Herpes is an incredibly common but also incredibly misunderstood viral skin condition that millions of Americans live with. Read on and learn how you can live a normal life with herpes.
Herpes is a highly contagious viral infection that sticks with you for life, flaring up or lying dormant for indeterminate lengths of time. This dormancy is called a resting phase, and while herpes is inactive, it is far less transmissible. Herpes is characterized by red, bumpy lesions or blisters that develop on the mouth or genitals. In most cases, the affected skin is very sensitive, and people experience stinging or burning sensations. Herpes is usually contracted as a child in the form of oral herpes or herpes simplex 1. Transmission of oral herpes usually occurs in children when sharing utensils or a kiss from a loved one. Herpes simplex 2, or genital herpes, is a sexually transmitted disease that can affect the genitals of both men and women, as well as the cervix. There is an immense stigma against genital herpes, but there really shouldn’t be. Given how common the disease is and how mild its symptoms usually are, there is not much to fear. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t treat your condition, however. And it also doesn’t mean that you can just ignore it.
When you have genital herpes, you owe it to your sexual partners to share this prior to any sexual activity with them. Herpes is the most common STD, or sexually transmitted disease, but that doesn’t make it any easier to talk about. Discussing your herpes diagnosis with your partner can be difficult, but here are some tips for making this conversation easier. Avoid describing herpes as a disease or incurable and horrible. Herpes is a disease, but it’s not like most other diseases. While it is incurable, it’s highly treatable and very manageable. If you’re safe with your partner, you can avoid transmission. You owe it to your partner to be honest, but how you present your condition is important. Do it far before engaging in sexual activity, in a casual setting. Don’t present it as horrible news or a tragic secret. Be straightforward. Be prepared for questions.
The best way to avoid transmitting herpes to another person, whether oral or genital, is to avoid physical contact when in the midst of a flare up. You should have a pretty good idea of when you’re experiencing a herpes flare up. You’ll often feel herpes before you see it. It’s generally preceded by a tingling sensation before it’s visible. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and avoid activity. When you do have sex, use protection. If you have oral herpes, it can be transmitted to the gentials by oral sex. Condoms can protect you from the herpes virus if it covers the infected skin. Don’t have sex during flare ups. Even with a condom or other protection, transmission is possible. There are a few prescription antiviral drugs that can quickly ease flare ups or even be taken periodically to help prevent bigger flare ups. Talk to your dermatologist about these drugs and how they work.
Herpes can be hard to cope with, but it’s almost exclusively difficult because of societal stigma. As we mentioned, herpes is usually little more than a mild to moderate irritation. With the right medication, you can stop the worst of flare ups before they begin. But how do you cope with the knowledge that you have a sexually transmitted disease? Suffering from rejection because of your condition can be devastating, but take solace in your honesty. One in five Americans has herpes; you are not alone. It’s not your fault, and there’s nothing you can do about it now but accept it and arm yourself with the knowledge to live with it.
You can very easily live a normal life with a herpes diagnosis. If you need more advice or help from a qualified dermatologist, contact Pacific Dermatology Specialists today.