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Herpes is a virus that is mostly sexually transmitted, although it is possible for a pregnant mother to pass the virus on to her newborn during delivery. There are two types of herpes virus. HSV 1 is mostly associated with oral lesions and HSV 2, with genital lesions. Once infected there is no cure.
The first (primary) attack, is usually the worst. Some people only get one attack and have no further problems, or might have very mild subsequent attacks. Even so, it is still possible to transmit the virus even if you have no further attacks (asymptomatic shedding). This is how many people get infected by the virus, as their partners might not know they have it, or that they can be infectious even when there are no visible lesions.
More commonly there will be recurrent attacks, maybe once every few months or during times of stress or illness.
- Painful ulcers or blisters at the site of infection
- Painful urination
- Vaginal or urethral discharge
- Enlarged or tender glands in the groin
- Flu like illness.
An attack can last from a few days to a few weeks and is usually self limiting. During an outbreak you will be more infectious to your partner.
- Swab test from the area affected This can be done a soon as there are visible lesions
- I do not recommend a blood test for herpes to diagnose recent infections, as the swab test is more accurate at this stage.
The blood test looks for antibodies to to Herpes, and only tells us whether you have been exposed to the virus at some point, and not whether you have an active infection. Also the antibodies can take several months to develop. The blood test has more value in people with recurrent unexplained symptoms, with no visible lesions at the time they see the doctor, investigating asymptomatic partners of herpes positive patients and in pregnant women before childbirth
- No cure
- Antiviral treatments can help limit outbreaks and prevent the risk of infecting partners
Many people worry that they will never be able to have a normal sex life again, but this is not the case.
If you get any suspicious lesions, it is vital that you get them checked out as soon as possible, because the earlier you start treatment, especially during the primary attack, the better the outcome.
I have over 14 years experience providing sexual health screening and I offer a completely confidential, professional, non judgemental service from start to end. If you are not sure if you have been at risk, then I offer a normal consultation to discuss the possible risks and whether screening would be appropriate. We discuss and agree all costs beforehand so you know exactly where you stand and I will always provide you with clear and accurate advice based on current British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH )guidelines.