Discussions around sexually transmitted infections are often avoided as people are either too embarrassed or grossed out to talk about them. Awareness around genital herpes and the genital herpes treatments that are available are no different, but we aim to change this.
Here we will discuss what exactly genital herpes is, who can get it, the symptoms and the types of treatments available on the market.
Once someone contracts the herpes virus there is no specific treatment that will cure the infection. Instead, treatment focuses on reducing the symptoms and discomfort caused by herpes.
It is important to note for the vast majority of those that do become infected with the herpes virus will only experience mild or no symptoms. The infection is usually brought under control by the bodies natural immune system and there are no long term problems thereafter.
However, for the small number of those who do experience the worst symptoms, there are a number of treatments available to help overcome the herpes virus.
If you do suspect that you may have contracted an STI, whether that is the herpes virus or not, the sexual health clinic is a great place to get checked out. They also provide a lot of information about sexual health and are a superb resource for support.
Even though there is no cure for herpes, there are some medications available to reduce the spread of the infection and reduce symptoms. You can set up an appointment with a doctor who can prescribe a form of antiviral drug that acts to reduce how long outbreaks last. It also helps to ease the discomfort caused by symptoms.
In addition to antiviral drugs, there are a number of creams on the market that also help to reduce the inflammation and pain caused by herpes blisters. Keeping the skin hydrated helps to prevent infected areas from drying up and becoming more prone to producing sores or blisters.
Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that currently has no vaccine available. This means that a lot of the ways to combat the infection revolves around awareness of sexual health and the use of preventative measures.
If you think you may have been in contact with someone that has or recently had herpes, then it is important to contact your local GP and get tested.
Herpes is actually more common in females than it is in males because the infection is most likely to be transmitted during intercourse where an infected male passes it on to a female. Another reason is that herpes is capable of being passed on during anal sex.
Nevertheless, the severity and experience of symptoms are the same for both males and females, therefore, it is everyone's interest to practice safe sex. This means using condoms, reducing the number of sexual partners and steering clear of people that you suspect may have symptoms of herpes.
If you do follow these precautions and are still unlucky enough to contract herpes, then there are some treatments available. Antiviral drugs help to reduce the severity of the outbreak and topical creams work to relieve pain and irritation.
The treatment for herpes is not specific for males or females. This means that those that do become infected will most likely be prescribed an antiviral drug by their GP as well as a cream.
Again, there is a lot of focus on promoting sexual health and making people aware of the preventative measures that should be taken to avoid contracting herpes. These include implementing physical barriers during sexual activities such as condoms and dental dams.
For those that have numerous sexual interactions with various people, it is important to do regular testing at a sexual health clinic or using a home STI test. This not only keeps you safe but those that you engage with sexually.
There are a number of over the counter treatments available that can help reduce the discomfort caused by herpes. The main function of the treatments found in pharmacies and shops is to ease the pain and not directly fight the infection.
These types of treatment work by numbing the infected area and reduce inflammation. The active ingredients in these medicines are either phenol or menthol which help to soothe the inflamed area. A common remedy is known as Abreva which can be found in local pharmacies.
Before we get into listing some of the most popular natural remedies for herpes it should be said that these do not remove the infection completely and should not be substituted with an antiviral drug if your doctor prescribes it.
Instead, these home remedies work to reduce the pain and irritation often caused by herpes. It is important to talk to your doctor before trying these forms of treatment in case you have allergies.
Some form of compress, either cold or warm, has been said to help reduce inflammation and ease the pain caused by blistering and sores. Another home remedy is baking soda paste which is said to dry infected areas which reduce irritation and help to prevent itching.
Genital herpes can be described as an STI (sexually transmitted infection) that occurs as the result of contracting the herpes simplex virus. There is an important distinction that should be made which is that there are two different types of the virus, type 1 and type 2.
Some people develop oral herpes, which is characterised by cold sores that form around the mouth. This is also caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), more specifically by type 1 (HSV-1). Both type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2) can cause genital herpes, however, most cases of genital herpes are caused by type 2.
There are also some important differences in the ways both types of the herpes simplex virus can be transmitted. HSV-1 method of herpes transmission is mostly through oral contact with someone that has the type 1 variety of the virus. However, if someone receives oral sex from an individual that is infected with HSV-1 then they can develop the less common HSV-1 genital herpes infection.
The transmission of HSV-2 is a lot more simple. To contract HSV-2, someone has to engage in genital contact with another person that has the type 2 variant of genital herpes.
One of the more interesting features of herpes that many people are not aware of is its ability to resurface long after herpes symptoms go away. Once you have become infected with the virus, it essentially lies dormant in your body for the rest of your life.
This may sound awful at first but it does not mean you will be walking around, highly infectious and covered in sores forever. It just means that there is the possibility of it coming back under certain conditions such as other illnesses or even stress in some cases. It is for this reason that it's extremely important to raise awareness of this taboo topic.
So now that we understand a lot more about what genital herpes is, what are some of the signs to look out for if you suspect you may have contracted the infection?
Well interestingly enough, it is quite common for those that do contract the herpes simplex virus to be asymptomatic. This means that they don't actually experience any symptoms previously mentioned, such as cold sores and feeling under the weather.
For those that do experience symptoms, it usually takes somewhere between 2 and 12 days to appear. Common signs that someone may notice include red rashes and blisters around the genital area and or mouth. More specifically, for men, this may be around the scrotum, penis and/or buttocks. For women, this may appear close to the vagina, anus and/or buttocks.
There are other symptoms to look out for which include blistering around the mouth and other areas that were in contact with the person you think you got the infection from. It is also quite common for those to feel itchy or a tingling sensation which often arises before blistering appears.
More general symptoms that people experience include headaches and fever. Swollen lymph nodes are common during infections so this may be another indicator that your immune system is fighting something. To check your lymph nodes, you can feel your neck just under your jaw. You may be able to feel a lump which will be the swollen lymph gland.
If you are pregnant and suspect you may have contracted the herpes virus, it is vital that you contact your GP immediately. This is because, although the virus isn't extremely harmful to adults, it can be life-threatening to newborn babies. Infants that experience the most severe complications of herpes risk brain damage, becoming blind and even death.
Leaving a herpes infection untreated is not necessarily described as being dangerous, however, it can certainly be unpleasant. If steps are not taken to handle the infection, blistering can worsen which is accompanied by increased discomfort and pain.
It also means that there is a chance of spreading the infection to other parts of your own body and to others around you due to the increased viral load.
It is extremely important to maintain good sexual health. If you start to show symptoms of infection, you can visit your doctor to get a herpes test. Usually, if you aren't showing symptoms of herpes then you will not be tested for it.
There are a number of important ways to take care of your sexual health. Some of the most important ways to do so include protecting yourself during sex, regular testing at the sexual health clinic and limiting alcohol consumption. This is because people are much more likely to have unprotected sex whilst intoxicated.
Before we mention some of the complications that can be caused by herpes, it should be said that these are quite rare. They are most likely to arise during the first initial outbreak of contracting the virus.
Some of the possible complications include increasing your chance of contracting other STI's such as HIV. In newborns, contracting the herpes virus can be very damaging and lead to brain damage and in some cases, death. Other possible complications include meningitis and bladder problems if the infection spreads rapidly.