Herpes

From cold sores to genital blisters, find out what you need to know about causes, symptoms and treatments for this virus.

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Herpes Causes Symptoms Treatments

Herpes is the name of a group of viruses that cause painful blisters and sores. Herpes simplex type 1 causes cold sores; herpes simplex type 2 is a sexually transmitted infection that causes genital herpes. In rare cases, a pregnant woman is infected with herpes can spread the infection to her baby during childbirth.

Herpes causes Genital herpes is spread through oral, vaginal and anal sex and can also be spread from the genitals to other parts of the body, such as the fingers or eyes. Herpes is most easily spread when the blisters are visible but can be spread even when there are no symptoms. People with herpes can experience recurrences triggered by an illness, fatigue, stress and sun exposure. Using condoms can reduce the risk of spreading herpes.

Herpes symptoms The first herpes infection is typically the worst. Within a few days after infection, groups of small painful blisters develop in the genital area. They may be red and filled with fluid, or they may not be noticeable. Tender lumps in the groin area, pain during urination and flu-like symptoms, including a fever and swollen glands, are also symptoms. Itching, tingling and pain in the infected area may be present prior to an outbreak.

Herpes diagnosis/tests If you have blisters  in the genital area, you are concerned that you’ve been exposed to herpes or you are pregnant or planning to be and you’ve never been tested, talk to your doctor. If you have a blister, she may take a culture of it or a tissue sample or order a blood test which can detect the herpes virus.

Herpes treatment Herpes is not curable, but is treatable with medication. Pain medications and lukewarm bathes can soothe the pain of infection. Anti-viral medications, such as acyclovir, may accelerate healing and relieve pain.

Herpes prevention Using condoms during sexual contact and avoiding sex with a partner with any symptoms of oral or genital herpes will help you avoid infection. If you have cold sores, wash your hands frequently to prevent infection and do avoid touching it and then your genitals. To prevent a cold sore blister, avoid prolonged time in the sun and find ways to reduce stress by getting adequate sleep and regular exercise.

Outside resources
Women’s Health Matters
Sexualityandu.ca

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