My sister told me she has herpes. Can you tell me about this disease?
Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus. The virus enters the body through the mouth and/or genitals. There are two types of herpes that are distinguished by both their symptoms and their severity. The first, Type I usually shows itself as cold sores or fever blisters around or in the mouth. Type II involves sores in the genital area. There can be cross over between these two types due to oral sex. Herpes can be transmitted during vaginal, oral, anal or manual sex with a person who has an active herpes infection. Unfortunately active herpes doesn't always present itself obviously.
The first symptoms of herpes usually appear from within two days
to nearly three weeks after transmission. A woman will notice
tingling or itching in her genital area at first, which may be
accompanied by burning sensations or pains in the legs and
buttocks. A woman might also feel pressure in her pelvic area.
These feelings will be followed by sores. The sores will first just
look like tiny irritations or bumps, but they will then develop into
watery blisters on the clitoris, the outer lips of the vagina, the
vaginal opening and sometimes on the anus, thighs and buttocks.
90% of women will experience these symptoms at their first
infection. Painful urination and a dull ache in the genital area can
accompany active sores. Sometimes this first outbreak will also
occur with a fever, headaches and swollen glands in the groin. A
few days after the appearance of blisters, the blisters will rupture
and leave ulcers that may bleed. These ulcers will then scab over
and eventually heal.
It is important to note that some women don't experience these
symptoms at all and can have contracted herpes without even
noticing. For this reason, among others it is crucial that all sexually
active women, regardless of age, regularly visit a gynecologist.
There is no cure for herpes but there are ways for a woman to
manage her herpes and to insure that she does not infect anyone
else. Some women will never experience another outbreak after
their first, but most do. Stress and menstruation can make a
woman more vulnerable to contracting herpes and to experiencing
a flare up if she already has herpes. The initial outbreak can be
treated with topical creams prescribed by a doctor, but primarily
the sores must be kept clean and dry and simply given time.
Wearing cotton underwear and soaking periodically in a warm
bath with baking soda can relieve some of the pain and itching.
Urinating in the shower or spraying sores lightly with water while
urinating can cut down on the pain from contact between open
sores and urine. By managing her general well being a woman can
decrease the frequency and severity of flare-ups. Herpes is a
disease, and so living with it can be difficult, but if a woman pays
attention to her health and to managing the external elements that
stimulate flare-ups such as certain foods and stress inducers, she
can live a healthy life.
In order to prevent the transmission of the virus to someone else
she should make sure that she always has safe sex. She may also
consider avoiding sex altogether during a flare-up. Since herpes
can be transmitted through contact with an open sore she can
protect her sleeping partner from contracting herpes by covering
any open sores. For this same reason a woman with herpes may
have to choose a cesarean section if she is experiencing any
active herpes sores just prior to childbirth. If a woman has active
herpes sores and delivers her baby through her vagina she puts
her child at risk of contracting the virus during birth. Newborns can
have much more serious consequences including brain damage,
blindness and death. Any woman who is pregnant and has herpes
should discuss her birthing options with her doctor and prepare for
the possibility of a cesarean. Herpes is pretty awful in its own right
but it also correlated with a woman's risk of other diseases such
as cervical cancer. For this reason a woman who has herpes
should take the important preventative measure of getting a
regular Pap smear.
Anti-viral drugs, such as Valtrex, Zorivax, and others do not cure or
prevent transmission of the disease. However, they can help keep
the disease under control. They can minimize outbreaks, and
decrease the length and severity of the outbreaks that do occur.