Genital Herpes: Common but Misunderstood
HSV-1 (oral herpes) most commonly affects the oral regions (around the mouth, on the lips, face, and tongue) and results in sores (referred to as cold sores) or blisters in these regions. HSV-2 (genital herpes) most commonly forms ulcers on the penis, scrotum, anus, and the buttocks.
Clearing the myths by creating awareness regarding the true facts of herpes is crucial to help its further spread. Here are some widespread myths or misconceptions and the associated facts about genital herpes and cold sores.
Myth 1: You can know if your partner has herpes by its symptoms.
Fact: Around eight of 10 people, who get the herpes simplex viruses (HSV), do not develop any signs or symptoms. The virus can remain dormant in the body and fail to show any symptoms until the person’s immunity becomes weak.
Myth 2: A person who has no symptoms is not infectious.
Fact: People with herpes may transmit infections via saliva, genital secretions, or sores. The person may or may not have a sore, but the infection is still possible. A study has shown that even without the sores; 10% of the time, carriers of the herpes virus are infectious. The infection may occur via oral contact, genital contact, or even skin to skin contact.
Myth 3: Genital herpes can spread only when you sleep around with people or have penetrating sex.
Fact: Though genital herpes spreads most commonly through sex or even through genital-genital contact, it can also spread when a person has oral sex with an infected person.
Myth 4: Only certain people can get herpes.
Fact: Anyone who is sexually active is at risk of catching the herpes virus. This is because herpes is mainly transmitted sexually, and many people around are asymptomatic carriers, so you never know from whom you can get the infection.
Myth 5: Genital herpes is uncommon and there are fewer chances that you will get it.
Fact: It is estimated that, globally, over half a billion people between the ages of 15-49 years have genital herpes infection.
The herpes virus is the most common cause of genital ulcers in the United States. At least one out of every six people aged between 14 to 49 years are affected with genital herpes.
Myth 6: Condoms are a sure way to protect against genital herpes.
Fact: Doctors always recommend wearing a condom for protection against sexually transmitted diseases (STD), such as herpes. Using condoms can reduce your risk of getting herpes, but it is not 100% effective in preventing the infection. This is because the virus can also be present on the noninfectious part of the penis, which the condom cannot cover.
Myth 7: Herpes can be transmitted through blood.
Fact: Herpes is not present in the blood and only its antibodies can be detected from the blood, which can help confirm if the person had a prior active herpes infection. It cannot be passed via blood and people with genital herpes can still donate blood. Only skin to skin contact is essential for the spread of genital herpes, which can be both orally and genitally.
Myth 8: If you have genital herpes, you cannot have children.
Fact: Herpes does not affect the childbearing capacity in either of the two sexes. There is a slight chance that the pregnant lady can pass the herpes virus to her baby during delivery. However, some prescription medicines from a doctor can help prevent the mother to baby virus transmission.
Myth 9: Herpes can cause cervical cancer.
Fact: There are neither any reports nor any evidence that suggests that the herpes virus can cause cancer. The virus that causes genital warts, human papillomavirus (HPV), is known to increase the risk of cervical cancer amongst women.
Myth 10: Herpes is a deadly disease.
Fact: It is not a life-threatening condition, but herpes is a lifelong infection that has no cure. It is associated with a few outbreaks that occur when the person’s immunity is weak. People only need to manage the discomfort of the sores by taking antiviral medications.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Genital Herpes - CDC Fact Sheet. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm
Globally, an estimated two-thirds of the population under 50 are infected with herpes simplex virus type 1. Available at: https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/28-10-2015-globally-an-estimated-two-thirds-of-the-population-under-50-are-infected-with-herpes-simplex-virus-type-1
Tronstein E, et al. Genital shedding of herpes simplex virus among symptomatic and asymptomatic persons with HSV-2 infection. JAMA. 2011;305(14):1441-1449.
Top Genital Herpes and Cold Sores: 10 Myths and Facts Related Articles
Are Cold Sores and Canker Sores the Same Thing?Although cold sores and canker sores have similarities, they are entirely different conditions. Canker sores are not contagious, but cold sores are. Canker sores show up inside the mouth, while cold sores are often seen on the lips.
Are Cold Sores (Fever Blisters) Contagious?About 20% of cases of cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2), and approximately 80% of cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1). Cold sores are transmitted by sharing utensils and razors, kissing, and oral sex. There is no cure for cold sores.
Cold Sores (Fever Blisters) PictureCold sores, sometimes called fever blisters, are groups of small blisters on the lip and around the mouth. See a picture of Cold Sores (Fever Blisters) and learn more about the health topic.
Cold Sores SlideshowHow to get rid of cold sores? First learn about the herpes virus and how it causes cold sores. When are cold sores contagious? Get information on triggers that can cause a flare up in cold sore symptoms.
Do Cold Sores Mean You Have an STD?Having a cold sore does not necessarily mean you have an STD. Most of the cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which usually affects the lips and is not generally transmitted by sexual contact.
Do I Have a Cold Sore or Canker Sore?Having a cold sore or canker sore is painful and differentiating them isn’t always easy. However, a cold sore isn’t the same as a canker sore. Cold sores are usually caused by the herpes virus and it is highly contagious. Canker sores are mouth ulcers that are not contagious.
Cold Sores (Nongenital Herpes Simplex Infections)Herpes simplex infections are common and when they appear around the mouth and lips, people often refer to them as "cold sores" and "fever blisters." Canker sores are different than cold sores. Air droplets can spread the virus, as can direct contact with the fluid from the blisters. Cold sore treatment include over-the-counter medication, as well as prescription medications.
How Do I Get Rid of a Cold Sore Overnight?You cannot get rid of cold sores overnight. There is no cure for cold sores. However, to speed up the healing time of a cold sore, you can consult with your doctor and take prescription medications such as antiviral tablets and creams. A cold sore may go away without treatment within a week or two.
Pimple vs. Cold SorePimples are areas of skin inflammation with pus in the center. Cold sores are fluid-filled blisters. Pimples are caused by bacterial overgrowth and inflammation. Cold sores are caused by infection with herpes simplex viruses (HSV-1 and HSV-2). Benzoyl peroxide and sometimes antibiotics treat acne. Antiviral medications accelerate the healing process of oral herpes.
What Can Trigger a Cold Sore?After you get infected with HSV, it lies inactively in the nerve cells inside your skin and may appear as another cold sore at the same place as before.