So, you are in the shower cleansing yourself and you find something abnormal at your private region. It’s painful to touch. What can it be?
What is genital herpes?
Genital Herpes is a viral infection that causes painful ulcers either on the penis or vagina. It is further classified into 2 types, HSV 1& HSV 2. HSV 1 causes painful oral ulcers, and HSV 2 causes painful genital ulcers. Oral herpes or HSV 1 can result in cold sores or blisters on/around the oral mucosa. However, HSV 1 in most cases do not present with any symptoms. The latest research shows that oral herpes patients were infected during childhood or young adulthood from non-sexual contact via saliva.
Is herpes common?
Genital herpes is common worldwide. Statistics in the US showed that more than 1 out of 6 people aged 14-49 suffer from genital herpes.
How does Herpes spread?
You can get infected by genital herpes by having vaginal, anal and or oral sex with someone who has the disease and has an active ulcer outbreak. You also can get infected if you come into contact with herpes virus via touching active ulcers, saliva, or even skin-to-skin contact prior to intercourse. You may get herpes from an infected sex partner that does not have a visible ulcer as well. There are also chances of getting genital herpes if you have received oral sex from a partner who has oral herpes.
Otherwise, you will not get herpes from toilet seats, bedding and swimming pools, or from touching objects around you such as silverware, soaps or towels.
How do I reduce my chances of getting Herpes?
It’s best for everyone to get screened for sexually transmitted infections prior to engaging in sexual behavior. As we know the only way to avoid STDs are not to have vaginal, anal or oral sex prior to sexual health screening. If you are sexually active, there are a few things that you can do to prevent the transmission of Herpes. Prior to getting into a long-term relationship, both partners should be screened for all STI’s and treated accordingly if they want to progress to being intimate.
Otherwise, try to use condoms correctly every time you have sexual intercourse. But be aware that even while using condoms, the areas that are not covered are still at risk in contracting the virus. There are also possibilities for HSV to spread even if there are no visible herpes sores. For this reason, condoms are not 100% effective against protection against Herpes. If you are in a relationship with someone who has genital herpes, you can lower your risk of getting genital herpes, if your partner takes their medication at the onset of symptoms. You are also advised against having intercourse when your partner has an active outbreak of herpes ulcers.
Can herpes affect pregnancy?
If you are pregnant and have been diagnosed with genital herpes, it’s very important to inform your obstetrician and to have regular follow-ups. There are new researches that suggest that genital herpes may lead to miscarriage, or could make it more likely for you to have pre-term labor.
Herpes infection also may be passed from you to your baby before birth; however it’s more common for the infection to be passed to your infant during delivery. During delivery, your obstetrician will examine for herpes sore, and if there are active infections that are present, a C-Section is usually performed.
Will herpes get cured?
Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes. However, there are antiviral medications that shorten and prevent an outbreak. If there a recurrent infections in a year, your doctor may suggest a longer course of treatment.
What happens if it’s not treated?
If left untreated, genital herpes can cause painful genital sores, and it can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems. If you touch your sores/fluids, the virus may transfer to another part of your body, most commonly the eyes. If you are in contact with the sores, it’s best to wash your hands thoroughly to help avoid spreading the infection.
It is best to seek treatment and to prevent the spreading of the virus.