How to manage when you get diagnosed with Herpes?
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with HSV-1 or HSV-2 (genital herpes), you might feel confused, scared, and possibly angry.
It can be shocking to hear the word “herpes” in the doctor’s office. If you’re caught off guard or overwhelmed, you may not register what your medical provider is telling you.
Herpes is an infectious disease and like many others, you can learn to live well with it. It’s not a curse, a judgment, or the end of the world.
One of the first steps most people take after a diagnosis is to inquire about treatment options. While there is no cure for herpes, you can manage it enough to reduce the number of outbreaks and minimize the risk of transmission to future sexual partners.
Remember, it could be an asymptomatic infection…
If you were diagnosed with genital herpes through a blood test because your current or former sexual partner told you that you might have been exposed to the virus, it’s possible that you will never have a noticeable outbreak.
Most people with genital herpes have asymptomatic infections. If you don’t have a symptomatic outbreak within a month after being infected with the herpes virus, you may never experience genital symptoms.
Being asymptomatic doesn’t mean you can ignore the infection. Genital herpes can be transmitted even in the absence of symptoms (in fact, that may be how you were infected with the virus), however the risk of transmission when you have no symptoms is very low.
Risk of transmission is the highest when you are having symptoms.
What is a Herpes ‘flare-up’?
When herpes flares up again, it is called a ‘“recurrence’ or outbreak.” Herpes does not always recur, and if it does recur, the timing and severity are different from person to person. Some people rarely have recurrences. Others have them often.
Herpes is most likely to recur in the first year after infection. Recurrences may be more frequent for people with weakened immune systems.
You may have some early warning signs before an outbreak occurs, like tingling, burning, or itching where sores were before. The warning signs may start a few hours or a day or so before the sores flare up. When symptoms recur, they are usually not as severe as symptoms during an initial herpes outbreak.
Can you have sex if you have Herpes?
While it’s true that practicing safe sex does not completely eliminate risk, a herpes diagnosis doesn’t need to be the end of your sex life. Consistent and proper use of barrier methods, as well as avoiding sex during outbreaks, makes it less likely you will pass the infection to a partner.
It’s also important to avoid sex during the prodromal period before an outbreak. This is when you start to feel itching or tingling under your skin and other symptoms that suggest the herpes sores will soon appear.
You should also know that having oral herpes does not protect you from getting genital herpes; in fact, oral herpes is more contagious than genital herpes.
Therefore, safe oral sex practices are also important for preventing herpes. Cold sores (which are oral herpes) can be transmitted to the genitals and vice versa.
Is Herpes curable?
Although herpes treatment is helpful, there is no cure. However, in most cases, outbreaks become fewer, less painful, and weaker over the course of a few years. If you have herpes, you can take certain medications to help manage the infection. Using herpes treatments is usually very effective in speeding up the healing of sores and preventing them from returning frequently.
A blood test can tell if you are infected with oral or genital herpes — even if you don’t have symptoms. Health care providers can also confirm herpes infection by testing fluids taken from the sores. If you think you have herpes sores, get them checked out as soon as possible.
How do you prevent Herpes transmission?
Avoid touching any sores you have. If you do, wash your hands with soap and water. You should avoid sex while you have sores, and use a male or female condom or dental dam with your partner if sex occurs despite intentions to not have sex. Herpes is most contagious during an outbreak, but it’s also possible to spread herpes when no symptoms are present but the risk is very low. This is why it does not preclude you from having future relationships or having children,
A good diet, enough rest and sleep, and effective stress management may help prevent herpes recurrences. Also stop smoking as risk of recurrence tends to be higher if you smoke or during periods when you smoke more heavily. If you have oral herpes, avoid getting sunburned.
Getting tested for STDs is a basic part of staying healthy and taking care of your body — like brushing your teeth and exercising regularly. Getting tested and knowing your status shows you care about yourself and your partner.
Next read: 10 Facts On Genital Herpes Simplex Virus
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