Genital herpes: Nothing to freak out about
No one wants genital herpes, but if you happen to contract them, don't freak out. We can guide you through what they feel like, look like, how long they last, when they come back and what to do about them. Genital herpes are quite common, so remember that there is a contingency plan in place.
The cold war of cold sores
Herpes-1 and -2 viruses are what cause cold sores. So try to think of genital herpes like a bout of cold sores: you just have to know what to do. Unfortunately, the very impolite herpes virus doesn't consciously know you'd prefer these cold sores somewhere a little less sensitive. But they are just the same as getting them on your mouth. No one freaks out when grandma gets a cold sore, but for some reason, possibly since Adam and Eve needed vine leaves, we are a little shy about getting sores on our pink bits.
Feels like ...
It may feel a little like tingling at the start, which may lead to itching and possibly a burning sensation. After a day or so, some blisters may start to show, usually clear or white. For many people, they will recur in the same general spot, so you'll get better at knowing when you may need to take some action.
Ready, camera, action
Taking action is not a scary as it seems. If you haven't had these little numbers before, all you have to do is visit your doctor and they'll tell you definitively what they are. Doctors deal with all types of viruses and herpes is no different, so drop your pants and let them know what's going on south of the border. Often the blisters will go away of their own accord. But this shouldn't mean out of sight out of mind, because you will still have the virus ... you just can't see the blisters.
I still have the virus?!
Yes, unfortunately. Herpes is treatable, but not curable. Which means that you may get your first bout and never experience them again, or you may get recurrent outbreaks. Usually, when your body is run down, stressed out, or even sunburnt (and not just on your nudie bits, but anywhere) the herpes virus will rear its ugly head. Which is another good reason to take care of yourself. For women, it may also crop up when you're pre-menstrual.
Trick or treat
Treating the herpes virus is easy, so don't trick yourself into thinking it's better to ignore it and hope for the best. First of all, you will most likely be passing it on even if you're using protection, and secondly, it's as simple as taking a pill. There are tablets you can take to suppress the nasty symptoms of herpes. While this doesn't guarantee that they won't return, it will mean it is much less severe if they do. Most people have a lot of success with this treatment. There are also over-the-counter creams available that you can talk to your chemist about.
Some people may never get another outbreak again but still choose to take the medication to lessen the chances of spreading the virus.
How did they get there?
The same way as cold sores get onto your mouth ... contact. When someone is shedding the virus on their genitalia, they can pass it on when you, er, "bump uglies". While protection is recommended, it certainly doesn't guarantee the virus is contained, because the contact can be anywhere around the groin. If you have an outbreak, the best thing to do is to take a break from the "no pants dance" until it clears up.
If you start noticing the symptoms, there are two words to remember. In the words of Douglas Adams, "Don't panic." Herpes is merely cold sores, just further south. There are ways to manage it even if you have to lay off the lovin' for a little while. Herpes is also very common, so talk to your doctor, who has seen it all before.
For more information about genital herpes, watch Dr Joe's video Genital Herpes.
Article Date: 24/3/2011
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