September 28, 2022
If you’ve recently been diagnosed or exposed to the herpes virus, you understandably have a lot of questions. For instance, can the virus be cured? Are there treatment options available? And what happens if you leave herpes untreated?
In this article, we’ll break down some of the most common questions regarding herpes and provide solutions to treat the condition and minimize discomfort.
Herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that causes sores or blisters to form in or around the mouth or genitals, along with other symptoms. The virus that causes herpes is the herpes simplex virus (HSV) and is a chronic, lifelong viral infection.
There are two types of HSV:
Both of these viruses are extremely common. In fact, more than half of Americans have oral herpes (HSV-1), and around 11.9% of people aged 14 to 49 years have genital herpes (HSV-2).
Although there is no cure for herpes, there are a number of treatment options available that can lessen the severity of outbreaks and symptoms, as well as reduce the likelihood of transmission to partners.
Because HSV-1 and HSV-2 affect different parts of the body and the signs and symptoms differ, the treatment can also vary. Below are a few treatment options for both HSV-1 and HSV-2.
HSV-1 is typically spread through direct skin contact, like kissing or performing oral sex with someone who has the virus. Oral herpes causes blisters to form in and around the lips and mouth. These blisters, often referred to as fever sores or cold sores, usually last between 2-3 weeks before clearing up.
Symptoms of oral herpes typically clear up on their own in a matter of days, however, there are a few treatment options available that can relieve some of the pain and irritation. John Hopkins Medicine recommends the following:
Oral herpes can also cause more severe symptoms, especially during the initial (primary) infection. These symptoms can include severe, flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes, and headaches. After the initial outbreak, recurring infections tend to be more mild, and some people never have additional outbreaks.
If you have oral herpes, the best way to prevent spreading the virus is to avoid physical contact with individuals during an outbreak.
Genital herpes can be treated with antiviral medications and anesthetic cream which alleviate symptoms and shorten an outbreak. However, if you have genital herpes you should avoid unprotected sex, especially during a breakout where you should avoid all sexual contact. Additionally, even if you are not displaying symptoms, you can still spread the disease.
As we mentioned, the herpes simplex virus is a chronic, lifelong virus. Once the virus enters the body, it will stay there forever. Although there is no cure, the above treatment options can help outbreaks become shorter or occur less frequently.
It is possible to contract herpes without even realizing it or displaying symptoms. In fact, the majority of people infected with HSV-1 and HSV-2 go undiagnosed because the symptoms are so mild they go unrecognized. However, even if symptoms are mild or unrecognized, that does not mean you cannot unwittingly spread HSV-1 or HSV-2 to other sexual partners.
There are complications from undiagnosed or untreated herpes, especially from genital herpes. This includes:
If you are pregnant, it’s important to inform your doctor that you have genital herpes. Babies born with genital herpes run the risk of developing very serious complications and experience blindness, brain damage, or even death.
Additionally, genital herpes can be severe in people with suppressed immune systems.
The best way to find out if you have the herpes simplex virus is through regular sexual health testing and screening, especially if you are sexually active or think you may have been exposed. If you don’t want to go to a doctor’s office for testing, at-home herpes tests are available that can accurately diagnose you in the privacy of your home.
There are three types of at-home testing options for herpes available. Each one tests for antibodies in your blood and include:
Generally, blood tests tend to be more reliable than swab tests. If you’re afraid of taking a blood sample yourself and would prefer an experienced professional to perform the test, then Getlabs offers a convenient and comfortable solution for an at-home herpes blood test.
You can book an appointment online and a phlebotomist will visit your home, collect your sample, and drop it off at a local lab for testing. We also provide other STI testing.
This page is provided for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute the provision of medical advice or professional services. The information provided should not be used for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, and those seeking personal medical advice regarding any of the tests and conditions referenced above are advised to consult with a licensed clinician. Always seek the advice of your qualified health provider regarding a medical condition and do not disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of any information on this page. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call 911 or go to the nearest urgent care center or hospital.
Getlabs sends a nearby medical specialist to you to collect your labs for Labcorp and Quest. Available same-day, nationwide.