Having a healthy relationship with herpes

having a healthy relationship with herpes

As I sat in the college health center waiting to see a doctor, I watched my very short-lived Many people are unaware they have it, because they don't experience In the end, instead of rejecting me, he chose to continue our relationship. Tips for telling a sexual partner that you have herpes to lead with the topic is talking about both parties' sexual health. Q. How do I deal with my partner's positive herpes test? A. You say You can have intimacy confidently, and I'm glad you're researching the steps to take.

Genital herpes can be transmitted through direct contact with an infected blister or sore, usually through sexual contact. It can also be transmitted when there are no symptoms present. HSV-2 infection is usually passed on during vaginal or anal sex. HSV-1 is usually transmitted by oral sex mouth to genital contact. If your partner has only just been diagnosed as having genital herpes, this does not necessarily mean that he or she has been unfaithful to you, or sexually promiscuous in the past.

Your partner may have caught genital herpes from you. So it is very easy for you to have unwittingly transmitted the infection to your partner. The symptoms of the infection vary greatly between individuals — it might be totally unnoticeable in you, but cause severe blistering in your partner.

having a healthy relationship with herpes

Since the genital herpes virus can be transmitted through oral sex as well as vaginal sex, it is also possible that your partner caught the virus from a cold sore on your mouth or face.

Alternatively, your partner may have contracted the herpes virus from a previous sexual partner, perhaps even several years ago. The herpes virus can remain inactive in the body for long periods, so this may be the first time it has caused symptoms. What are the symptoms of Genital Herpes?

If your partner is having a first episode of genital herpes, he or she is likely to feel generally unwell and have fever, headache, and general bone and muscle aches, as well as irritation in the genitals. This may last for several days, during or after which reddened areas may appear on the genitals. These may develop into painful blisters. The blisters then burst, generally to leave sores which gradually heal, usually without scarring. The severity of this first herpes episode varies between individuals, but for some people it may be severe and last for up to three weeks if not treated.

These symptoms should quickly resolve with treatment. The doctor should have given your partner a course of antiviral treatment. This is an effective medicine which, although it does not cure genital herpes, can speed recovery and reduce the severity of the herpes episode.

having a healthy relationship with herpes

There are also other steps which your partner can take to relieve the pain of genital herpes. However, for many people who have genital herpes, the physical symptoms are far outweighed by the emotional stress relating to the diagnosis.

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There are many misconceptions about genital herpes, including the belief that it is associated with promiscuity, and these have given it a reputation which may cause your partner to feel angry and shocked by the diagnosis. Anxiety, guilt, loss of assertiveness and fear of rejection are also common emotions.

Your support can be very important in helping your partner to deal with these feelings and to minimise the effect of genital herpes on his or her life. How do I know if I have Genital Herpes? Until recently, diagnosis could only be made by clinical symptoms and swabs from an active herpes episode.

having a healthy relationship with herpes

However, there are commercially available blood tests becoming available which can distinguish between herpes simplex virus type 1 HSV-1 and herpes simplex virus type 2 HSV-2 antibodies. The time taken to develop antibodies is usually two to six weeks after infection, but can be up to six months. It is also important to know that false positives and false negatives are common in these tests. Because of the limitations of a blood test to diagnose herpes, it is recommended you discuss the implications of the test with someone who has experience with them.

If you think you might be showing signs of the infection, consult your doctor. Do the symptoms of Genital Herpes return? The symptoms of genital herpes may reappear from time to time.

This is because once the herpes virus is acquired, it stays permanently in the body. Most of the time it remains inactive, but every so often it may reactivate and cause another outbreak. Each individual is different — some people never have a recurrence; others may have recurrences several times a year. However, recurrent outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first herpes episode. Certain events or situations can trigger recurrences, and you may be able to help your partner avoid or reduce the trigger factors, which may include stress at work or home, fatigue, ill health, loss of sleep, friction due to sexual intercourse, and menstruation in women.

If your partner has frequent or severe episodes of genital herpes, or if the recurrent outbreaks are causing a lot of anxiety for your partner, then he or she may benefit from suppressive therapy taking oral antiviral tablets continuouslywhich prevents or reduces recurrences. What can we do to reduce my chances of getting the Herpes infection?

If you take the necessary precautions, the chances of getting the herpes virus from your partner are reduced.

