Once a person is infected with herpes, the virus may stay dormant or quiet within the nerves. It is not known what exactly may trigger the symptoms, however, the symptoms can be activated or triggered by certain factors such as:
- Genital stimulation such as during sexual intercourse
- Menstrual periods
- Emotional stress
- Physical exertion
- Exposure to cold
- Sunlight exposure
- Low immunity as seen in HIV, diabetes and chemotherapy
Triggers may vary from person to person. You should discuss with your doctor if you think certain factors trigger your disease.
What is genital herpes?
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by either the herpes simplex virus HSV type 1 (HSV-1) or HSV type 2 (HSV-2). The disease is contagious and can spread through skin contact including unprotected vaginal and oral sex. Transmission usually occurs when in the early stage when there are no visible signs in the infected partner. The infection can affect any part of the body, although it is most commonly seen around the genitals, mouth or anus. Once infected, the virus may stay in the affected person for life. The blisters may heal within two to three weeks but the virus lies dormant inside the nerves causing occasional flare-ups.
Most people infected with HSV show no symptoms or very mild symptoms that may mistaken for another skin condition. Typical symptoms include a blister like rash that erupts in clusters. The rashes typically occur on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. Symptoms may occur after a period of two to twelve days after the infection. The rashes are painful and may be associated with burning or itching sensation. The symptoms are usually worst in the first episode. Recurrent outbreaks may be shorter and milder than the initial one.
How can I prevent getting herpes outbreaks?
To reduce the risk of herpes outbreaks you may consider the following:
- Take antiviral medicines regularly as prescribed by your doctor
- Take adequate sleep to keep your immune system strong and minimize emotional stress and fatigue
- Follow a healthy diet as good nutrition keeps your immunity strong besides keeping you physically and mentally healthy
- Manage your stress levels by following practices such as regular exercise, meditation, reading and music
- Protect yourself from potential triggers such as sun, wind, and extreme cold and heat. You may try staying indoors on windy, cold, or hot days or take preventive steps such as wearing a sunscreen to guard yourself against the weather.
How can I manage a herpes outbreak at home?
The following tips may help to ease the symptoms of a herpes outbreak:
- Take over the counter pain killers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin
- Apply cool compresses to sores many times a day for relieving itching and pain
- In the case of women with sores on the vaginal lips (labia), they may try urinating in a tub of water to reduce pain.
- Do not apply bandage to or cover the sores as air speeds healing
- Wash the sores gently with soap and water. Do not rub them with a towel. Gently pat dry.
- Never pick at the sores as this may cause infection and delay healing.
- Apply only the creams or lotions prescribed by your healthcare provider for the sores. Do not share your creams/ointments or lotions.
- Take your antiviral medications as prescribed by your provider.
- Wear loose-fitting cotton clothes
- A water based lubricant while intercourse may reduce the friction around the genitals and keep the sores away.
Top What Triggers Herpes? Related Articles
Are Cold Sores the Same as Herpes?What is the difference between cold sores and herpes? Cold sores are painful, unsightly sores that usually pop up around your mouth. Certain medications, home care and alternative therapies may help you get rid of cold sores fast.
Can Genital Warts Be Mistaken for Herpes?What is the Difference between genital warts and herpes, and, can genital warts be mistaken for herpes?
Can Pregnancy Cause Herpes to Flare Up?There's no evidence that pregnancy causes herpes outbreaks, but approximately 75% of pregnant women with herpes will have an outbreak at some point during their pregnancy.
Genital HerpesWhat's going on down there? WebMD shows you pictures of genital herpes symptoms and treatments -- and how to avoid getting the virus in the first place.
What Is Genital Herpes in Women?Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Symptoms of genital herpes include painful blisters and often fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes for the first outbreak. Genital herpes is diagnosed with lab tests to test for the presence of the virus. Treatment for genital herpes includes antiviral medications to shorten the duration of the outbreak or reduce the risk of future outbreaks. There is no cure for genital herpes. Condoms may help prevent the spread of genital herpes.
Genital Herpes QuizWhat is genital herpes? Learn the causes, symptoms in men and women, and treatments for this common sexually transmitted skin disease.
Eye Herpes (Ocular Herpes)Herpes of the eye occurs due to herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1). Symptoms of herpes of the eye include pain in and around the eye, rash or sores on the eyelids, redness, swelling, and cloudiness of the cornea.
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.
Herpes Simplex Virus Type Picture 1A herpes virus that causes cold sores and fever blisters in and around the mouth. See a picture of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and learn more about the health topic.
Is It Possible to Cure Herpes?Most of us will likely have to deal with herpes at some point. Learn more about herpes and what you can do to treat it. Genital herpes is a type of sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV2) which causes lesions in the genital area. Learn how it spreads, symptoms, prevention, and how it can be treated.
Shingles (Herpes Zoster)Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella zoster virus. Other shingles symptoms include headache, fever, nausea, and body aches. Treatment focuses on pain management and shortening the duration of the illness with antiviral medications.
Shingles QuizShingles falls within a well-known family of viruses that cause itching, burning, blisters, and pain. Take the Shingles Quiz to get the facts, causes, symptoms, and treatments for this itchy, painful condition.
What Causes Herpes on Lips?What is oral herpes, and how do you know if you have it? Learn the signs of oral herpes and what to do if you get an outbreak.
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.