Herpes is a well-known infectious disease brought by a contagious virus called herpes simplex virus. People from ages 14 to 50 can be at risk of contracting this disease, yet about 90% don’t show any symptoms. Thus, it may be hard to figure out if a person has herpes or not, unless they openly tell you. While herpes can’t affect or damage any of your internal organs, it can be dangerous, especially for newborns and people who have a weaker immune system.
The good thing is herpes can’t be spread through objects such as glasses, plates, spoons, towels, or bed sheets. You can only get contaminated through direct skin-to-skin contact with another infected person during sexual contact or kissing. Before you get too overwhelmed with this introduction, below are other essential details you need to know about herpes.
1. Types Of Herpes
As mentioned earlier, herpes is brought by the virus called herpes simplex virus (HSV). HSV is known to have two types: HSV 1 and HSV 2. While HSV 1 vs 2 have different transmission and infection methods, they still have similar symptoms and characteristics.
HSV 1 is the one responsible for causing oral herpes, affecting your mouth and other areas on your skin. You are at higher risk of contracting HSV 1 if you’re exposed to someone who also has the same virus through kissing, touching, or swapping lip balm or lipsticks. Meanwhile, HSV 2 causes genital herpes, which means this virus can be contracted through sexual contact, such as genital to genital, vaginal sex, and anal sex.
2. Who Are At Risk?
Anyone can get it, especially since herpes doesn’t show any apparent symptoms. However, when you’ve been sexually active since your younger years, you may also be at risk of having herpes.
People who have frequent sexual contact with multiple sexual partners could get the virus easily. Keep in mind that genital herpes can also be caused by HSV 1 as it can be spread through oral sex. A study shows that women are more prone to getting herpes compared to men.
You can also be at risk if an infected person interacts with you. That’s why people are constantly reminded to avoid having infants or babies kissed by strangers.
The most common symptom you’ll experience from herpes is fluid-filled blisters. These blisters appear within four days after you’ve been exposed to the virus. Once these blisters have opened, this may be referred to as your first herpes outbreak. They can be very itchy and matched with a burning sensation in the affected area.
Plus, you’ll also experience fluid discharge from those blisters, and they turn crusty before healing. These sores will still linger around the affected areas for a week or even longer.
For oral herpes, blisters happen in your lips, mouth, and, sometimes, in your tongue and face. For genital herpes, sores form around your vagina, penis, buttocks, cervix, or anus. Regardless of which type of herpes you’ve contracted, you can develop sores anywhere else in your skin.
Aside from sores, you’ll also suffer from other symptoms such as fever, body aches, headache, lymph nodes in your groin or neck, and painful sensations during urination. However, most people who have either type of herpes are asymptomatic.
There’s no cure for herpes. Even if the blisters have healed after the first outbreak, the HSV remains inside your body. It only becomes stagnant and inactive for a while until you’ll have another herpes outbreak and reactivate the same affected area.
The good news is some medicines can help you prevent frequent herpes outbreaks or, at least, shorten the duration. Doctors may recommend you to take anti-herpes medicines daily to lessen the virus spread. Recurring herpes outbreaks are known to be less severe than the first outbreaks you’ve experienced. They also tend to heal faster and become milder over time.
5. Can You Still Have Sex With Herpes?
This may be the big question that people who’ve been recently diagnosed with herpes are all wondering about. You can still have fulfilling sexual contact with another person, but it can be complicated as you need to consider a few things.
Be aware that you can spread HSV 1 or 2 through sexual activities. Thus, avoid having sexual contact with anyone during your outbreaks. However, having sex between outbreaks is fine, as long as your partner is fully aware of your diagnosis, and understands the risk.
Some of you may feel hopeless about your life once diagnosed with herpes. But the thing is, while millions of people have herpes, they still go through with life and create romantic and sexual relationships with their partners. Opening up about this health issue to your partner may be the worst conversation you’ll ever have, but it’s important.
That way, both of you can positively carry on with your lives. After all, herpes is only a health issue and will never define you as a person.