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About Genital herpes

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Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), which can reactivate many times in a year. Genital herpes is most commonly spread via sexual contact. Symptoms of genital herpes include pain, itching, and lesions (abnormal skin tissue) in the genital region, or you may not show any symptoms at all. The virus will usually produce sores at the initial point of entry. By touching the sore and then rubbing or scratching another part of your body, including your eyes, you can spread the virus to other parts of your body. If you have been infected by genital herpes, it is important to know that you may be contagious even if you show no symptoms.

For some people with genital herpes, symptoms may reappear for many years. For others, outbreaks become less frequent with time.

Common Medication
Treatment Options
Below is a list of common medications often prescribed to treat genital herpes, which a doctor or provider can prescribe for you for just $5 through SesameRx.
Below is a list of treatment options available for genital herpes. During your appointment, talk to your doctor about the treatment plan that's right for you.

Genital Herpes

What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by HSV-2 or a specific form of the herpes simplex virus. Genital herpes outbreaks commonly yield small sores or lesions on the infected area. In the case of an infection from the HSV-2 virus, these outbreaks usually occur around the genital area, the mouth, or on the buttocks.

Genital herpes is commonly spread through sexual contact. Most individuals will experience a first outbreak - the appearance of symptoms - within 10-to-12 days after exposure to the virus. After this first episode of genital herpes, the virus will then lie dormant in the body causing little-to-no symptoms for extended periods. Genital herpes cannot be cured, however, and you may experience recurrent outbreaks several times a year. These flare-ups may become less frequent and severe as time passes, with sores and symptoms often disappearing more quickly.

While genital herpes cannot be cured, it can be managed through antiviral therapies and safe-sex regimens. For your safety, and the safety of your sexual partners, it is strongly urged that you consult a health care provider if you believe you may have - or have had exposure to - an infection of the herpes simplex virus.

Are there different kinds of herpes?

Yes. There are two herpes simplex virus types that can cause genital herpes. They are detailed below.

HSV-1: HSV-1 most commonly causes oral herpes (cold sores or lesions around the mouth). HSV-1 infections are generally milder - and recur less - than HSV-2 infections. Even though HSV-1 primarily affects the mouth, it can be spread to the genitals during oral sex.

HSV-2: An infection of the HSV-2 virus is the most common cause of genital herpes. HSV-2 is spread through skin-to-skin contact with an affected area. HSV-2 is highly contagious and can be transmitted even if the infected individual is not experiencing an active flare-up or open sores.

What are the symptoms of genital herpes?

Genital herpes commonly appears on the genitals, the buttocks, and occasionally the mouth. Symptoms of a genital herpes infection include:
- Small sores or lesions on the affected area (usually small red bumps, or whitish blisters)
- Pain or tenderness
- Itching in the affected area
- Immune system responses (such as fever/ flu symptoms or swollen lymph nodes)

In general, the sores that are most commonly associated with genital herpes will appear where the infection occurred. After the first outbreak of symptoms, you may not experience any signs of an infection for weeks or months. Most recurring episodes are milder and shorter-lived than the first outbreak. Prior to a recurrence, you may experience pain or discomfort in the affected area. These subsequent outbreaks will begin to go away after a few days with the help of antiviral medication, and pain management treatment options (such as ibuprofen).

How is genital herpes spread?

Genital herpes is spread through direct skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual. In most cases, the HSV-2 virus is spread through sexual contact. Because of this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends condom use during sexual activity to prevent direct skin-to-skin contact. However, the virus may be present in an area that is not protected by condom usage.

To further reduce your risk of spreading or contracting genital herpes, the CDC recommends that individuals limit the number of their sexual partners, and consistently engage in safe-sex practices. If your partner has an ongoing genital herpes infection, you may decrease your likelihood of picking up the sexually transmitted disease if they consistently take antiviral suppressive therapies and refrain from sexual activity during an active outbreak.

How common is genital herpes?

