Helpful Advice about Herpes
HELPFUL INFORMATION AND ADVICE
A diagnosis of genital herpes often comes as a shock. Many people do not feel comfortable talking about sexuality and sexual health issues.
There are many avenues for help, reassurance and guidance. Below are resources that can offer help and support for people living with and affected by herpes:
Adequate information about genital herpes and the implications for the future are an important part of clinical management and treatment. Counseling offers a way of dealing with your concerns.
If you or your partner are finding it hard to come to terms with the news, need advice, guidance for the future, or just need to talk with someone a medical expert or counselor can help give you some direction.
Encourage yourself or your partner to speak with a medical expert or counselor.
The experience and support of other people with herpes can be extremely valuable.
Support groups for people with herpes exist in some countries and have the objective of providing support and education to people with herpes.
For anyone who feels isolated by genital herpes, self-help groups can provide a much-needed arena for open discussion and the exchange of information and ideas.
Getting the facts
The more emotionally charged an issue, the more important it is to find out the facts. Most people know little or nothing about herpes. Frequently, what knowledge they have is colored by myth and misconception.
Having the correct information makes it easier for everyone concerned. Genital herpes is extremely common. In some countries, up to one in five people are infected with this virus, whether they know it or not.
HSV can be passed on when one person has the virus present on the skin or mucosa and another person makes direct skin-to-skin contact with the live virus.
The virus is likely to be present on the skin from the first sign of prodrome (tingling or itching where the outbreak usually occurs), until the sores have completely healed and new skin is present.There are likely to be certain periods of time (possibly only a few days out of the year) when the active virus might be on the skin, even though there are no obvious signs or symptoms.
Always using latex condoms may possibly reduce the risk of transmitting the virus at these times.Herpes is very frequently transmitted by infected persons who do not know they are infected.
Once diagnosed, a person generally is able to take the simple precautions necessary to protect partners - avoiding contact during prodrome or an outbreak and practicing safer sex when no symptoms are present.
ATTITUDE AND SELF-ESTEEM:
A positive attitude helps greatly, starting with a positive feeling towards oneselfIt is important for individuals to have time and space so that they can learn about their strengths and develop them
For anyone who finds stress a particular problem or has trouble relaxing, there are specific techniques, such as meditation and courses on stress management, that can help.
OUTBREAKS AND RECURRENCES:A person who experiences recurrent genital herpes should try to get to know the pattern of their outbreaks, and may discover the particular circumstances that trigger an episode and learn to avoid them
To gain relief from frequent recurrences, antiviral treatment may help. It can prevent some recurrences and provide valuable 'breathing time' in which people can learn to strengthen their own resources.
When it comes down to the basics of telling, there is no foolproof method. What you say and how you say it are going to depend on your own personal style. It is only natural to feel apprehensive about telling someone else about genital herpes for the first time.
A good long-term relationship must be based always on honesty and trust. While some people may experience an unsupportive response, most have found their partners are both supportive and understanding.If your partner does decide not to pursue a relationship with you simply because you have herpes, it is in your best interest to find out now. It takes a lot more than the occasional aggravation of herpes to destroy a sound relationship.
Carefully choose the time and place for telling someone. Although it may not be necessary to tell someone right at the beginning of a relationship, do not wait until after a serious relationship is established as this is not fair to the other person.
The discussion could take place where you feel safe and comfortable. Some people turn off the TV, take the phone off the hook, and approach the subject over a quiet dinner at home. Others prefer a more public place, like walking in the park, or a quiet restaurant, so that their partner will feel free to go home afterwards to think things through.Be prepared. Plan what is going to be said and have your facts about genital herpes clear. It can be a good idea to have relevant printed information on hand for someone to read.
Be spontaneous. Be confident. You are doing the right thing for both of you. By telling your partner you allow them to enter into the relationship with full knowledge of your infectionWhen you have an outbreak, you can discuss it with a partner instead of making excuses for why you can't have sex. If the two of you are able to discuss the situation, openly and honestly, you can negotiate around it. Imaginative lovers find ways to weather these temporary setbacks.
Consider how you would feel if the roles were reversed and you were being told. You can also role play the situation with a friend who already knows your situation, but do not let them always play the understanding partner. Convincing another person can help convince you.More information on genital herpes can be obtained by contacting your doctor or a sexual health clinic.
Personal rejection, with or without herpes, is a possibility we all face. Fear of rejection can lead some to question why they should risk talking about herpes and choose not to disclose the fact. Instead they abstain during outbreaks, practice safe sex at other times, and hope for the best.
This way of thinking can have more disadvantages than advantages:
Unconsciously, many of us have a lot of negative beliefs related to herpes that make it difficult to convince ourselves that others would want to be with us. It is important to recognize these beliefs and consciously change them. Accepting the fact that you have herpes will make it easier to let others into your life.Sit down with a pen and paper and say to yourself, "I have herpes." What thought pops into your head? No matter what it is, write it down. Do this again and again until you have identified a number of the stereotypical/negative feelings that you have about herpes.
