Is Herpes Curable? All You Need to Know About Herpes

If you have previously Googled, ‘Is herpes curable?’ You might already know that it’s not. However, don’t panic. With antivirals, it is possible to prevent and shorten the outbreaks. It’s perfectly possible to live with it and have a perfectly healthy and normal sex life.

Let’s delve a little deeper into what Herpes is, and what can be done about it.  

Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is the virus that causes herpes. There are two types of herpes simplex virus:

  • Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1): causes oral herpes on the face and around the mouth—that people normally call fever blister or cold sore. 
  • Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2): causes genital herpes and is responsible for outbreaks of blisters and sores. 

Herpes infections are widespread. Genital herpes affects one out of every six people aged 14 to 49, and around 50 to 90 percent of adults suffer from oral herpes. 

Symptoms of Oral Herpes

The primary infection of oral herpes (HSV-1) is usually the most painful that causes red, itching, and painful blisters around the lips, gums, roof of the mouth, and inside the cheeks. Here are the symptoms of primary infection: 

  • Headache
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Swollen and painful lymph nodes 
  • Sores around the lip 

Recurring infections are milder and go through four stages: 

  • Redness, itching, and pain will develop on the infected area
  • Highly contagious fluid blisters around the lips, gums, or nose will occur
  • The blisters will leak fluid and turn into sores
  • After a week or so, the sores will heal 

Treatment Options for Oral Herpes

It is recommended to call your doctor if:

  • You feel dehydrated. The painful blisters may cause difficulty eating and drinking 
  • If dehydrating symptoms like drowsiness, irritability, and dry mouth occur
  • If a child younger than 8 weeks has contracted the infection 
  • You are immunocompromised, or know that you have a weak immune system 

Your doctor will offer treatment for oral herpes after knowing: 

  • Your age 
  • Medical history 
  • If it’s a primary or recurring infection

Your treatment plan may include:

  • Antiviral medicine to be taken for 7 to 10 days—depending on how painful the sores are 
  • Cleaning the infected area from time to time
  • Applying antiviral topical ointments 
  • Medicines to help with the flu-like symptoms 

General Symptoms of Genital Herpes 

During 2015-2016, the prevalence of herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) was 11.9%. Symptoms appear 2-20 days after exposure to the virus. Here are the five stages of genital herpes:

  • Blisters appearing around your lips, nose, or the area that came into contact with the virus 
  • Redness and itching developing on the infected area
  • Fluid blisters will appear
  • The blisters will ooze fluid and become sores
  • After a week, a crust may appear over the sores, and they will heal

HSV-2 can also cause flu-like symptoms, including:

  • Swollen lymph nodes around your pelvic area, under your arms and neck
  • Fever
  • Chills 
  • Headache
  • Fatigue and a general feeling of being unwell 

Symptoms of Genital Herpes in Men

Genital herpes can cause blisters on the:

  • Penis 
  • Buttocks 
  • Scrotum 

Along with blisters, you might experience these symptoms too:

  • Pain around your genitals 
  • Itching 
  • Burning when you pee 

Symptoms of Genital Herpes in Women

HSV-2 is more common in women. Genital herpes can cause blisters on the:

  • Vagina 
  • Anus 
  • Buttocks

Treatment Options for Genital Herpes

There is no cure for herpes. But that’s not to say you can’t live with it. You may get it once and then it’ll never return again! Antiviral drugs like Acyclovir, Famciclovir, Peramiriv, and Valacyclovir can prevent and shorten outbreaks. Here’s what the treatment plan includes:

  • Using antiviral medicines for a week
  • Ointments to reduce itching, redness, and pain
  • Medications to reduce the frequency of recurrence 
  • Drugs to minimise the chance of passing the virus onto someone else

Your doctor can diagnose genital herpes through a physical exam, a Polymerase chain test (PSR), and blood tests. 

Herpes Treatment at Home

Looking for home remedies for herpes to manage the symptoms? Here are a few to try:

  • Use hot and cold compresses to help ease itchiness and pain
  • Use honey twice or three times a day. It is as effective as antiviral creams
  • Apply baking soda to dry out lesions
  • Make a mixture with crushed garlic and olive oil. Apply it to the sores 3-4 times a day
  • Take fruits and vegetables that are rich in Vitamin C 
  • One of the best home remedies of genital treatment is to apply petroleum jelly to the affected area 
  • To relieve itching, apply cornstarch paste to the affected area twice a day

Ways to Reduce the Risk of Herpes

Don’t have sex during a herpes outbreak—not even with a condom because it is most likely to spread during an outbreak. Just give it a miss for a little bit whilst you get treatment or the symptoms disappear. Here’s what you can do to reduce the risk of contracting herpes:

  • Use condoms
  • Don’t have sex with anyone who has sores around their genitals
  • Be open about your sexual history - communication is key
  • Ask your partner(s) if they’ve ever had a sexually transmitted disease
  • Don’t have oral sex with anyone who has a cold sore 

If you have contracted herpes, don’t panic! Here’s what you need to do to ensure that you don’t pass it onto someone else:

  • Tell your partners that you have herpes—it might be tough, but it is important 
  • Ask your doctor if you can take herpes medication daily—this will reduce the chances of spreading it
  • Don’t have sex until the blisters are completely gone
  • Avoid touching the sores 
  • Always wash your hands after accidentally touching the sore
  • Avoid kissing people if you have oral herpes
  • Don’t have sex during an outbreak

Herpes is Extremely Common— it’s High-Time that we Normalise It 

Herpes is most common among women as the virus is more easily transmitted from men to women. And yet it’s not something we talk about. It carries a stigma around it that it’s shameful - it’s not! It happens! And it happens to a lot of people. 

No one knows for sure how many people have herpes, but experts estimate that a large portion of the world’s population has oral herpes. According to a WHO (World Health Organisation) report, globally, two-thirds (67%) of the population under 50 years old have oral herpes (HSV-1). 

As herpes is not curable, people assume that their sex life is over. It’s not! However, shortening and preventing herpes outbreaks is possible—thanks to advancements in medical sciences. 

Despite being so common, herpes still feels embarrassing, the subject to be avoided, which shouldn’t be the case at all. 87.4% of the people infected with herpes have never received a diagnosis; this tells you that most people are unaware of their infection and spread the virus unknowingly. So it’s not the infection for people who haven’t practised safe sex or been hygienic. It’s the infection for a heck of a lot of normal, sexually active, perfectly hygienic people.

The main issue is not the diagnosis but to have open and honest conversations around STIs. In America 1 out of 6 Americans, aged 14 to 49, have HSV-2. Can you imagine if you waited to try and find a partner who didn’t have it? You’re reducing your odds and it could take years! So, don’t look at herpes as a ‘disease.’ All you can do is take preventative measures, see it as something that can happen more often than not unknowingly and it doesn’t tie a sexual weight around your neck for the rest of your life. 

Get out there, get talking, get testing, get honest and get active.