The Associated Risks Of Genital Herpes And How They Affect You

If you’ve just received a genital herpes diagnosis, you may feel confused or unsure of how it’ll impact your life. Understanding the associated risks of genital herpes and what you can do to prevent them can make coping with this disease much easier.

The Risk of Transference

The biggest risk of genital herpes is passing it on to your partner. When the herpes virus is present it can be passed on at any time through skin-to-skin contact, whether or not you’re exhibiting outbreaks.
Many people who carry the virus are asymptomatic, meaning they don’t exhibit genital sores and therefore have no idea they even carry the virus. These people can still spread the virus to others, and are a large factor in the increasing spread of genital herpes.
To decrease the risk of transmitting HSV-2 to a partner:
• Always use a condom, even when you don’t have an outbreak
• Avoid sexual activity when genital ulcers are present
• Tell partners about your condition so that they can make an informed choice.

The Risk of Spreading Herpes Ulcers Around the Body

Herpes can spread to other parts of the body if skin-to-skin contact is made during an outbreak. The most common areas of infection, other than the genitals, anus, thighs and mouth, are the fingers and the eyes. Herpes whitlow is the term for herpes on the fingers and hands. Ocular herpes, or keratitis, is the name for herpes in the eyes.
You can prevent self-contamination by avoiding skin-to-skin contact with the affected areas. If accidental contact occurs, wash the area that has been exposed with soap and warm water. Antibacterial soap kills the herpes virus.

The Risk of Contracting HIV

Genital herpes increases your risk of contracting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). When your body has a genital sore, or any type of ulceration, your immune system kicks into gear to try to heal the sores. This means the presence of high numbers of white blood cells–the type that HIV infects. Because HIV can be a bloodborne virus, the open sores provide a perfect port-of-entry.

Further Risks Associated with Genital Herpes

Pregnancy can present possible risks, including the risk of passing the virus on to your baby in the birth canal. To prevent this, doctors will perform a cesarean section when sores are present. Coping with genital herpes during pregnancy can be an added source of stress, but you can still birth a healthy child.
Physical discomfort associated with genital herpes can vary from mild to extreme. The first outbreak is often very painful, usually accompanied by fever and sickness. Subsequent outbreaks should be less severe, and continue to become less painful and pronounced over time. If you experience frequent, painful outbreaks, your doctor may prescribe an oral suppressant. This antiviral medication should help decrease the frequency, severity and duration of genital ulcers. Alternative treatments for genital herpes, like herbal supplements, may also bring relief.