How to Identify Herpes and What to Do About It

Most people have misconceptions about herpes, whether they’re about who has it or what it actually is.

The truth is, anyone can get this condition.

Herpes is a common condition of the skin caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which happens to be be part of a larger family of viruses. Other viruses belonging to this group include the Epstein-Barr virus (which causes mono) and varicella-zoster virus (which causes chicken pox).

The importance of body awareness.

It is important to understand that although there are several types of the herpes virus, not all of them react in the body in the same manner, and not all of them are contracted the same way. That makes identifying potential herpes symptoms when they occur a crucial first step in potentially detecting the disease early. Learning how to recognize the symptoms associated with herpes can be a daunting task, but obtaining the right information is an important first step.

So, just what does herpes look like?…

13. There’s More than One Kind Herpes (And Their Symptoms Are Different)

There’s more than one type of herpes. The two main types are herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).

HSV-1 vs HSV-2

HSV-1 commonly causes cold sores, otherwise known as oral herpes. HSV-2 commonly causes genital herpes.

How do people get herpes?

Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 are contracted through intimate contact between two or more people, whether it be from kissing, oral sex, anal sex, or vaginal sex. In fact, just rubbing against an open sore can transmit the disease!

People who have genital herpes are at greater risk of developing and or transmitting HIV. Expectant mothers who are in the midst of an outbreak during their vaginal delivery can also pass genital herpes onto their babies. This condition is known as neonatal herpes, which is a serious condition that can lead to the death of an infected infant.

However, it’s not just expectant mothers with genital herpes who can pass the condition onto children. Specifically, people who have oral herpes may not even know they have it. So, even if they aren’t experiencing an outbreak, these infected individuals can still transmit the condition to babies if they kiss them–which can be fatal for infants.

What do herpes sores look like

Sores are the most noticeable sign of herpes. But what exactly do herpes sores look like?..

12. Small Sores on/in the Mouth, Genitals or Anus

Small sores that appear on the skin are strong indicators that people should seek medical attention. Anyone who notices sores around the mouth and/or nose, should also look for sores on other areas of their bodies. Sores may also appear in or around the vagina, penis, and anus.

What do the sores look like?

The sores are made up of small clusters of blisters that are filled with fluids. These blisters morph into pustules that generally rupture within a week. Once they rupture, the will drainage will produce a crust, which will then heal over. The resulting rash can remain visible anywhere from 7 to 10 days.

What do the sores feel like?

The sores can cause itching, tingling, and even a burning sensation. Often, these sores will be incredibly painful, making it difficult to something as simple as sitting.

Notice when discomfort sets in.

Now, there’s a certain time that this discomfort may be prevalent, and a sign that someone may have an STD like herpes…

11. Pain and Itching When Urinating

Experiencing pain and/or intense itching can be a sign of a herpes infection.

Why does herpes cause this symptom?

When someone experiences herpes sores, they can be tender, meaning they can easily cause discomfort like pain or itching. This discomfort may increase when the sores burst.

It’s also common to experience pain or itching during urination, especially. Because urine is acidic, it can easily irritate an open wound. So, when urinating, it’s easy for the acidic fluid to come into contact with herpes sores, which can cause great discomfort.

Be on the lookout for more symptoms down south.

Of course, sores, pain, and itching are not the only symptoms someone may notice down south…

10. Unusual Vaginal Discharge

Discharge is not a common herpes symptom, but it can happen in some cases.

What will the discharge look like?

The discharge can be of an unusual texture, color, and consistency that differs from a woman’s typical vaginal discharge. In other words, if someone notices that their discharge has changed–either by becoming smelly, changing color or consistency, or even the amount of discharge has increased–it may be time to speak to a doctor.

What are some lesser-known signs of herpes?

Sores and discharge are often easy-to-see signs of an infection. The next few signs, though, are a little trickier to recognize…

9. Lower Back & Other Localized Pain (Not in the Genitals)

Pain alone is not enough to diagnose herpes. When combined with other symptoms, though, it may indicate that this condition may be present in the body.

Where is the pain located?

Pain in the lower back, bottom, thighs, or even knees may be signs of herpes.

When does this pain occur?

This type of localized pain does not last long, and is usually just a precursor to an outbreak of sores.

8. Blurred Vision, Eye Sores, & Other Occular Problems

Herpes can also impact your eyes–not just your mouth, genitals, or anus. When herpes affects the eyes (or, most often, a single eye), there can be sores around the ocular area. This condition is known as ocular herpes, or simply eye herpes.

What are the signs of eye herpes?

Signs of a herpes infection of the eyes include:

  • blurred vision
  • sensitivity to light
  • pain in the eye(s)
  • red eye(s)
  • swelling
  • sore(s) around the eye(s)
  • watering of the eye(s)

How does it happen?

This type of transmission happens typically when an infected sore comes into contact with the area, or when someone has touched a sore with their hands and then touched their eyes afterward.

7. Flu-Like Symptoms

It’s possible for people to feel like they have the flu during their initial outbreak of herpes.

What does this sign of herpes include?

Someone’s flu-like symptoms could include:

  • headaches
  • body aches
  • fevers
  • sensitive lymph nodes

Is there anything that can help?

Fortunately, over-the-counter medications that contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help alleviate these symptoms, but they won’t cure herpes.

When do these symptoms occur?

These symptoms are usually reserved for the first outbreak of herpes. Although, not everyone will experience these symptoms.

What happens when herpes is severe?

It’s important to note that some herpes symptoms are so severe that they require immediate medical attention…

6. Signs of Herpes Meningoencephalitis

Either form of herpes (HSV-1 or HSV-2) could cause meningitis or encephalitis, which are potentially fatal conditions that affect the brain. So, although these conditions are rare, they need to be taken seriously.

