If you have herpes, you’re not alone. It’s one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) on the planet. No one knows for sure how many people have it, but researchers estimate over 1 in 6 Americans and about two-thirds of people worldwide have the condition.
Once you have herpes, it can stay inactive (dormant) in your nerves for the rest of your life. But sometimes the virus becomes active again and causes an outbreak or flare-up of symptoms.
At the private practice of Beth and Howard Braver, MD, in Aventura and Hollywood, Florida, our board-certified team of physicians diagnoses and treats many types of STDs — including genital herpes. Our confidential STD testing helps ensure your health and the health of your partner.
Here’s a closer look at herpes and what you can do to manage flare-ups.
This common viral infection generally spreads through oral and sexual contact. Two types of viruses cause genital herpes: herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).
HSV-1 typically triggers oral sores and blisters, and HSV-2 typically causes genital symptoms. Keep in mind, though, that oral sex with someone who has HSV-1 can cause genital herpes.
Not all people with herpes have symptoms. Sometimes symptoms are mild and get mixed up with other conditions, like an ingrown hair. This is why regular STD testing is key for your health and the health of your partner.
When symptoms do occur, you may notice one or more blisters near or on your rectum, genitals, upper thighs, or mouth. The blisters can open and become painful sores. You may also have other viral symptoms, like fever, swollen glands, and body aches.
People with herpes can still have intimate relationships, but you should take precautions. Use condoms every time you have sex to prevent contact with blisters. If your partner has herpes, talk to them about taking medication, and avoid sexual contact during a flare-up.
Managing herpes flare-ups
It’s normal to experience a flare-up from time to time. Many people with herpes have periodic outbreaks, when symptoms are active. These are typically followed by periods when the virus remains dormant. You can still spread the virus during dormant periods.
While on average, people with genital herpes have 4-5 outbreaks per year, no two people experience the same number of flare-ups. Flare-ups may also become less frequent over time.
If you have herpes, it’s important to understand the signs of a flare-up and the ways you can manage your symptoms.
Signs of a flare-up
Herpes flare-ups usually resolve faster than the original outbreak. You may only have symptoms for a few days, and almost all outbreaks resolve within two weeks.
You can expect symptoms during an outbreak to be milder than symptoms during your first episode.
- Tingling or itching around or on the genitals
- One or more blister on or around your genitals
- Small bump(s) that look like razor burn, a bug bite, or an ingrown hair
- Feeling like you have a hemorrhoid
If you have symptoms of a herpes flare-up, contact us at Beth and Howard Braver, MD. We can prescribe an antiviral medication to shorten the duration.
How to keep a flare-up under control
Antiviral medication is the best way to manage a flare-up. Another key step is to know your triggers. Many people find certain things cause reactivation, including food, stress, clothes, sunlight, and certain medications.
Other strategies for managing flare-ups include:
- Getting plenty of sleep
- Eating a well-balanced, whole-foods diet
- Getting regular exercise
- Using warm water to ease discomfort
- Using a separate towel for genitals and washing after each use
- Wearing loose, cotton undergarments
- Avoiding touching blisters or sores
Also, avoid putting ointments and creams on the sores. These prevent air from reaching the sores and slow healing.
Long-term herpes treatment
At this time, no cure exists for herpes. If you’re diagnosed with the condition, talk to one of our doctors about long-term treatment. They may recommend suppressive therapy to minimize the risk of passing the disease to your partner(s).
For women who may become pregnant, it’s especially important to discuss the virus with your doctor. You can pass the disease to your baby during pregnancy or delivery. This is called neonatal herpes.
Neonatal herpes can cause serious complications for your baby. Your doctor can take precautions to limit transmission to your baby, including medications and cesarean delivery if you have a flare-up during labor.
To learn more about managing herpes flare-ups or to set up a confidential STD test, schedule an appointment today at our Aventura or Hollywood, Florida, office.