Herpes Information

Health condition

When a person has genital herpes, the virus lies dormant (sleeps) in the bundle of nerves at the base of the spine. When the virus reactivates (wakes up), it travels nerve paths to the surface of the skin, sometimes causing an outbreak. The nerves in the genitals, upper thighs and buttocks are connected; therefore, a person can experience outbreaks in any of these areas. Such areas include:

- Anus
- Buttocks
- Penis
- Scrotum or testicles
- Thigh
- Vagina
- Vulva

Outbreaks of genital herpes can vary greatly from person to person. They can be mild for one individual and severe for another. Symptoms may last for up to 3 to 4 weeks, but they usually heal within 2 to 12 days. Symptoms may include the following:

· One or more sores, blisters, cuts, pimples, bumps or a rash
· Itching, burning or tingling in the genital area · Aches or pains in the genital area
· Flu-like symptoms (headache, fever, swollen glands in lymph nodes near groin)
· Painful urination and a discharge (vaginal or penile) are possible, but uncommon, symptoms for genital herpes
· Many people have outbreaks that heal quickly, cause no pain or occur in an unnoticeable spot. People sometimes mistake herpes outbreaks for:

- Insect bites
- Yeast infections
- Jock itch
- Ingrown hair follicles
- Abrasions or razor burn
- Hemorrhoids

The amount of outbreaks someone has varies from person to person. The average number of outbreaks per year is four to five. The first outbreak may be the most extreme outbreak a person will have. Usually, there are more outbreaks during the first year. Many people find that recurrences tend to lessen in severity and frequency with time. Illness, poor diet, emotional or physical stress, friction, surgical trauma and steroidal medication (such as asthma treatment) may trigger a herpes outbreak. The frequency of outbreaks can often be managed through effective stress management, and getting adequate rest, nutrition and exercise. If symptoms of genital herpes appear, they can vary widely from person to person.

If a person does experience visible symptoms, see your doctor and obtain a culture test within the first 48 hours after symptoms appear. Beyond 48 hours, there is a risk of receiving a false negative test result because symptoms may have begun to heal and there is not enough virus left on the skin to culture.

There are currently two blood tests available that can give accurate results for herpes. Like any blood test, these tests cannot determine whether the site of infection is oral or genital. However, since most cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-2, a positive result for type-2 antibodies most likely indicates genital herpes. For the most accurate result, it is recommended to wait at least 12 - 16 weeks from the last possible expose to herpes before getting an accurate blood test to allow enough time for antibodies to develop.

These accurate tests are:
· HSV-1 and HSV-2 tests from Focus Technologies (formerly MRL Diagnostics).
· Herpes Western blot (currently not available, only for research)

You may have also heard about a test called the POCkit® HSV-2 Rapid Test that can be done in a doctor's office and provide results for type-2 in less than 10 minutes.

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