If you have herpes, it can feel like a huge burden to bear. But the truth is that there are millions of people with genital herpes in this country alone. And most of them lead happy, healthy lives. In fact, it’s estimated that 75% of all Americans will contract genital herpes at some point in their lives. So if you’re newly diagnosed with genital herpes, take comfort from knowing that we’ve got your back!
People with herpes are millions
If you’ve been diagnosed with herpes, you’re not alone.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), over 45 million adults in the United States have genital herpes and well over 3.7 billion people worldwide have the HSV-1 strain of oral herpes, also known as cold sores. The good news is that there are treatments available for both types of herpes that can reduce symptoms and help you lead a normal life. The bad news is that even though many people carry the virus, most don’t know it because they never experience any symptoms or get tested for it.
At this point we may be wondering: How common is it? Well, according to research published in 2012 by the Journal Health Statistics Review Service*, one out five American teens between ages 14 and 19 has genital herpes caused by HSV-2; plus 45% of adults between ages 20 and 49 have been infected with HSV-2 through sexual contact with an infected partner; while 21% percent of individuals aged 50 years or older have genital herpes caused by HSV-1 (the strain responsible for oral infection).
This means that someone who hasn’t had any symptoms yet could still unknowingly pass on this condition through sexual activity if they were exposed to someone else’s fluid containing active virus particles at some point during their life — just like how HIV can be transmitted when someone doesn’t know they’re infected yet,” says Dr Steven Gendin from Henry Ford Health System in Detroit Michigan
Herpes can be transmitted even if you don’t have an outbreak.
- Herpes can be transmitted even if you don’t have an outbreak.
- The virus is present on the skin of a person with herpes and may not be visible, making it difficult to tell whether someone has the virus or not. It’s possible for someone to transmit herpes to another person even if there are no symptoms or sores on their genitals at the time of sexual activity.
- This is why it’s important for sexually active persons with herpes to take precautions (like using condoms) when they’re having sex with a partner who doesn’t know they’re infected—even if they don’t think they’ll have an outbreak that day.
Herpes is not a life-threatening illness.
Herpes is not fatal. It is not a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Herpes is not a disease, virus, bacteria or fungus; it’s an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus that can cause cold sores or genital herpes.
Herpes can also be spread to other parts of your body if you touch a sore and then touch another part of your body (or someone else’s) without washing your hands first.
The first outbreak of genital herpes can be the worst
If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’ve got herpes. Or maybe you’re just interested in learning more about the condition. Either way, it’s important to understand that not every outbreak of genital herpes is the same and each experience can be different. The first outbreak (or primary infection) can be especially painful and severe—and last longer than subsequent outbreaks.
The reason for this is because the body hasn’t been exposed to a virus before so it doesn’t have any antibodies against it yet; meaning your immune system won’t be able to fight off the virus as well as someone who has already had an infection at some point in their life would be able to do during future flare-ups.
A partner infected with oral herpes may transmit HSV-1 to the genitals through oral sex.
- The herpes simplex virus (HSV) causes both oral and genital infections.
- HSV can be transmitted to the genitals through oral sex.
- You cannot tell if someone has a herpes infection by looking at them or touching their genitals.
If you have cold sores on your mouth, avoid kissing anyone until the sores heal. If you have oral sex with someone who has cold sores on the mouth or face, use a dental dam (a piece of latex or plastic cut to size).
There’s no cure for herpes, but medication can ease your symptoms and reduce your chances of giving the virus to other people.
The cold sore virus is incurable, but there are things you can do to make living with it easier. If you are not currently experiencing symptoms, an effective daily medication may be able to reduce the frequency of outbreaks. Your doctor may recommend some common medications such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex).
- These drugs work by suppressing your body’s ability to replicate HSV-1 so that fewer viruses enter your bloodstream or attack your skin cells. They also help reduce pain and inflammation caused by sores on your lips or face.
- Medication should be taken as prescribed for it to be effective—and don’t stop taking it unless your doctor tells you to! Stopping medication suddenly can cause an outbreak within 48 hours or less, even if there were no signs previously.
- If you have frequent outbreaks of herpes simplex labialis (cold sores), a prescription antiviral cream might help ease the pain during an active episode and speed healing afterward
The virus never leaves your body once you’re infected, but the outbreaks become less frequent over time.
The virus is not contagious when you don’t have symptoms. The herpes simplex virus lives in your body, but it can go into a dormant state. During this latent stage, you may not know that you’re infected with herpes.
Even if you don’t have an outbreak, the virus can be transmitted to other people through skin-to-skin contact. That’s why it’s important for people with herpes to have safe sex — even if they aren’t experiencing an active outbreak at the time of intercourse — because they could accidentally pass on the virus without knowing it. Even though there isn’t always visible evidence of outbreaks on someone’s body, this doesn’t mean they aren’t contagious during those periods of remission!
Living with someone with genital herpes will require patience and understanding from both of you.
To minimize the risk of spreading herpes to your partner, you should:
- Be honest and talk about your status with them.
- Talk about what you can and can’t do sexually. For example, if you have cold sores, it’s best to avoid having sex when symptoms are present (which includes oral sex).
- Make sure that both of you get tested for other STDs before having sex.
- Get tested regularly for STDs if either one of you has multiple partners or is unsure of their sexual history.
While there is no cure for herpes, many people with genital herpes have few outbreaks or none at all once they are infected and may not even know that they have it unless they develop blisters during an outbreak. If either one of you develops symptoms like itching or tingling in your private parts — especially if they hurt — talk to each other immediately so that a doctor can figure out what’s going on with whichever one needs treatment most urgently
Ideally, you want to talk about herpes before you get sexually involved. If that’s not possible, then at least make sure that both partners are aware of the risks and are on board with using protection. It’s also important for people with genital herpes to be honest about their status because it can be hard for doctors who don’t know about their medical history.