Genital Herpes | Is there a cure?

There is no cure for Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a common STD, (Sexually Transmitted Disease) which can be controlled with treatment and living a healthy lifestyle. Treatments help to reduce outbreaks and symptoms. There is no cure! The infection stays in the body: HSV resides in the ganglion (HSV-1 resides in the trigeminal ganglion; HSV-2 resides in the sacral ganglia).

Genital Herpes is usually HSV-2, but can be HSV-!

Genital herpes is usually located below the waist and caused by HSV-2, the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 2. For the most part, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. Cold sores or HSV-1, the Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1, can also cause genital herpes. HSV-1 infection of the genitals can be caused by oral-genital or genital-genital contact with a person who has HSV-1 infection. So having oral sex with a person who has a cold sore can cause genital herpes, having had contact with the cold sore. Keep in mind, even if a cold sore is not present, there might be asymptomatic shedding or transmission. Genital HSV-1 outbreaks recur less regularly than genital HSV-2 outbreaks and are usually less severe.

Asymptomatic Shedding

Even if there are no symptoms present, a person with herpes can still be contagious and spread genital herpes with asymptomatic shedding. It’s obvious when lesions are present, but shedding of the virus is also possible when there are no sores. Some pharmaceutical drugs taken prophylactically may decrease the risk of transmission to a partner. Dr. Rob answers a question about asymptomatic shedding.and Dr. Tom’s Answer and Dr. Amy’s Answer.

Genital herpes is usually associated with recurrent painful genital sores

The first outbreak can be intense with painful sores and flu type symptoms and usually occurs within two weeks after the virus is transmitted. (Note that no symptoms at all, can also be the case.) One or more blisters may appear on or around the genitals or rectum. When the blisters break, a lesion remains and may take weeks to crust over and go away. The symptoms of recurrent episodes are usually milder than those of the first episode and typically last about a week. Sometimes recurrent outbreaks begin with tingling, pain or itching in the genital area, rectum, or down the leg. These are called prodromal symptoms and can be as painful as the sores. Be advised that genital herpes is very contagious, especially when sores are present and during the prodromal stage.

Women with Genital Herpes

Genital HSV-2 infection is more common in women (approximately one out of four women) than in men (almost one out of eight). This may be due to male-to-female transmission being more likely than female-to-male transmission.

Epidemic Rise

Genital herpes has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S.; 500,000 are diagnosed each year. One in five American adults has herpes, but only one third of those inflicted are aware that they have the virus. One out of four teens in the United States becomes infected with an STD each year and by the age of 25. Many people don't relate their symptoms to herpes, since they have either very mild or no symptoms at all. Over 50 million cases are currently estimated to exist in either the active or dormant stage.

Herpes increases your risk of contracting HIV

Those who have genital herpes sores are at a higher risk of getting infected with HIV during intercourse. When the immune system is healing a lesion, there are many immune cells concentrated in that area. HIV infects these cells. The risk for infection is higher if vaginal fluid, semen, or blood infected with HIV has contact with a herpes lesion, so herpes makes HIV-infected individuals more infectious.

Genital Herpes and HIV Treatment

When a person is HIV positive and has genital herpes, it is much more difficult to keep the recurrences in remission because higher doses of antiviral drugs are often needed. Also many people with HIV have compromised immune systems, which lowers the body’s abilitiy to fight recurrences in itself.

How do you help prevent genital herpes?

  • The surest way is to abstain from sexual contact.
  • Limit the number of sex partners, if you are not in a mutually monogamous relationship.
  • If you have herpes, always tell a prospective sex partner and take precautions.
  • Always use a new condom with each sex act. Be aware that condoms can help protect you if you cover the infected area.
  • Ask a potential sexual partner if he/she has ever had any STD’s, including herpes.
  • Get tested and have your partner get tested before intercourse.
  • Do not have intercourse or oral sex with anyone who has sores on their genitals.
  • Do not kiss or have oral sex with anyone who has a cold sore.
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