In the United States, roughly 1 in 6 individuals are infected with genital herpes. When it comes to sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs), it’s one of the most common ones out there. Yet, genital herpes is not the easiest STD to diagnose. In fact, oftentimes, most people exhibit no visible signs of infection.
So therein lies the issue. How are you supposed to know you have a genital herpes infection when you don’t have any visible symptoms? Clearly, there are other ways to diagnose genital herpes. However, it’s always recommended that you check with your doctor to be certain whether you’re actually infected.
But before knowing whether you have genital herpes, it’s important to understand what it is. Yes, genital herpes is a common STD. It causes painful sores called herpetic sores. There are two types of sores. The first are cold sores, also known as HSV-1. These appear near the mouth or on the face. The other are genital sores, also known as HSV-2.
Herpetic sores appear in the form of blisters that are filled with fluid that then bursts from time to time. Upon bursting (or breaking) these sores then ooze fluid outwards. The experience is a painful one. However, the difficulty is this. Most of the people who actually have genital herpes, don’t have sores. Yet, they can transmit it to others, who can then exhibit visible symptoms.
Protecting Yourself From Genital Herpes Infections
Clearly, protecting yourself sexually goes without saying. Using condoms during sex is one way to avoid transmitting or getting genital herpes from your partner. Since these viruses move through mucous membranes, contraception offers one way to protect yourself. But keep in mind that it’s not full proof.
However, if you feel like you’ve contracted genital herpes, yet you can’t see any visible symptoms and signs, then there are other methods for diagnosis. Here’s the problem. There is no cure for genital herpes. And once you’re infected, that virus will live inside your body for the rest of your life. So, if you don’t practice safe sex, chances of contracting it, especially during a breakout, are extremely high.
The First Sign Of A Genital Herpes Infection Is An Outbreak
In most cases, an infection of genital herpes is signaled by an outbreak. That outbreak can happen anywhere from 2 days after the infection all the way up to a month afterwards. For both men and women, infections are extremely painful. They include blisters that swell with fluid and eventually break (or burst).
For men, this outbreak can happen on the penis or the scrotum. But it can also happen on the buttocks (near the anus). For women, these blisters appear near the vagina or also on the buttocks (near the anus). However, the blisters are not restricted to these areas. If you came into contact with blisters, they can also appear on your face and other regions.
Of course, blisters are a clear sign or symptom of genital herpes. They are the most obvious way to indicate that you’ve contracted the HSV-2 virus. However, there are other symptoms that are not visible. These can certainly occur prior to an outbreak.
The Second Sign Of An Infection Is Itching
Even before an outbreak occurs, there are non-visible signs such as itching and even a tingling sensation. While it be hard to identify at first, the severity of the itching and the tingling sensation will increase over time. This happens as the virus spreads and multiplies, even before an outbreak occurs.
This often occurs in the area of infection. For both men and women, this can become extreme irritating since it happens in the genital area. Itching the infected area will only make it worse. Yet, abstaining from itching the area is extremely difficult.
The Third Sign Of An Infection
When you’re infected with genital herpes, your body attempts to dramatically fight this infection. This is part of our autonomous immune system response that occurs whenever a disease enters the body. Our immune system is there to stave off diseases, but it isn’t always capable of doing so, especially in the case of a herpes infection.
However, part of the immune system responses utilizes the lymph nodes, which work to produce lymphocytes, along with other white blood cells that help with immune system functionality. However, lymph nodes can also become swollen with prolonged exposure to bacteria or a virus. This can lead to discomfort, especially with lymph nodes in certain areas of the body.
How Long Do Outbreaks Last?
Herpes can remain dormant in your body for prolonged periods. While still not quite understood, this leads to infected individuals never actually experiencing outbreaks. For that reason, the virus spreads rapidly, since people who don’t know they’re infected, actually are. Until an outbreak occurs, most remain completely unaware.
The first time you have an outbreak, it lasts for roughly 2 to 3 weeks. The virus is still mutating and merging with the cells of your body, causing your immune system to work tirelessly, waging a still-un-winnable war against the foreign intruders. The sores that develop on your genitals eventually scab up and then fall off, leaving virtually no trace of their existence.
This first outbreak can also result in numerous other flu-like side effects that it’s easy to be mistaken for a common flu if it weren’t for the fluid-filled sores that painfully cover parts of your body. That means that other symptoms include things like headaches, aches, high fever and even getting the chills.
However, after that first outbreak, you can expect it to come back. But, oftentimes, it stays dormant for months after the initial attack. Some have even reported this period to be 12 or more months of dormancy before another outbreak occurs. That’s a long time for the virus to lay dormant before re-emerging again.
Overall, in most cases, it’s common to experience roughly 4 to 5 outbreaks every single year. While not too frequent, each outbreak not only causes physiological pain, but also mental and emotional duress. It also inflicts a heavy dosage of embarrassment, guilt and resentment.
What Can Trigger A Genital Herpes Outbreak?
If you have genital herpes, you’re likely wondering what can trigger an outbreak. You’re also likely concerned about spreading it to your sexual partners. This is definitely a valid question. Considering that no known cure currently exists for genital herpes, transmitting the virus, especially knowingly, is not only unethical, but could potentially borderline be illegal.
So, clearly, you must proceed with caution and you must inform your sex partners before engaging in any sexual activity. You certainly have a duty to do that at the very least. Now, when it comes to actually triggering an outbreak, similar to erectile dysfunction, certain mental and emotional cues can certainly trigger it. These include things like diet, lifestyle, recreational drugs, financial stress and more.
However, that’s not all. Even sex can trigger an outbreak of herpes. And, sometimes even the most arbitrary things can do it as well. Things like prolonged exposure to sun and even the bitter cold can cause it as well. Other things like alcohol can bring on an outbreak as well. If you have a weak immune system, it can likely be triggered by a variety of things that are outside your daily norm.
What’s The Best Way To Treat Genital Herpes?
It’s true. There’s no cure for herpes. And no one should get their hopes up that one will be developed in the near future. However, that’s not to say that it can’t be treated. There are treatment options that are available today that will mitigate outbreaks and ease the pain of herpetic sores. Today, there’s one fairly common treatment option. It’s called valacyclovir.
Not only does valocyclovir help to make outbreaks more bearable, it also helps to heal sores and lesions once they do occur. This is very effective at the very beginning signs of an outbreak. Not when it’s in full swing. Doctors will recommend that you should take it as soon as you notice the symptoms of an oncoming outbreak.
Often, the outbreak is indicated by a higher frequency of irritation such as itchiness. As soon as you sense it coming on. The medication can best be described as an antiviral with a long track record of clinical testing, trials and studies done. For that reason, it’s considered one of the standards for herpes treatments and is recommended by doctors across the board.