking either the Oral Herpes test or the Genital Herpes test.
Can herpes be treated or cured?
Sorry for the bad news, but herpes is an incurable disease.
Neither HSV-1 nor HSV-2 can be cured – once you've contracted either infection, you essentially have it for the rest of your life – till death do you part.
However, there is a silver lining; there are antiviral medications like acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir that can treat the infection and manage herpes episodes or “outbreaks.”
What if I don't get treated for herpes?
An untreated herpes infection can result in repeated outbreak of symptoms (i.e., sores).
And that's just the best case scenario – if untreated, HSV-1 can infect the eye, potentially causing scarring of the cornea and blindness, while HSV-2 can lead to rare but serious complications like encephalitis and aseptic meningitis.
To avoid these complications, consider getting routine testing for herpes and other STDs.
How can I prevent herpes?
To prevent contracting herpes entirely, you can be sexually abstinent.
Since oral and genital herpes are transmitted through sexual contact, ceasing contact should keep you safe, however, we both know that is less likely to happen.
Alternatively, if you do decide to have sex, make sure to use condoms and dental dams.
These prophylactics will significantly reduce your odds of contracting HSV-1 or HSV-2, as would being in a mutually monogamous sexual relationship.
The more partners you have, the greater the likelihood of contracting an STD.
Finally, getting tested for herpes and other STDs like gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, chlamydia, hepatitis A, B and C, with your partner will ensure each other's well-being and peace of mind. For HIV testing, an HIV RNA test is considered the most effective test by the CDC because it searches for HIV in the blood instead of the antibody to the virus.
What’s Your Opinion?
- Quick quiz – is there a cure for herpes?
- What should you be doing about unprotected sexual activity?
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