Herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) with no cure, affecting one in five American adults and teenagers just like you. Many of us have misconceptions or misunderstandings about herpes, what it is, and what it is to live life with the disease. These myths create fear and worse, contribute to the spread of the disease. By debunking these myths and raising awareness about herpes, we can help people lead a more fulfilling life. Following are the most common myths regarding herpes.
• You were just diagnosed with genital herpes and now your sex life is over
People who have genital herpes can continue to have sex. There are several easy and simple steps you can take to prevent the spread of herpes. Abstinence should be practiced as soon as you feel the warning signs of an outbreak and during any active outbreak of the virus. Wait seven days after the sores heal before resuming any sexual activity. Consistently using condoms during all sexual activity greatly helps in preventing the spread of the disease. However, you should take care in exposing any bare skin not covered by a condom during any sexual activity, including oral sex.
• People with genital herpes are sexually promiscuous
Statistics show that people with herpes are no more sexually active than the general population. While having unprotected sex with multiple partners does raise the risk of contracting the virus, it only takes one unsafe exposure to become infected.
• You can contract genital herpes from toilet seats
Although genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections worldwide, it is extremely unlikely that you can get the virus from a toilet seat. The virus that causes herpes cannot live outside the human body for very long. Genital herpes, or HSV-2, is spread through direct skin contact during sexual activity and presents as open sores or blisters around the genitals. The virus can also be spread to the mouth and throat through oral sex.
• Once you have herpes, you will always have itchy rashes
When contracting the virus most people experience an outbreak of itchy sores, but these sores heal and go away in a matter of days or weeks. Subsequently, you may experience similar outbreaks in the future which may range from mild to severe. They also heal. Some people live with herpes and experience no outbreaks, itching or other symptoms.
• People with herpes cannot have children
In general, women with genital herpes give birth to healthy babies. However, in some cases, an outbreak of genital herpes during pregnancy can have serious health issues on the unborn fetus including miscarriage and stillbirths. For some babies, a herpes infection can cause severe brain injury and blindness. If you have genital herpes, it is best to consult with your doctor before becoming pregnant.
• You cannot get herpes if you use condoms
Use of condoms during sex is an excellent way to greatly reduce the chances of becoming infected with any STD. However, it is still possible to become infected with the herpes virus even when using a condom. Some people contract the virus through oral sex and others through direct contact with sores where they are not protected by the condom.
•People with herpes cannot donate blood
According to the American Red Cross, people with herpes may donate blood as long as they are healthy and do not have any other restricted infections
• When you have herpes, you know it
Most people who are infected with herpes are unaware that they have the virus. In the United States approximately 80% of people with the STD do not know they have it. The viruses’ symptoms may not appear or can be very subtle. In some cases, the virus remains dormant for years. The only way to know if you have herpes or not is to get tested for the disease.
Most people are surprised by how common genital herpes is. Herpes simplex is a viral disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. Anyone can become infected by the herpes virus through physical contact and the exchange of body fluids with an infected person whether the infected individual is exhibiting the symptoms of herpes or not.
Genital herpes, or HSV-2, is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD). Genital herpes is transmitted through direct physical contact and the exchange of bodily fluids. This can be from a simple kiss to oral sex or intercourse. Genital herpes is primarily spread through direct skin contact during sexual activity and presents as open sores or blisters around the genitals. It can also be spread to the mouth and throat through oral sex.
The latest statistics indicate that about one in five Americans are infected with genital herpes, approximately 25% of the female population, or one in four women, and 20% male, or one in five. That equates to more than fifty million Americans with the disease. However, a large portion of these people, roughly around 85%, are asymptomatic and not aware that they have the virus. Following are more detailed statistics regarding genital herpes:
• More prevalent in the African-American population than the white population affecting 39.2% of the overall population and 48% of African-American women
• The fastest growing population of affected people is white teenagers with one in four American teenagers having an STD
• It is estimated that between 50% and 75% of unmarried American women between the ages of 45 and 50 have genital herpes
• Over 536 million people are infected around the world
The likelihood of transmitting genital herpes to another person is highest when having sex during an outbreak or anytime a sore is present. However, even if someone is not experiencing an outbreak, there is up to a ten percent chance of transmitting the disease during sexual activity. A genital herpes transmission study conducted by Valtrex showed the following rates of transmission per year of regular sex:
• Partners avoiding sex during outbreaks: 4% chance of transmission from female to male and 8% male to female
• Partners using condoms or antiviral medication: 2% female to male and 4% male to female
• Partners using condoms and antiviral mediation: 1% female to male and 2% male to female
Although not all studies reflect exactly the same rates for infection and transmission, herpes, both oral and genital, is more common than most people think. While there is presently no cure for genital herpes, fortunately, the disease is highly manageable allowing people with it to lead long, healthy, sexually active lives.
