Ask Your Midwife Elizabeth Stein, Certified Nurse Midwife Ask your Midife Articles
Herpes Hurts

Elizabeth Stein, CNM

A woman with herpes may have one or two small blisters, a cluster of blisters together, small cuts on the skin, tingling or pain. Or she can have no symptoms at all. But if you have herpes you can spread it to your lips, eyes, genital area, to other people or to your baby if you are pregnant. These blisters are usually on your lips (cold sores/fever blisters) or the genital tissue. Even on your breasts if you are breast feeding.

If there is a blister, a culture can be taken. There is a new blood test that looks for herpes antibodies. It identifies the antibodies as HSV 1 or HSV 2. Antibodies are produced by your body when exposed to the virus. The presence of these antibodies means you have herpes virus in your body-even if you never have an outbreak.

Herpes is very contagious and easily spread to others by skin to skin contact, touching, kissing or sex. You may develop tingling, blisters and pain within a few days of exposure. These blisters are tiny, but there may be a cluster or trail of them in the genital area. Herpes tingles and hurts. It doesn't usually itch or burn. It hurts. There may also be swelling and discharge. If this is the first time you have herpes, your whole body may feel like you have the flu. Herpes virus may live for several hours on towels, toilet seats, telephones, or toothbrushes. Cold sores/fever blisters on the corner of your mouth are also herpes and are easily spread by kissing or touching the area. If you have oral sex, you can spread herpes to the genital area.

While there is no cure for herpes (or any other sexually transmitted virus), there are very effective antiviral medications for treatment. Using medication will help the blisters to heal faster, hurt less and decrease the chance of transmission to others. With no treatment, herpes blisters will heal on its own without scarring in 7-14 days. Even if there are no blisters, you may be able to spread this virus to others, so condoms and careful personal hygiene are recommended. Because of the unpredictable nature of the outbreaks, herpes can be emotionally upsetting. Another reason to consider treatment is that the unhealed sore is an open door for other virus (such as HIV) and bacteria to enter the body. Men, women and children are equally susceptible to herpes.

If you have herpes or think you do, call to make an appointment for a complete evaluation.

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