Look at your list. How many of the negative feelings or beliefs are truly valid? Take your list and replace each of your negative beliefs with a positive one.You have the power to change what you believe about yourself. Whenever you find your inner voice telling you that you can't do or have anything that you desire, simply interrupt it and firmly repeat to yourself your positive replacement. The more often you repeat these positive statements, the more they reinforce themselves.
You can think and believe whatever you choose about yourself. It might take some repetition. Years of negative belief patterns do not disappear overnight. But eventually, by deliberately replacing your old negative beliefs with positive new ones, you can begin to change how you think and feel about yourself - consciously and unconsciously.
Well done! You have confronted a difficult issue in your life with courage and consideration.
If your partner has genital herpes, your support may be very important in helping him or her deal with this condition, which can also directly affect you. When your partner goes back to the doctor, you may wish to go too, so that you can find out more about the infection.
Genital herpes is a common infection generally transmitted through sexual contact. It is caused by one of two members of the herpes virus family, which also includes the viruses causing chickenpox, shingles, and glandular fever.
Genital herpes is usually caused by infection with herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Genital herpes can also be caused by HSV-1, the virus which more usually causes facial herpes, including cold sores on the lips.
Genital herpes, for most people, is an occasionally recurrent, sometimes painful condition for which effective treatment is now available. Generally, it is not life-threatening and has no long-term repercussions on one's general physical health.
Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of catching genital herpes, regardless of their gender, race or social class.
Genital herpes can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected blister or sore, usually through sexual contact. It can also be transmitted when there are no symptoms present.
HSV-2 infection is usually passed on during vaginal or anal sex. HSV-1 is usually transmitted to the genital area by oral sex (mouth to genital contact).
If you have only just been diagnosed as having genital herpes and are in a monogamous relationship, this does not necessarily mean that your partner has been unfaithful to you, or sexually promiscuous in the past.
It is possible for a person to carry the virus without knowing that they have it, since up to 80% of people who are infected with HSV-2 show no signs of the infection. So it is very easy for a person to unwittingly transmit the infection to their partner.
The symptoms of the infection vary greatly between individuals. It might be totally unnoticeable in one person, but cause severe blistering in their partner.
Since the genital herpes virus can be transmitted through oral sex as well as vaginal sex, it is also possible to have caught the virus from a cold sore on your partner's mouth or face. It is possible to pass the virus on even if they did not have a cold sore present at the time of contact.
Alternatively, you may have contracted the virus from a previous sexual partner, perhaps even several years ago. The virus can remain inactive in the body for long periods, so this may be the first time it has caused symptoms. Or, previous symptoms may have been so slight that the herpes condition went unnoticed or was dismissed (eg. a mild rash, itching or tingling).
Because of the stigma wrongly attached to genital herpes, it has probably taken a great deal of courage for you to tell your partner that you have the infection. If you have not already told your partner and need advice on how to do this please click here.
You may find that the honesty and trust brought about by discussing genital herpes strengthens your relationship and brings you closer together. Support and understanding can help to overcome much of the anxiety that you may be feeling about genital herpes.
A good long-term relationship must be based always on honesty and trust. While some people may experience an unsupportive response, most have found their partners are both supportive and understanding.
If you are having your first episode of genital herpes, you are likely to feel generally unwell and have fever, headache, and general joint and muscle aches, as well as irritation in the genitals.
This may last for several days, during or after which reddened areas may appear on the genitals. These may develop into painful blisters, which then burst, leaving sores which gradually heal, usually without scarring.
The severity of this first episode varies between individuals, but for some people it may be severe and last for up to three weeks if not treated. These symptoms should quickly resolve with treatment.
The doctor will probably give you a course of antiviral treatment. This is an effective medicine which, although it does not cure genital herpes, can speed recovery and reduce the severity of the episode.
Other forms of topical treatments are becoming increasingly popular, such as the topical solution Dynamiclear® which works by eliminating the virus on contact with the outbreak. This solution works very well in ending herpes outbreaks, however you must have an active outbreak with sores or blisters for Dynamiclear® to work properly. One benefit is that it is a "topical" application (applied onto the skin) so no nauseous pills are needed.
For many people with genital herpes, the physical consequences of the infection are far outweighed by the emotional feelings it evokes. There are many misconceptions about genital herpes, including the belief that it is associated with promiscuity, and these have given it a reputation which may cause you to feel angry and shocked by the diagnosis. You may feel betrayed by your partner, or by a previous partner who may have transmitted the infection.
Anxiety, guilt, loss of assertiveness and fear of rejection are also common emotions. The support of a partner, friend, or family member can be very important in helping you to deal with these feelings and to minimize the effect of genital herpes on your life.
The symptoms of genital herpes may reappear from time to time. This is because once the viral infection is acquired, it stays permanently in the body. Most of the time the virus remains inactive, but every so often it may reactivate and cause another outbreak.
