What is Herpes? | Can Herpes be Cured?

August 30, 2019

Hi there, my name is Dr. Dominic Rowley and
I’m the Medical Director of I’m also a consultant
physician in genitourinary medicine this is similar to infectious diseases in
other countries. I’m here today to talk to you about herpes. So herpes is a viral infection which
often affects around the mouth area which is known as orolabial herpes or
indeed around the genital area which is known as anogenital herpes. Well, historically or classically people used to feel
that there’s two types of herpes to start with basically there’s herpes type
one virus and herpes type two virus and I suppose in the olden days, previous
to our current knowledge, herpes type one was considered an infection of the the
lips or as I mentioned before the orolabial area and herpes type 2 was
considered an infection of the genital area, but as social patterns have changed
and people have sex in different ways, we know now that you can get herpes type
two on the mouth and you can get herpes type one on the genitals so it’s not as
simple as saying herpes type one is one is mouth related and herpes type two is
genital related. You can get both in both places. Genital herpes as I said can be caused by the herpes type 1 virus or herpes type 2 virus, so herpes generally when you get your first
outbreak of herpes it is very very very painful, you will know about it.
It generally comes on after about two to five days after sexual exposure and the
sexual exposure can be oral sex, anal sex, vaginal sex and the types of
symptoms that you develop are generally painful fluid-filled blisters, so you will get
these tiny looking yellow or green fluid-filled blisters around the
site of contact so that can be around the anus area or anal area around the
vagina area on the penis or of course you can get an outbreak around the lips
as we discussed before. So painful blisters is the way it presents. Generally, when you have your first outbreak of herpes
you always know about it, it can be really really painful. Other very common signs
or symptoms of herpes would include; flu-like illness, you might feel like
you’ve got a cold or flu or if it’s shivery or shaky or your muscles are a
little bit sore around your bum area around your thighs. Other symptoms
include pain when you pee or a very painful and unusual discharge from your
vagina or your penis this may be green or yellow color and of course you
may experience severe pain during sex but most people during their primary
outbreak of herpes wouldn’t have sex because it is such a painful experience Well this is where the problem with herpes lies and I suppose this is where it’s important that the very first time you get herpes infection that you
have a really really good education that you see a specialist doctor who deals
with sexual infections. So herpes cannot be cured but that does not mean herpes
is all bad news, for the vast majority of people with herpes, they never get another
outbreak again and that’s really important to tell you that, that’s the
most important thing you hear. If you do get another outbreak it’s always less
painful and lasts a shorter amount of time than before and that’s also really
important. So the news isn’t all bad and a lot of internet traffic and a lot of
blog sites talk about a lot of doom and gloom about
herpes and there’s really no need. Most important thing you can do is talk to a
specialist doctor or go to a sexual health clinic where they will give you
proper advice, but herpes unfortunately isn’t curable you do end up having it
for life. Following on from, “is herpes curable?” and
me telling you that herpes isn’t as bad as the press it gets,
it’s important to tell you how common herpes is. As I mentioned before
there’s herpes type 1 and herpes type 2. Herpes type 1 in some countries and most developed countries like North America, European countries can be as
common as 80 to 90% of us have the antibodies to herpes type one floating
our blood. We get infected when we’re kids from getting a kiss from our mum or
dad or kiss from our brothers or sisters and that’s the most common way of
getting herpes type one when you have it you have these antibodies floating
around your blood and they don’t do any harm at all, they’re just the same as
having antibodies to a cold or a flu virus they don’t do any harm and up to
90 percent of people will have antibodies to type 1 meaning they’ve
been exposed already. So that follows on to the herpes type 2. So how common
herpes type 2? Herpes type 2 is also really common and in some countries
up to 60% of the population has herpes type 2 and this is why I want to
reiterate to you that it’s not all as serious and as doom and gloom as you may
think So herpes is tested most commonly from one of the
blisters, you take a swab from the blister or what in medical terminology
we call a lesion, so you go to doctor if you think you’re having a outbreak and
we’d take a little swab from that area. Alternately, if you’re shedding the virus
in the vaginal area or in the urinary tract, this is called viral shedding
and we you can provide a urine sample and that’s the test that we offer to
test for herpes So as I mentioned before, herpes isn’t curable
and that’s what causes a lot of upset about it. However, there is really good
medication out there called antivirals. So the minute you think you are getting an
outbreak and the outbreaks may signs of an outbreak may be
tingling or itching around the genital area or indeed muscle pain or the
blisters that we talked about before. So the minute you think you are getting an
outbreak you go to your doctor and you get some antivirals for three days and most
doctors once you’re diagnosed with herpes, we’ll give you what we call a
repeat prescription so you can go to your pharmacy and get that filled the
minute you think you’re getting a outbreak and that’s an important thing to
ask your family doctor or your specialist doctor for. So as I said
herpes isn’t curable it lives in the little nerve endings beneath the skin
and when it wakes up, it causes an outbreak and that’s when you go on the
antiviral medication and the important thing to remember about the
antiviral medication is even though it’s not curable what it does what’s really
good about it it reduces the pain of the herpes it reduces how long you get the
outbreak for and it also would stop you or reduces you transmitting the
virus to your sexual partner and that’s really important that also helps reduce
the anxiety for you in your brain. So can you still have sex if you have
herpes? Of course, because as we mentioned before, up to 80% of people in
the population have type 1 in their blood, 40-60% of people have
type 2, so you can of sex however, because it isn’t the curable sexual
infection, we do tell you that you must tell sexual partners that you have had it in the past or that you have a history with it and what we advise
our patients to do is just avoid sex during an outbreak or if you think
you’re about to develop an outbreak because that’s when the virus is more
active in your skin and we call it viral shedding so all the time skin is dying
off and you’re losing skin and as the virus lives in the upper layers of the
skin if you’re shedding the virus that’s when you’re very infectious and that’s
also one of the times when we recommend that you go on your antiviral medication
because that reduces how infectious you are. So in summary you can of course
still have a normal full healthy sex life, but it is advisable to tell your
sex partners and it’s also advisable that if you’re having an outbreak that
you avoid sex during the outbreak. One of the most common questions that
patients ask me because they generally very upset about the herpes diagnosis
because of that terrible word incurable but I hope I put your minds
to ease somewhat, it’s how often do you get outbreaks after your initial
outbreak? So just to recap what I said was that your initial outbreak is always
the most painful and it lasts the longest any subsequent are further
outbreaks are shorter and they’re much less painful. So how many outbreaks are
you going to get? Well first of all the most important thing to say to you is that in
in the first six months that is when you and your doctor get a good idea of what
the future patterns are going to be like if you don’t get many outbreaks in the
first six months after your initial outbreak or your primary outbreak it’s a
pretty good sign that the herpes virus is going to burn itself out and not
cause you too much trouble. If however you’re unfortunate enough to get many
outbreaks in the first six months that gives yourself and your doctor an idea of
maybe perhaps you need to take an antiviral tablet every day to prevent
future outbreaks, this is a really successful and treatment. Patients often ask me which is the worst
type of herpes to get herpes type 1 or herpes type 2. In reality herpes type
1 tends to not come back as frequently or not cause as many
outbreaks and tends not to be as painful and it’s also much more common in the
general population. Herpes type 2 does tend to cause more outbreaks and
tends to be a little more painful at the first outbreak. So as I said, in the first
six months after infection, that would give you and your doctor good idea if you
need to be on regular antiviral medication or not. So in summary, if you’re worried at all
about any of the infections or any of the illnesses I discussed, check out our
website at and we have a full team of nurses available, who will answer and more questions you have and will advise you on the right or the appropriate test to buy.

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