You cannot know for certain if you have herpes or not simply by observing the symptoms. If you do have herpes, there are many types of treatments available to address the symptoms and help prevent the spread of the virus. If you think you might be infected, take control of your sexual health and get herpes tested by a licensed medical practitioner right away.
Herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) with no cure, affecting one in five American adults and teenagers just like you. Many people with herpes are constantly searching for ways to reduce the frequency and severity of their herpes outbreaks. There are many things that can trigger a herpes outbreak ranging from environmental factors, your health, stress, and your diet. Medication and drugs are the primary way to keep the virus at bay, but with a nutritious and smart diet, your immune system can be stronger and outbreaks can be naturally prevented or reduced.
The most common recommendation regarding diet, food and better managing herpes outbreaks is centered around two amino acids – L-lysine and arginine. The general idea is to eat more lysine and less arginine in your diet.
Clinical studies and research have shown that diets high in L-lysine help to control herpes outbreaks. The body uses the amino acid lysine as a protein building block. Lysine boosts immunity and is effective in reducing the occurrence, severity and duration of frequent herpes outbreaks. Lysine also prevents other viruses that can attack the immune system and cause other health problems. Foods that are high in lysine content include:
• Most fruits such as apples, figs, pears, mangos and apricots
• Orange and red vegetables such as cauliflower, beets, yellow beans and potatoes
• Milk, cheese and yogurt
• Wild caught fish and other lean proteins such as chicken, lamb and beef
Even more important than what to eat is what not to eat. Many chronic viruses including herpes can be trigged by high amount of arginine in the body. Arginine encourages the virus’ growth and reproduction. Therefore, the goal is to increase consumption of foods rich in lysine and decrease the amount of foods that are high in arginine. To reduce and possibly even avoid herpes outbreaks, you should cut down on your intake of low-lysine, high arginine foods including:
• Seeds and nuts, nut butters
• Orange Juice
• Wheat and wheat products
• Oatmeal and oats
• Brown rice
• Whole wheat and white flours
• Dried beans
• Packaged and processed foods in general
• Protein supplements, protein shakes and multivitamins
Other dietary strategies for reducing herpes outbreaks include adopting an alkaline diet and eating more foods that are rich in vitamin B. By lowering the amount of acidic foods you eat, suppressing the herpes virus will be significantly more effective. Fruits and vegetables in general are perfect for an alkaline diet. Watermelon is an excellent example as well as adding lemon to your water. Eating foods rich in vitamin B and antioxidants support the overall dietary recommendations and can also help decrease your stress level, which is a key contributor to herpes outbreaks.
These above lists of beneficial foods and foods to avoid are just a general list to provide some overall dietary guidelines that can help you better manage your herpes outbreaks and lead a healthier and more vibrant life. Keep in mind that there are many known triggers that can contribute to a herpes outbreak and diet alone is not the complete answer – but it can help!
When someone has contracted herpes, it can be either HSV-1 (herpes type 1) or HSV-2 (herpes type 2). The “HSV” is an acronym for “Herpes Simplex Virus.” The general difference between the two types of herpes is that type 1 refers to oral herpes and type 2 refers to genital herpes. This means the symptoms of type 1 would be cold sores forming in the area around your mouth, while the symptoms of type 2 would be cold sores forming around your genital area.
When you look at both types of herpes strains under a microscope, they look nearly identical to each other. The severity of the symptoms caused by them is also similar, despite the popular belief that HSV-2 is worse. The big difference between them is where they exist and become latent in the body. HSV-1 infects the nerve cells on the bottom of the neck while HSV-2 infects the nerve cells on the bottom of the spine. From these locations, they affect the mouth and the genitals; respectively.
It is easier to contract HSV-1 because you don’t need to have sexual intercourse to get it. Aside from having oral sex, you can contract HSV-1 from merely kissing someone else who is infected or putting something in your mouth that they touched with their saliva. For example, if you eat with a kitchen utensil they used or brush your teeth with their toothbrush, then HSV-1 could spread to your mouth area that way. As for HSV-2, it is usually obtained by having sexual intercourse with an infected person, which is why the symptoms of this virus affect the genital area.
