Debunking the Social Stigma
A simple way to define herpes is as a virus which affects mostly the skin but can also cause issues with the nervous system of the person who has contracted it. There are two basic types of the herpes virus. Herpes type 1 (also referred to as oral herpes) and herpes type 2 (also referred to as genital herpes).
Herpes type 1 most commonly occurs around the mouth of the person affected in the form of cold sores or blisters, but can also be found in some cases of genital herpes. Most cases of genital herpes, however, are caused by the type 2 virus. Type 2 herpes are mostly found around the genitals and anus of the individual who has contracted the virus.
It is estimated by the CDC that around 15 percent of individuals in the United States between the ages of 14 and 49 have herpes simplex virus 2. There are also about 750,000 new cases of the viruses reported in Americans annually. The total number of herpes cases is of course higher than that because of the cases of herpes simplex virus 1. There are far less reported cases of herpes each year compared to type 2 because herpes type 1 is usually contracted during childhood.
When it comes to gender, males have a much higher rate of contracting herpes type 2 than females and are also much more likely than females to pass herpes on to their partner. The Center for Disease Control also reports that non-Hispanic blacks are much more likely to contract the virus than non-Hispanic whites. Non-Hispanic blacks contract the herpes type 2 at a rate of 41.8 percent while non-Hispanic whites contract the disease reportedly at a rate of about 11.3 percent. The gap between the two races is consistent regardless of how many sexual partners the individual has had in their lifetime. While each person is more likely to contract the disease the more sexual partners they have, non-Hispanic blacks are still always more likely to contract the disease as compared to non-Hispanic whites. Herpes has been on a gradual decline nationwide over the last two decades.
How Herpes Is Contracted
HSV-1 is contracted mainly through sores or secretions on the skin around the mouth. The virus can be contracted by many means including kissing, using someone’s toothbrush who has the disease, sharing a drinking cup, or any other means where the person’s mouth has touched an object that another person touches. HSV-2 is different than HSV-1 in that it is transmitted almost exclusively through sexual contact. A common misunderstanding regarding herpes is that the virus can only be transmitted from a person who is having an outbreak and has open sores or lesions from the virus. In fact, most instances of the virus being transmitted occur when the person who already has the disease does not have any visible signs of the disease on their mouth or genitals. It is often common for the virus to be transmitted by someone who may not even know that they have the disease at all. This is one of the most dangerous parts of the virus. It can be transmitted from person to person stealthily.
Symptoms of Herpes
Herpes is a virus which can lie dormant in a person for extended periods of time and then appear with many different kinds of symptoms and with varying degrees of intensity. Herpes outbreaks can be random at times but there are situations which can help encourage a herpes outbreak in an individual with the virus. The most common cause of herpes outbreaks is when a person with the virus has some other illness as well. The body’s immune system must focus energy in other places in order to fight the other illness. This give the herpes virus a chance to cause an outbreak. Any kind of action which suppresses a person’s immune system can help a herpes outbreak occur. This includes chemotherapy and AIDS treatments. Herpes type 1 and herpes type 2 outbreaks can also be caused by stress, physical trauma to the area of infection, and menstruation. Those who have HSV-1 or HSV-2 would be wise to avoid these circumstances to the best of their abilities to help avoid outbreaks. It is also important to note that many people who have herpes can go their entire lives only having mild outbreaks. Some patients may never experience an outbreak at all.
Signs of Herpes
As you know, many people who have herpes never even know they have contracted the virus. This is because of the mildness and irregularity of their symptoms and outbreaks. The most common milder signs associated with the initial outbreak in an individual with herpes is mild pain and itching around the area of the infection. This type of outbreak usually occurs within the first week or so of sexual contact with a person with the herpes virus. This is true whether it is herpes type 1 or herpes type 2. Herpes type 1 is almost always more mild that herpes type 2.
There are other symptoms associated with the herpes virus as well. The most common, widely known symptom of the disease are the small red bumps which occur in the infected area. These can itch and also be very painful depending on the severity of the outbreak. Other symptoms of the disease include scabs, ulcers, and general pain and soreness in the genital area. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms or suspect that you might have had sex with someone who has herpes, you should consult with your local physician or STD specialist as soon as possible.
Symptoms can occur, go away, and reoccur at any time. Herpes outbreaks can also occur at varying degrees of intensity as well. The frequency of the outbreaks can vary from person to person. Some can experience herpes outbreaks multiple times in one year. Some patients may only experience one or two outbreaks in their lifetime. It is very common for outbreaks to become less frequent over the lifetime of the patient who has the disease. This is because the body’s immune system is developing antibodies against it to help fight it along with medications which may have been prescribed for the patient with HSV-1 or HSV-2.
While there are many treatments to help soothe the symptoms of herpes, there is no cure for the herpes virus. This is true whether it is herpes simplex virus 1 or herpes simplex virus 2. There is also no vaccine invented yet which can prevent a person from contracting the disease later in life. There are various medications which can help treat outbreaks to help minimize and shorten them. There are also various anti-viral medications as well which can help a person who has the herpes virus prevent the spread to their sexual partner at the time. While there is no cure for herpes, there are medications available on the market today which can help reduce its effects and control it.
Further research is always being done towards advancement in herpes treatments. The end goal is of course to find a cure for the disease. The most promising substance for the future of herpes treatments are microbicides. Microbicides could help attack the virus before it can take hold in the body. This helps prevent breakouts and greatly reduces the spread of herpes. Scientists are not optimistic about the future of herpes treatments when it comes to a fully effective vaccine.