Get the facts about Herpes in relationships

Genital herpes does not mean abstinence from sex or a reduced enjoyment of sex. The continued use of condoms in a long-term relationship is a personal decision that only the couple can make. Most find that as the importance of the HSV infection in their relationship is seen in perspective, that condom use becomes less relevant if this is the only reason condoms are being used. However, most couples choose to avoid genital skin-to-skin contact during an active episode of herpes because this is when the herpes virus is most readily transmitted.

This period includes the time from when your partner first has warning signs of an outbreak, such as a tingling or burning in the genitals, until the last of the sores has healed. Also, sexual activity prolongs the healing of the episode. Herpes transmission risk is increased if there are any breaks in the skin. For example, if you have thrush or small abrasions from sexual intercourse, often due to insufficient lubrication. It can be helpful to use a lubricant specifically for sexual intercourse and avoid sex if you have thrush.

Sexual lubricant is helpful right at the start of sexual activity. Sores in other areas — such as the buttocks and thighs — can be just as contagious as those in the genital area, and care should be taken to avoid direct contact with such sores during sex. At other times, there is still a small risk of transmitting the herpes infection through a process known as asymptomatic shedding, even if your partner is showing no signs of genital herpes.

This risk can be reduced significantly if a person with herpes takes suppressive oral antiviral treatment. If you or your partner has a cold sore, it is advisable to avoid oral sex as this can spread the herpes virus to the genitals. You cannot catch genital herpes by sharing cups, towels or bath water, or from toilet seats. You can still cuddle, share a bed, or kiss.

Where can I get more information and advice? After you have read this booklet and discussed genital herpes with your partner, you might have specific questions or concerns about herpes. Continue to go back to your doctor or counsellor until all your queries about genital herpes are answered.

Sexual Health Clinics also provide confidential free treatment, management and information. In some areas, there are local genital herpes support groups that can be a valuable source of information and support.

Controlling recurrent Genital Herpes: Aciclovir has been used for this indication for a number of years now and found to be highly effective in controlling herpes recurrences. Some people with genital herpes have identified factors which may influence frequency or severity of recurrences. Factors such as stress, diet and lifestyle may be worth considering when looking at ways of managing herpes in your life. Each case is individual and what works for one may not work for another. Frequent or severe recurrences of genital herpes infection may interfere with normal work and social activities, and cause disruption to your sex life.

However, there are steps which you can take to reduce outbreaks and help bring the herpes virus under control. This section explains what you can do and answers some other questions which you may have about living with genital herpes. Recurrences Once you have acquired the herpes simplex virus HSV-2 it remains permanently resident in your body, living in a structure called the dorsal root ganglion, which is part of the nervous tissue located near to the base of the spinal column.

It spreads down the nerve to break out on the skin from time to time. Most of the time it is inactive, but every so often something happens to reactivate it, which causes the symptoms you recognise. Sometimes the herpes virus can reactivate and be shed without recognisable herpes symptoms asymptomatic shedding. It is not known exactly why the herpes virus becomes active again. Some people recognise certain trigger factors which contribute to an outbreak.

These may include friction due to sexual intercourse, ill health, stress, fatigue, depression, loss of sleep, direct sunlight and menstruation.

How to Have a Healthy Sex Life if You Have Herpes

Many people find that as the years go by the number and severity of their herpes recurrences naturally diminish. Education and counselling will often help an individual cope with recurrences. People who make contact with a support group for people with genital herpes often describe this as being a turning point in their coping with genital herpes in their life.

Suppressive therapy involves taking an oral antiviral drug every day for prolonged periods. When recurrences do occur, they are usually less severe and shorter lasting. If you find the frequency of your outbreaks unacceptable, or if you are finding it difficult to cope emotionally with having recurrences of genital herpes, tell your doctor and discuss the use of suppressive therapy.

How effective is suppressive therapy?

When Your Partner Has Herpes...

For example, a very large study found that people who had an average of over 12 herpes occurrences a year, could reduce the frequency of their herpes outbreaks to less than two a year after one year of continuous suppressive therapy.

The study also showed that if recurrences do occur during suppressive therapy, they are usually less severe and shorter lasting. I now take aciclovir mg twice a day and have not had any outbreaks since.

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If your outbreaks are frequent, I really recommend it. Your doctor may agree that suppressive antiviral therapy is suitable for you if one of the following applies to you: You are having frequent herpes recurrences.

You have less frequent but particularly severe or long lasting herpes outbreaks. You find recurrences of genital herpes are making you depressed, anxious or withdrawn, or the emotional upset caused to you by genital herpes is disrupting your social activities or sex life. Such feelings can themselves bring on a recurrence and so you can easily get into a vicious cycle.