Very common. Some estimates suggest that 1 in 6 Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 are currently infected with the herpes simplex virus. The CDC estimates that in 2018, there were 572,000 new cases of infection among adults between the ages of 14 and 49 in America.

Because it is highly contagious, and may not even show signs or symptoms, genital herpes spreads easily through sexual contact. To minimize your risk of contracting genital herpes, use a condom during sexual intercourse (when appropriate) and talk to your health care provider if you think you may have been exposed to the virus.

How do doctors test for genital herpes?

Genital herpes can be diagnosed by most primary care physicians through a physical examination and laboratory test. To diagnose genital herpes, doctors may use a blood test to detect HSV antibodies - an indication of a previous infection. These blood tests cannot tell you where - or from whom - you got infected, but they can definitively diagnose a current infection. Knowing this, you can begin working on a treatment plan to keep your sexual partners safe and reduce the severity of outbreaks.

How is genital herpes treated?

While genital herpes cannot be cured, it can be managed and minimized through suppressive treatment. Antiviral treatment for genital herpes may be used once the disease flares up and produces symptoms, or may be given continuously to prevent an outbreak.

Common prescription medication used for the management of herpes includes:
- Acyclovir (Zovirax)
- Valacyclovir (Valtrex)
- Famciclovir (Famvir)
- Penciclovir (Denavir)

While these drugs cannot cure genital herpes, they may help with:
- Healing sores during the first outbreak of genital herpes.
- Reducing the frequency and severity of recurring outbreaks.
- Minimizing the risk of infecting others with the herpes simplex virus.

No over-the-counter treatment exists for the treatment of genital herpes, although pain-relief medication such as ibuprofen and Advil can help minimize pain and discomfort during a flare-up.

What are the most common STDs?

While there are a range of sexually transmitted infections, the most prevalent include:

- Chlamydia: A bacterial infection that is most often spread through unprotected sex

- Gonorrhea: A bacterial infection that can infect the rectum, throat, urethra, and cervix.

- Syphilis: A bacterial infection that starts as a painless sore on the mouth, rectum, or genitals, and is spread from contact with these sores via your mucous membrane or skin.

- Trichomoniasis: A parasite that can transfer between people during sex.

- Genital warts: An infection caused by certain strains of HPV, which can affect the moist tissues of the genitals.

- Hepatitis B (HBV): HBV is a virus that is spread between people through body fluids such as blood and semen. This means it's transmissible through sexual contact and sharing needles.

- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV): HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. The HIV/AIDS virus can break down certain cells of your immune system, leaving you increasingly susceptible to infections and illnesses. HIV/AIDs can be fatal.

- Human papillomavirus (HPV): Pelvic inflammatory disease that has the potential to cause cancer in women and men.

- Herpes simplex virus: Herpes is a viral infection that can result in sores on your mouth and/or genitals. Herpes of the mouth and genital herpes, though painful or annoying at times, does not usually lead to other serious health problems.

Leaving any of these STIs untreated can cause serious health problems.

What's the difference between an STD and an STI?

The main difference between the two is that STIs are infections; and STDs are diseases. STDs usually begin as STIs before causing symptoms and becoming a disease. Infections do not always cause symptoms.

What are the symptoms of an STD?

STD symptoms can vary significantly, depending on the infection that you've contracted. The most common STDs - and their symptoms - include:

- Syphilis: The symptoms of syphilis fall in three phases of the disease. Primary syphilis develops around 3 weeks from exposure and results in a small sore. Secondary syphilis happens a few weeks after primary syphilis a rash starts to spread, and may be accompanied by fever, sore throat and muscles, swollen lymph nodes, and hair loss. In the tertiary syphilis phase, you face potential damage to your liver, eyes, nerves, bones, joints, blood vessels, heart, and brain.

- Trichomoniasis: In men, penile discharge, itchiness on the inside of the penis, and burning after ejaculation or urination. In women, unusual vaginal discharge, pain or discomfort while urinating, and itching, burning, or soreness around the genitals.