As stated before, there is no cure for herpes. There are multiple medications available which help reduce outbreaks and prevent those with the disease from spreading it to other sexual partners. Most of the medications in use to treat the disease are anti-viral medications. This means they help subdue the virus in those who have herpes. Most of these medications are taken daily by herpes patients and are very effective in helping prevent the spread of the disease to their current sexual partners. These medications have helped people come a long way towards reducing the stigma associated with the herpes virus in recent years. Doctors are always running clinical trials in order to help prevent and treat the disease. Like most viruses, they have not yet found a cure for herpes.
One of the biggest issues surrounding the herpes virus is that most people who have the virus do not know they have the disease. These people will not take the steps necessary in order to prevent them from spreading the disease to their partner or partners. Transitively, this means they are much more likely to spread the disease. This is why it is very important for those who suspect in any way that they have the disease to get tested for the disease as early as possible. Those who have had sex with a partner who has had herpes outbreaks in the past or individuals who have had multiple unfamiliar sex partners in recent times are the most likely to contract the disease and should be tested.
Herpes can be detected through a blood test. Herpes blood tests are usually included in typical more broad STD screenings, though not always. It is important to ask your doctor if it is being tested for anytime you go in for an STD screening. Any sexually active adult should be getting these screenings on a regular basis. Herpes can also be tested for individually if an individual suspects or is made known that they have been exposed to the virus through a sexual partner.
Prevention of Herpes
Obviously the best option is to never contract either herpes virus. There are many ways to avoid getting herpes. The most apparent one is to not have sexual relations with a person that has either form of herpes. Some do not know that they have the disease. This is why it is important to take other measures towards prevention. One way of preventing the disease is by wearing a condom during sex. This will prevent against some forms of the disease. The only problem is that condoms only prevent herpes in the area that is covered by the latex. If any exposed skin touches the exposed skin of their partner it is possible to contract the disease. Those that have genital herpes should especially abstain from having sexual relations with their partner when they have noticeable sores or any other kind of outbreak. You are much more likely to transmit herpes to your sexual partner during an outbreak. It is important to note that the two best ways to avoid contracting herpes are to abstain from sex or only have sex when in a long-term, monogamous relationship with someone who does not have any sexually transmitted diseases.
There is an amount of pain which can be associated with herpes. Of course, like every other facet of the virus, the severity of the pain experienced with the herpes virus varies from person to person. Herpes sores can be very painful. This is why is important to take medicines like Valtrex to help reduce the frequency and the intensity of outbreaks. Most outbreaks can be predicted by a tingling sensation in the area where the herpes outbreak may be occurring. This can be a sign to take some kind of medication to help soothe the effects. Herpes sores can be extremely painful in a full-blown herpes outbreak. Herpes outbreaks usually start out as sores or lesions and can develop into painful red blisters in the most intense outbreaks.
Natural Herpes Treatment
There are many non-traditional ways to treat herpes and herpes outbreaks. They range from at-home remedies to herbal supplements for treatment. There are many prescription medicines which can be used for the treatment of an outbreak. For smaller and less severe outbreaks, over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, aspirin, or any other type of OTC pain reliever can be used to alleviate symptoms. It is also important to keep the area of an outbreak dry to help reduce pain. Many of those with herpes have said that soaking the area in warm water from time to time can help reduce pain, but it is wise to mostly keep the area as dry as possible.
There are also a variety of all-natural methods of treating the herpes virus as well. There have been multiple studies done by doctors on herbal and natural remedies and their effect on patients with the herpes virus. Two naturally occurring substances which have been tested and proved to help with herpes are propolis and Prunella vulgaris. Propolis is a waxy substance created by honeybees which has been found in some patients to help reduce and even completely heal herpes sores in a large portion of patients who tested the substance according to a WebMD medical survey. Another natural substance which has been found to help with herpes symptoms is Prunella vulgaris. Prunella vulgaris is an herb found in nature that has been determined in some patients to help fight the virus and reduce outbreaks and make them less severe.
Social Life with Herpes
Those with herpes should not feel discouraged when it comes to engaging in social relationships. It is not usually visually apparent that you have the herpes virus. This means that anyone you are not having sexual relations with may not ever know that you have the disease. Many people who have the herpes virus go on living their lives as they did before without any real inconvenience. The negative social stigma surrounding the disease has been greatly reduced as education regarding STDs is increased, and the general public has a better understanding of the disease. Those with herpes should also know that they are not alone and there are many resources available to them for psychological and emotional support. Herpes is permanent, but it should not ruin anyone’s life.
Dating Life with Herpes
Dating and sex are both completely possible with the herpes virus provided you follow the proper protocol. There are even resources available for those with the virus to link up with other people with herpes for support and even dating. The most important thing to remember is to always be open and honest with anyone you may be having sex with if you have the herpes virus. This will help prevent the spread of the disease.
Knowledge Is Key
If you believe you may have contracted the herpes virus or have recently had sexual relations with someone you suspect may have the virus, it is important to get tested as soon as possible. There are many resources available to people who seek testing. If you cannot afford a herpes blood test there are clinics in almost every area which offer free services to patients wishing to get a herpes blood test. Remember, is better to know whether or not you have the disease, than to risk having it and not knowing.