Genital herpes is a highly contagious virus that is primarily spread through sexual contact. It is estimated that around one in six people in the United States have genital herpes, and the virus can cause painful sores and other symptoms. In this article, we will explore what triggers herpes outbreaks and how to prevent them. The most common cause of genital herpes outbreaks is friction during intercourse.
This can cause skin discomfort, leading to an outbreak of herpes. The first sign of genital herpes is usually acute pain, followed by sores in the genital area or on the anus and buttocks. Other symptoms may include bleeding from sores, headache, and fever. Using a water-based lubricant during intercourse can help minimize and prevent outbreaks.
Sunbathing is generally good for your health, but scientists have found that people with the HSV 1 virus are more likely to experience an outbreak if they are exposed to the sun for a long period of time. The sun's ultraviolet rays can activate the virus, so it is important to wear sunscreen before sunbathing to protect yourself from an outbreak. Stress is another common trigger for herpes outbreaks. Constant stress has been shown to cause an outbreak of genital herpes lesions, particularly in women.
This is because the herpes virus remains in a person's system and weakens their immune system, taking refuge in the nerve root until stress or other factors increase. This activates the sympathetic nervous system and causes a rise in body temperature, leading to fever blisters around the mouth. Medications such as valacyclovir and creams can help make cold sores bearable until they go away. Women with herpes are also more likely to experience an outbreak during or before menstruation or menopause due to hormonal changes.
Hormones such as progesterone play an important role in triggering outbreaks, as do prostaglandins which determine whether or not a woman will have herpes outbreaks. In the event of an outbreak, it is important to take antiviral medications such as valtrex to reduce symptoms and prevent transmission of the virus. Surgery should be avoided as it can cause trauma which can lead to an outbreak of the virus. An online herpes treatment option may also be available, where a board-certified doctor can send an electronic prescription directly to your pharmacy of choice. Genital herpes can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the disease. The virus can also be transmitted through kissing, close contact with herpes sores, saliva, or contaminated personal items such as lipstick, utensils, and razors.
Infected saliva is a common means of transmitting viruses, and the contagious period is higher when people have active blisters or wet sores. Despite popular myth, contracting herpes (cold sores) through surfaces, towels or washcloths has a very low risk since the virus does not usually survive long on dry surfaces. Genital herpes cannot be transmitted to another part of the body after the first infection. Recurrent genital herpes is most common in the first year after initial infection and decreases as time goes on. Many people don't realize they have genital herpes until a blood test reveals that they have antibodies to the virus. Taking a small dose of anti-herpetic medicines every day can reduce the number of outbreaks by more than 90%. Taking antiviral medications can also help reduce your risk of transmitting genital herpes to your sexual partners.
Remember that triggers may not be the same for everyone and doctors aren't sure how much lifestyle affects herpes symptoms. For more guidance on how to relieve emotional stress related to genital herpes, see How to tell your partner or What to do if your partner has herpes.