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.
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
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Common Medical Abbreviations & Terms
Doctors, pharmacists, and other health-care professionals use abbreviations, acronyms, and other terminology for instructions and information in regard to a patient's health condition, prescription drugs they are to take, or medical procedures that have been ordered. There is no approved this list of common medical abbreviations, acronyms, and terminology used by doctors and other health- care professionals. You can use this list of medical abbreviations and acronyms written by our doctors the next time you can't understand what is on your prescription package, blood test results, or medical procedure orders. Examples include:
- ANED: Alive no evidence of disease. The patient arrived in the ER alive with no evidence of disease.
- ARF: Acute renal (kidney) failure
- cap: Capsule.
- CPAP: Continuous positive airway pressure. A treatment for sleep apnea.
- DJD: Degenerative joint disease. Another term for osteoarthritis.
- DM: Diabetes mellitus. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- HA: Headache
- IBD: Inflammatory bowel disease. A name for two disorders of the gastrointestinal (BI) tract, Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis
- JT: Joint
- N/V: Nausea or vomiting.
- p.o.: By mouth. From the Latin terminology per os.
- q.i.d.: Four times daily. As in taking a medicine four times daily.
- RA: Rheumatoid arthritis
- SOB: Shortness of breath.
- T: Temperature. Temperature is recorded as part of the physical examination. It is one of the "vital signs."
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Do Cold Sores Mean You Have an STD?Having a cold sore does not necessarily mean you have an STD. Most cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which typically is not transmitted by sexual contact.
Cold Sores (Oral Herpes, Herpes Labialis)Cold sores (labial herpes) are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 infection and often appear on the mouth and lips. Read about treatment causes, symptoms, treatment, and diagnosis of oral herpes.
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 Causes Blisters on Lips?What are blisters on lips and what causes blisters on lips? Learn about these mouth sores, what causes blisters on lips, and how to treat blisters on lips. What to know about getting rid of blisters on the tongue. Learn about the causes of blisters on the tongue and possible treatment methods.
What Do Herpes Sores Look Like at Different Stages?Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) are the two types of herpes virus and will look different as they develop during five stages.