Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that affects 1 in 6 people in the United States. It is associated with causing blisters or sores on the genital areas. Genital herpes is mostly caused by the herpes simplex virus type two.
Symptoms may arise during a primary infection, when a person contracts the virus for the first time. During this period, a person may develop blisters or sores on the genitals, rectal area, and thighs. This can be accompanied by burning, itching, and swelling as a result of stress. Symptoms usually last for approximately 14 days, but this is shorter if treatment is provided.
Genital herpes is a life-long condition, because the virus remains in the body, even if a person does not have any symptoms. The virus stays in the nerves of the body. When it is triggered by certain factors, such as stress, menstruation, and trauma, it travels from the nerves to the skin, where it causes blisters and sores. This infection is known as a recurrent infection. Recurrent infections may occur from one to five times in a year, depending on whether or not a person is taking treatment. The symptoms during a recurrent infection (outbreak) are less severe and usually resolve within 5 days.
Living with genital herpes can be stressful, especially since there is no cure. Most people who have herpes may not realize that they have this disease, so they are more likely to pass the HSV to their sexual partner(s). It is very important to get a diagnosis of herpes to ensure that a person takes the necessary treatment and steps to not only manage symptoms and outbreaks, but also to limit the spread of genital herpes.
People with genital herpes are capable of living a normal life. Genital herpes does not adversely affect the longevity of life. Once it is healed, recovery is fast. The major fear is spreading it to other people.
Tips for Those with Genital Herpes
The following tips can help people with genital herpes to live with this disease:
Anger and fear leads to stress. Worrying about financial and family matters also leads to deep stress. This can trigger herpes outbreaks by tiring the nervous system. Stressful events may increase the frequency and intensity of outbreaks. Therefore, avoiding stress can make a major impact in a person with herpes by reducing the number of outbreaks experienced in a year. Stress cannot be removed permanently. One should learn how to react to stress differently so that the trigger to recurrence of herpes can be weakened. One should learn to manage stress better. He or she should try to adopt a variety of techniques to manage stress, as one single method may not work. Meditation, deep breathing, and yoga are some of the techniques that can help people to manage stress.
Some specific stressful situations can be resolved. For example, take financial advice to manage financial stress. Work related stress may be resolved by talking to superiors, and if a relationship is not working well, one can think of leaving such a relationship.
Talking to a friend or a family member can be helpful at times, as well.
Spiritual work, exercises, and eating healthy can aid stress management.
One can also refer to self-help books, CDs, and DVDs available on the topic. Workshops can also clear many doubts and reduce stress.
Stress management is very important in managing herpes.
Living a healthy lifestyle.
Exercising regularly and having a healthy diet will improve the overall health of a person and so limit the number of outbreaks. Adding certain dietary supplements, such as lysine, to the diet can also help to improve symptoms of genital herpes.
If you are allergic to some creams or lotions, the same should be avoided, which can reduce skin irritation.
If alcohol or caffeine increases outbreaks, then one must gradually reduce the intake of alcoholic drinks and coffee. This can help reduce the recurrence of herpes.
One should also get a good night’s sleep by following a proper sleep-wake routine. This will solve the problem of stress and fatigue. In the absence of proper sleep, one always feels tired. The herpes virus is found at the base of the spinal cord (part of the nervous system). If the nervous system is stressed, it can trigger future outbreaks of the virus. Thus sleep is important.
Thus a healthy lifestyle gains utmost importance.
Using anti-viral drugs.
Anti-viral drugs, such as acyclovir and famciclovir, prevent the HSV from reproducing and thus limit the occurrence of outbreaks. These drugs also reduce the risks of a person passing the HSV to his or her sexual partner. Taking these medications on a daily basis can greatly reduce the frequency of recurrent infections.
Avoiding sexual relations especially during an outbreak.
The risk of spreading genital herpes is very high during an outbreak. Avoiding any form of sexual activity during this period is advisable. It is important to remember that genital herpes can also be spread to a sexual partner when a person does not show any symptoms. Any skin-to-skin contact should also be avoided, since herpes can also be spread through bodily secretions.
Joining a support group.
People with herpes feel a certain stigma is attached with it and hence can easily feel depressed and ashamed to talk about it. This is an initial reaction that everyone faces. In such cases, one must consult a counselor.
Another way is to join a support group where people with similar conditions meet and can discuss their emotions and feelings. This helps people to not feel alone and can help them learn new ways to deal with outbreaks and how to live a normal life.
Overtime, the number of outbreaks is most likely to reduce, especially if treatment is administered properly. However, this does not reduce a person's chances of spreading this virus to his or her sexual partner(s).
Currently, a vaccine is being developed, and lot of research is done on ways to curb transmission of herpes. This vaccine is in the final stage of clinical trials. Once it passes, the test vaccines will become available in the near future.
- Living with genital herpes can be stressful, especially since there is no cure.
- Most people who have herpes may not realize that they have this disease, and so they are more likely to pass the HSV to their sexual partner(s).
- It is very important to get a diagnosis of herpes to ensure that a person takes the necessary treatment and steps to not only manage symptoms and outbreaks, but also to limit the spread of genital herpes.