What are the symptoms of herpes meningoencephalitis?

In the case of herpes meningoencephalitis, the brain and the meninges become infected. The symptoms associated with the condition include: 

  • stiffness in the neck
  • headaches
  • fevers
  • light sensitivities 
  • changes in personality
  • an inability to think clearly
  • a lack of consciousness
  • changes in vision
  • changes in speech
  • seizures

Signs of herpes-related encephalitis are slightly different, but just as serious…

5. Signs of Herpes Simplex Encephalitis

Symptoms associated with herpes simplex encephalitis (HSE) develops over a few days, and the symptoms often occur without warning.

What are the initial symptoms?

The initial symptoms include:

  • fever
  • drowsiness
  • weakness
  • fevers
  • disorientation and confusion

What are worsening symptoms?

As the condition progresses, people can experience:

  • difficulties communicating
  • memory loss
  • psychotic or hyperactive episodes
  • hallucinations
  • partial paralysis
  • loss of consciousness
  • inflamed retina

Any other symptoms?

There are some symptoms associated with herpes simplex encephalitis that mimic some of the symptoms associated with meningitis. These symptoms include:

  • convulsions
  • neck stiffness
  • confusion
  • paralysis
  • altered reflexes

The most common symptom of herpes?

These are all easily recognizable and rare symptoms, though. One of the most common herpes symptoms, unfortunately, is much harder to recognize…

4. Herpes Sometimes Has No Symptoms

A common herpes symptom? No symptoms at all.

Asymptomatic herpes is common.

In fact, in the majority of cases, people don’t have any symptoms. Or, if they do, they are so mild in nature that people either fail to notice them or they relate them to something else. Further, the herpes virus can lay dormant in a person for any number of months, even years, without manifesting a single symptom.

This asymptomatic (no symptom) experience isn’t what most people would expect.

Most people expect outbreaks.

Instead, what many expect is for someone to experience what is known as the initial period or outbreak. Here, a person will develop noticeable symptoms sometime between 2 and 12 days after they have been exposed to the virus. 

Now, symptoms–when they occur–are usually the worst during the first outbreak; recurrent outbreaks tend not to last as long and are less severe. The symptoms associated with recurrent infections generally subside within 10 days. Over time, recurring infections may even happen less often.

What should someone do about herpes?

So, what happens when someone is diagnosed with herpes?…

3. What To Do About Herpes

When people find out they have herpes, they generally go through a whole range of emotions. It is completely normal to feel ashamed, angry or embarrassed. However someone feels, though, it is important to follow any instructions a doctor may give them.

Open Communication is Key

Most importantly, people who are officially diagnosed need to contact potential partners they may have exposed to the virus (and they must notify future partners of their status as well). 

Recognize the Signs of Depression

Depression after a diagnosis of herpes is a possibility. So, people need to be aware of depression symptoms, so they can seek professional help if this issue occurs. Some signs of depression include, but are not limited to:

  • a loss of interest in the things that are normally enjoyed
  • feelings of sadness that are persistent
  • self-esteem issues
  • decrease in levels of concentration
  • changes in eating habits
  • changes in sleep patterns

It is important for anyone who has been diagnosed to understand that there is nothing wrong with them and there is no shame in seeking help. Treatment options for herpes related to depression include antidepressant medications and talk therapy, which includes cognitive behavioral therapy.

Manage Stress

Stress exacerbates the symptoms of herpes. In other words, people tend to have more frequent outbreaks when they are stressed or depressed; this makes learning how to properly cope with the disease a must.

Further, people who have addictions to alcohol or other substances need to seek treatment as soon as possible. After all, substance abuse can not only exacerbate herpes symptoms, but can place sexual partners at greater risk of contracting the virus due to poor choices from intoxication.

So, just what can someone do to treat the actual herpes infection itself?

2. Treatment Options for Herpes

There is no cure for herpes; however, there are a number of treatment options that are available to help manage the condition.

Antiviral Medications

Antiviral medications are often used by people who are experiencing an outbreak for the first time. (These types of medications are rarely needed during subsequent outbreaks since they are not as intense as initial outbreaks.) The most common antivirals for this condition include Famciclovir, Acyclovir, and Valaciclovir.

Antivirals are prescribed to control the symptoms of herpes and decrease the duration of the outbreak. Antiviral treatment lasts approximately 10 days. Most people tolerate antiviral treatment well; however, people who have kidney disease or are in renal failure are generally prescribed antiviral medications in lower dosages.

Topical Treatments

Topical treatments can also be used to help alleviate the symptoms associated with herpes. They are especially popular for subsequent outbreaks.

Herpes Doesn’t Have to End Dating Life

When diagnosed with herpes, it’s important to remember one final thing…

1. There is Sex After Herpes

People are often concerned about their sexual prospects after they learn that they have herpes. The fact is, though, that people can still have a sex life after finding out they have the virus.

Just remember a few things going forward.

There are a few things to keep in mind going forward, though. Firstly, the infected individual must let any potential partner know about their condition. This conversation should go over the risks associated with having sex with a person who has herpes. Then, everyone can determine how they want to proceed from there. 

Remember: Having a sexual relationship after a herpes diagnosis has to be based on being honest with partners about how the disease could affect them. For instance, people should not have sex during an outbreak or when they have drainage or scaling. They should also refrain from having oral sex or kissing during this time. Further, sexual partners should know that condoms only lower the risk of transmission–it does not eliminate this risk. Finally, both parties must understand that transmission can occur even if there are no apparent symptoms.

Acceptance is key.

People who have been diagnosed with herpes can still live full and active lives. The key to doing so rests in a person’s ability to accept their diagnosis and how serious they are about educating themselves about the condition.

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