- Chlamydia: Common symptoms include a burning sensation when peeing, discharge from the penis, abnormal vaginal discharge, and less commonly pain and swelling in the testicles.

- Gonorrhea: In men, symptoms include pain and/or swelling in one testicle, pus-like discharge from the penis, and pain while urinating. In women, a higher rate of vaginal discharge, pain in the pelvis or abdomen, bleeding between periods or after sex, and pain when urinating.

- Herpes: Herpes of the mouth and genital herpes can result in sores on your mouth, throat, inner thighs, and/or genitals. In some rare cases, sores can also appear on your eyes.

- Genital warts: These small, swollen, pink, or brown bumps can cause itchiness, and bleeding from sex. When clustered together, genital warts resemble cauliflower.

What are STI screening tests?

STI screenings are tests that play a crucial role in detecting sexually transmitted infections and diseases (STIs & STDs). These are not necessarily a routine part of a comprehensive physical exam, so it is important that you ask your primary care provider or gynecologist about receiving testing. Early detection can prevent medical complications for both you and your partner.

It can be awkward to talk about your sex life, but it is important that you are upfront about any symptoms you may be experiencing, your health history, the number of sexual partners you have, and the type of sexual contact you have had recently. All of these details are factors that can help your provider offer accurate STD testing.

Common forms of STD testing include:
- Urine tests
- Cheek swabs/ discharge swabs
- Fluid sampling from sores
- Blood testing
- Physical examination

The specific type of test you need will depend on your symptoms and your health history. If you are diagnosed with an STD, you should tell any sexual partners you have about the diagnosis so that they can be tested and treated - if needed.

How often should I get tested for STIs?

If you are experiencing any symptoms related to an STI, or suspect exposure, it is important to get tested. If left untreated, STIs such as gonorrhea can cause a host of issues, including infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), and urethritis. Pregnant women should also note that gonorrhea can cause ectopic pregnancy or can even lead to a miscarriage.

It is also good to note that even if you have received an STD treatment before, you are still at risk for reinfection if you are exposed to a sexual partner that has gonorrhea.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the following groups get tested annually:
- Sexually active women under the age of 25
- Women over the age of 25 with multiple sexual partners
- Gay or bisexual men
- Individuals with HIV
- People who have been forced to have sexual activity against their will

Pregnant women should be tested early in the pregnancy because an STI infection can lead to low birth weight, premature labor, or result in a miscarriage. The CDC also recommends that teens and adults ages 13 to 64 get tested for HIV at least once.

Testing varies depending on the type of STI you have. Chlamydia and gonorrhea usually involve a urine or swab test, while other types of STIs including syphilis and genital herpes may require blood tests.

No matter the test, you can save up to 60% on treatment options and healthcare services by booking a visit with Sesame. Sesame offers cash-pay pricing, which means you know what you'll pay before you even step foot in a doctor's office. No hidden fees. No surprise bills. No nonsense.

How does STI testing work?

There are different types of STI tests depending on your particular case and symptoms. This can be in the form of a blood test, urine test, or swab test, and can be performed at a doctor's office. Through telehealth platforms like Sesame, some doctors may even provide at-home tests. Depending on the test results, your doctor can help develop an STI treatment program that catered to your individual needs.

How do you know if you have a sexually transmitted disease?

Common STD symptoms include itchiness, pain with urination, unusual discharge. Symptoms may also include sores, warts, or rashes in your genital area. If you engage in sexual activity with multiple individuals or have recently changed sex partners, you may want to get tested.

How can you protect yourself and your partner from STDs?

In order to protect the sexual health of both individuals, sexual partners should get tested before they start having sex. Because STIs can live in a person for years without any symptoms, it's never a bad idea to get tested. Using protection - like condoms, for example - can also reduce the likelihood that you or your partner may contract an STI.

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