Understanding Herpes: What to Know and Where to Get Help
Herpes is a common and highly contagious infection that usually is spread from one person to another through sexual contact. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one out of every six people in the United States between the ages of 14 and 49 is infected with the herpes virus. If you think you may have been exposed to the herpes virus, you definitely are far from alone.
Symptoms of Herpes
A person can be infected with the herpes virus and yet exhibit absolutely no symptoms. On the other hand, when a person experiences an outbreak of herpes, there do exist some common symptoms.
Symptoms of herpes typically begin with small blisters in the genital area. These blisters tend to break open, resulting in what can end up being painful, raw sores. Keep in mind that the sores will scab over and heal themselves over time. Typically, a herpes outbreak of this nature lasts a few weeks, from the point of the initial blisters to a healing of the sores. (As will be discussed in a moment, there are medications that can assist with the healing process.)
Blisters and sores actually are not the only symptoms associated with a herpes outbreak in some cases. A person may also experience flu-like symptoms during an active outbreak of the virus. In addition, swollen lymph glands are a possibility during a herpes outbreak.
A person suffering from an active herpes outbreak may also experience fatigue. Other symptoms that can occur during a herpes outbreak include painful urination (when urine passes over a blister or sore), headaches or backaches. A person may suffer from a variety of these symptoms when experiencing an active outbreak of herpes.
A person can be infected with herpes and not even know they contracted the virus. That does not mean that this individual cannot spread the virus to another person through sexual contact.
The herpes virus actually enters a person’s body through the skin. It then travels along nerve paths in a person’s body. In many cases, the virus remains dormant in the nerves for an indefinite period of time.
In instances in which the virus becomes active, it travels along nerve pathways to the skin where additional virus is shed. At this juncture, a person may or may not experience the symptoms of herpes described previously. Even without symptoms, when the virus has become active, it is impossible for another individual to contract herpes from the infected person through very close (nearly always sexual) contact.
Broken skin is not necessary to pass herpes from one person to another. In addition, a condom is not in and of itself sufficient to prevent the spread of herpes from one person to another. The virus easily can be found in skin that is uncovered which is sufficient to permit a transmittal of herpes from one person to another.
If you suspect you may have been infected with the herpes virus, you need to schedule an appointment with your doctor. If you think you were exposed to the virus through sexual contact with someone, but have exhibited no symptoms, you need to see your doctor.
A diagnosis of a herpes virus infection is made through a physical examination and a swab or blood test. The examination and associated tests are easy to undertake and produce results in a short amount of time.
Treatment for Herpes
Treatment for herpes is available through private doctors as well as from community health centers. Community health centers typically offer testing for the herpes virus at no cost to you. In addition, depending on your financial status, you may be able to access free treatment through a community health center if you are found to have been infected with the herpes virus.
Although there is no cure for herpes, there are effective treatments available today. These treatments not only reduce the symptoms of a herpes outbreak but can additionally work to lessen the chances of an active outbreak in the first instance. These treatments are also helpful in preventing the spread of herpes from one person to another. (As noted previously, herpes can only be spread when an active outbreak occurs — with or without visual symptoms.)
Your doctor may prescribe an anti-viral medication for you if you are diagnosed with herpes. Taken daily, this type of medication suppresses the herpes virus, a process which enhances the prospect that the virus will remain in a dormant state.
There are also topical medications that might be prescribed to assist in alleviating the symptoms of an active outbreak. These treatments also tend to speed up the healing process associated with a herpes outbreak.
I Want to Get Tested
If you are insured and regularly see a certain healthcare provider, that is a great place to start. It’s always smart to check with your insurance provider to make sure tests, such as this, are covered.
If money is an issue, many clinics provide free STD tests. Refer to the resources listed below for affordable STD test options:
Awareness and prevention are key when it comes to sexually transmitted infections. While contracting an STD like herpes can be unsettling, taking care of it as soon as possible can make a huge difference.
Free to low cost testing. Safe and local. Other health services provided
Same day testing available – A simple blood or urine test is taken. Tests take only a few minutes.
At Home Testing
At home privacy. Mail in test samples. Results in 2-5 days.
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