How frequent should herpes breakouts be?

Dear Dr. Amy:

I’m a 29 year old athletically active female. I had my first outbreak of herpes 2 at Christmas-time 1996. I was DEVASTATED. I found out later that my new husband had an affair a few months prior to my first breakout. I had a really awful first breakout. It took my doctor 3 visits to diagnose it and by that time I had a full-fledged major breakout I read somehwere that if a person is treated with oral acyclovir during the first breakout that future breakouts and symptoms may be reduced. The problem is that I have frequent occurances…probably one per month. (I used to have them even more frequently). The breakouts are far less severe than they used to be. I take a combo of lysiene and acyclovir when I notice symptoms. My question is: Is it normal to have so many breakouts? I have been tested negative for HIV (I didn’t have any CLUE what my husband may have gotten into) I’ve also had blood tests done to rule out other problems. At the onset of an outbreak, some of my joints become irritable and I get achy and just feel kind of crappy for a few days. The only way to relieve it is by taking an over the counter flu remedy. Can I expect these symptoms to lessen over time? It appears to be getting somewhat better…but slowly. Is there anything I can do? (I already got the divorce!)

By the way, just as a message for anyone reading this, it’s not that horrifying to tell someone. I’ve told a very few friends and family members and all have been very supportive. I think pursuing a love relationship has to start with being yourself and being true friends with someone…if it’s meant to be, the herpes won’t matter. Have faith in yourself.

Dr. Amy’s Response:


Thank you for sharing your experience and words of encouragement with other readers.You have stated some important and helpful information. First of all, early detection and treatment is the first step in gaining some control over the physical and emotional effects of having herpes. Your decision to be tested for HIV as well as other diseases was very wise. It is always a possibility that herpes alone is not responsible for all the symptoms. Without a thorough diagnosis, other problems can go undetected.

It is difficult to note what is “normal” for individuals with herpes because the type and severity of symptoms can vary greatly. Other females have noted that breakouts tend to occur around their periods. Since you describe monthly outbreaks, you may want to chart to see if your hormonal cycle relates to you herpes cycle.

I’m glad to hear that you are feeling better. Stress may very well be a factor. It sounds as though your marriage was a source of stress and it probably is not a mere coincidence that your stress level was reduced following your divorce. You may want to make an effort to incorporate some relaxation into your routine. While exercise is a great stress reducer and boosts the immune system, relaxation is equally beneficial. Take some quiet, peaceful time for yourself. Nature walks, soothing music, down time, yoga, are but a few suggestions.


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