HSV-2 is not known to spread like HSV-1. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t get HSV-2 in other areas of the body. For example, if someone performs oral sex on a partner with HSV-2, that person will likely get HSV-2 in their mouth area. The same scenario can be said about HSV-1. If the person performing the oral sex has HSV-1, they could infect their partner’s genitals with HSV-1.
With that being said, HSV-1 can become HSV-2 and vice versa. It all depends on which area of your body the virus gets exposed to. The chances of obtaining symptoms from the virus are still the same. Some people with either virus will get cold sores while others won’t get them for many years. Overall, the symptoms will come and go for the rest of your life. The best thing that can be done is to control the symptoms with regular treatments.
Which is Worse?
There is a common perception that HSV-1 is not as serious as HSV-2. Since HSV-1 tends to be a mild infection, then this is true for the most part. However, if the virus were to spread away from the mouth toward another area, like the eye or the brain, then you will have a big problem. Ocular herpes caused by HSV-1 can leave you with total blindness. If it ends up in the brain and gives you herpes encephalitis, then it could cause you to die. Therefore, the symptoms of HSV-1 need to be controlled as soon as you’ve been diagnosed.
Aside from the risk of HSV-1 spreading, no virus is worse than the other. You will still get cold sores that are red and painful, regardless of which one you have. But if you care about where you get the cold sores, then you might prefer one over the other. For example, HSV-2 might feel uncomfortable and painful around your genital area but at least you can cover up the appearance of the red cold sores with clothes. People who suffer the symptoms of HSV-1 have to carry those cold sores around their mouth area. Although you could try to cover them up with makeup, the sores will still be visible to everyone in public. This could create emotional feelings of embarrassment and low self-confidence in the affected person. Consequently, this is just one more reason why HSV-1 can be deemed as worse.
Which is more common?
Statistics have shown that HSV-1 is more common than HSV-2. According to recent data, as many as 90% of adults in the United States have been exposed to HSV-1. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they all have cold sores on their mouths but it does mean their DNA has been exposed to the virus. The data also shows that 45% of adults have HSV-2, which includes 20% of men and 25% of women.
Now, why would HSV-1 be more common? The answer is simple, it is easier to contract HSV-1 from another person. Remember that you don’t need to have sex with someone else to give them HSV-1. You just need to be exposed to something that their saliva touched, like cups and toothbrushes. Even innocent children could become the victims of HSV-1 from this. And since HSV-1 is really more serious, then more precautions need to be made by an infected person to protect the people around them from getting exposed to their virus.
If you’ve had unprotected sex recently, then you’re probably wondering whether you have contracted a sexually transmitted disease. With all the different types of STDs that are out there, you could have contracted any one of them if your sexual partner was infected. The worst part is that the symptoms of STDs will not show up right away after you’ve been infected. You could literally go weeks or even months without ever knowing that you have an STD. Then, all of a sudden, there will be visible symptoms that will show up on you like rashes, redness, fever, nausea, and more. The exact amount of time it takes for these symptoms to show up is different for each STD. It simply depends on which STD you have been infected with.
People’s bodies tend to respond differently to STD infections. Aside from the type of STD you have, some people may develop symptoms after a few weeks while others may take years to see symptoms. Gonorrhea, for example, is a common STD which tends to show symptoms at different times. Most people get symptoms within 2 weeks while others have gotten them after 1 month. The same goes for genital herpes as well. As for more serious STDs like HIV, it could take as long as 3 to 6 months before you even test positive for it. Meanwhile, the only symptom you may experience is a slight fever or a headache but you probably won’t attribute that to an STD at first. That is why HIV infections usually take the longest to detect.
For STDs which take longer to verify like HIV, keep getting tested every 6 months to ensure that you’re clean. It doesn’t even matter if you’ve had protected sex with a partner either. After all, condoms are not 100% full proof and they have a chance of breaking or not being used properly. And if you ask your partner if they have an STD and they say no, don’t take their word at face value. They may either be lying or they simply aren’t aware that they’re infected.
Overall, you shouldn’t wait for symptoms of STDs to show up before you verify that you have one. The longer you wait to treat your STD, the more the disease will have already spread throughout your body. This will make it more difficult to treat and reduce its symptoms. Therefore, if you’ve had sex with someone and you’re not confident they are free of STDs, then make an appointment with your doctor and get a blood test done right away.