Taking suppressive therapy, perhaps only for a short time, can help you break the cycle and give you a sense of control over the infection.

having a healthy relationship with herpes

You experience severe pain neuralgia due to recurrent herpes episodes. You have only a few herpes recurrences but they always occur during specific situations, for example, when you have exams or go on holiday. You may wish to start suppressive therapy before you go on holiday and continue on it until you return, thereby reducing the chance of a recurrence.

You have recurrences when you are starting a new relationship — suppressive therapy may decrease the risk of herpes transmission to your partner. You know that stress is a trigger factor for your herpes recurrences, and you are going through a stressful period, for example a new job or a recent death in the family.

You want to avoid a situation which would be spoilt by a herpes recurrence, for example if you are going on your honeymoon. You have another illness which triggers a recurrence of herpes — a course of suppressive therapy may be appropriate until the condition triggering the outbreak has resolved.

How do I take suppressive therapy? There are two oral antivirals available for suppressive treatment in New Zealand: Aciclovir tablets mg taken twice daily, morning and night. If you start suppressive therapy, it is important not to miss any doses and to take it regularly at approximately 12 hourly intervals.

  • How to Live and Date with Herpes

If your recurrences are not suppressed by this dose, you should discuss this with your doctor as taking mg four times a day may be more effective. Aciclovir is also avalable in a soluble form if you are unable to swallow tablets. Valtrex tablets mg taken once a day. This is a new generation antiviral with better absorption. How long will I need to take the treatment? Many people who use suppressive therapy say that they get so used to taking the tablets or capsules they are happy to continue with the treatment.

If you choose suppressive therapy, you do not have to stay on it permanently. If you prefer, you can take it until you feel in control of the herpes infection, but this is usually a period of months initially.

Your doctor may suggest you stop the suppressive therapy for several months after you have taken suppressive therapy for some time, in order to assess how active your genital herpes remains. If you are still having problems with herpes recurrences, you and your doctor may then decide that you should start suppressive therapy again. Is it safe to take the treatment for a long time? Aciclovir has been reported to cause no serious side-effects, even after years of use.

A few people taking suppressive therapy do experience minor side-effects such as headache, nausea and diarrhoea. If you have a problem, discuss this with your doctor. Research to date shows that people with normal immune systems who are on oral antivirals for a long period do not develop virus resistance or clinical breakthrough.

Also, there is little interaction with other drugs, e. Will suppressive therapy make it easier to live with Genital Herpes? Suppressive herpes therapy may give marked improvement to your emotional well-being. Many people find the fact that they can control the infection gives a boost to their sense of well-being and self-confidence.

Even if only taken for a few months, suppressive therapy can help you to come to terms with emotions caused by recurrent genital herpes, including depression and anxiety. However, suppressive therapy is only part of it. There are benefits gained from expert counselling from your doctor or nurse, or by speaking to a counsellor on the tollfree Herpes Helpline 11 12 The bottom line is that sexual activity is a natural act that most everyone will have at some point in their lives.

With sexual activity anywhere by anyone, there is some level of risk. Preparing to Talk to Partner Before you talk about herpes and sexual health with a partner, make sure you are prepared to address any misinformation or misconceptions he or she might have. How well informed are you? Do you know the basic steps to reduce the risk to your partner?

having a healthy relationship with herpes

Do you know the facts about herpes? You want to feel confident and knowledgeable before you can explain the infection to someone else. Be prepared with information from ASHA and other reliable sources. Once you feel ready to open the discussion, you might want to look for logical ways to broach the subject.

Sometimes public service announcements about sexual health or subjects closely related can open doors to discussions about herpes.

So even though a movie trailer seems to provide the perfect lead in, a crowded theater is probably not the best venue. A few tips to consider: You are not lecturing or confessing. Remember your delivery and body language becomes your message, too. Expect your partner to be accepting and supportive. People tend to behave as you expect them to. You can role-play with a friend and try out some conversation starters.

How Will a Partner React? Whatever happens, try to be flexible. Remember when you first found out? It took you time to adjust, too. And, you may want to reconsider a relationship where you have to do all the emotional work. A safer sex discussion might help you find out if this partner is a good candidate for your love and attention. A few people are going to react negatively. Remember, these people are the exception not the rule.

If a partner decides not to pursue a relationship with you because you have herpes, it is best to know this now. There are many people who will be attracted to you for who you are—with or without herpes. Most people react well.