Each individual is different - some people never have a recurrence. Others may have recurrences several times a year. However, recurrent outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first episode.
Certain events or situations can trigger recurrences, and you may be able to avoid or reduce the trigger factors, which may include stress at work or home, fatigue, ill health, loss of sleep, friction due to sexual intercourse, and menstruation in women.
If you have frequent or severe episodes of genital herpes, or if the recurrent outbreaks are causing a lot of anxiety for you, then you may benefit from suppressive (preventative) therapy, such as Valtrex®, which can help to prevent or reduce the frequency of recurrences. Other types of herpes treatments that can be effective include topical applications such as Dynamiclear® or antivirals such as Acyclovir®, Famciclovir® and Valaciclovir®.
If you take the necessary precautions, the chances of transmitting the virus to your partner are small. Genital herpes does not necessarily mean complete abstinence from sex or a reduced enjoyment of sex.
The risk of transmitting the virus may possibly be reduced if you use condoms. The continued use of condoms in a long-term relationship is a personal decision that only the couple can make. Most find that as the importance of the HSV infection in their relationship is seen in perspective, that condom use can become less relevant if this is the only reason condoms are being used.
However, at all costs couples should try to avoid sexual intercourse during an active episode of herpes, because this is when the virus is most likely to be transmitted. This period includes the time from when your partner first has warning signs of an outbreak, such as tingling or burning in the genitals, until the last of the sores has healed. Also, sexual activity prolongs the healing of the episode.
Transmission risk is increased if there are any breaks in the skin, for example, if you have thrush or small abrasions from sexual intercourse, often due to insufficient lubrication. It can be helpful to use a lubricant specifically for sexual intercourse and avoid sex if you have thrush. Sexual lubrication is helpful right at the start of sexual activity.
Sores in other areas, such as the buttocks and thighs, can be just as contagious as those in the genital area, and care should be taken to avoid direct contact with such sores during sex.
At other times, there is still a small risk of transmitting the infection, even if your partner is showing no signs of genital herpes. If you or your partner has a cold sore, it is advisable to avoid oral sex as this can spread the virus to the genitals.
You cannot catch genital herpes by sharing cups, towels or bath water, or from toilet seats. Even during an outbreak, it is only skin to skin contact with the parts of your partner's body which have the sores which you need to avoid. You can still cuddle, share a bed, or kiss.
Although the herpes virus is relatively easy to kill in a laboratory dish the problem arises because this virus hides itself inside an apparently normal host nerve cell until it has multiplied itself and is
ready to migrate. This is when an outbreak occurs and the blisters appear.
In theory this virus will die very quickly once the temperature drops or the moisture around the virus dries up but a scenario can be suggested where the temperature and moisture holds on long enough for the virus to survive outside the body for several minutes. This could arise where an infected person leaves the virus in droplets of warm urine on the toilet seat and someone uses that toilet seat within a few minutes and has a cut that comes in contact with that pool of warm urine. To avoid this scenario wipe the toilet seat before using.
It is generally considered that the spreading of genital herpes through inanimate objects, such as soap, towels, clothing, bed sheets, toilet seats, and spa surfaces is highly unlikely because the herpes virus cannot live very long outside of the body.
The usual symptoms of genital herpes begin with feeling generally unwell. You may have fever, headache, and general joint and muscle aches, as well as irritation in the genitals. This may last for several days, during or after which reddened areas may appear on the genitals. These may develop into painful blisters, which then burst, leaving sores which gradually heal, usually without scarring.
Signs of infection vary greatly between individuals and it is possible for you to show only mild symptoms that are not so easily recognizable as being genital herpes. These may include itching in the genital area, small cracks in the skin around the genitals, or reddened patches of skin in the genital area, thighs or buttocks, or you may have no symptoms at all.
Consult your doctor if you think you might be showing signs of the infection. Until recently, diagnosis could only be made by clinical symptoms and swabs to detect the virus during an active episode. However, blood tests are becoming commercially available that can distinguish between HSV-1 and HSV-2 antibodies. The time taken to develop antibodies after initial infection is normally 8 to 12 weeks. It is also important to know that false positives and false negatives can occur with these tests.
Blood tests cannot definitively diagnose herpes, they can only tell you whether or not you are infected with HSV-1 and/or HSV-2, but cannot identify the site of infection. A swab taken from a genital site test is also required. If this tests positive, that is, the virus is detected, the diagnosis of genital herpes is confirmed. For more information on the diagnosis of herpes click here
After you have read this information, you might have specific questions or concerns. Your doctor should be able to answer such questions or recommend other experts who can provide advice and support. Continue to go back to your doctor until all your queries about genital herpes are answered.
In some areas, there are local genital herpes support groups that can be a valuable source of information and support. Ask your doctor if there is such a group in your area or look through our Support Groups page.
If you want further information regarding herpes, you can:
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Information and pictures on this site are provided for informational purposes and are not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professionals. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.