FAQs About Herpes:

Herpes, like most STDs, is misunderstood by many. Because we tend not to talk about it, there is a lot of room for misinformation to spread. To help, here are some frequently asked questions about herpes and the answers you need to know.

What Is Herpes?

Herpes refers to two versions of the herpes simplex virus: HS1 and HS2. While one is commonly called oral herpes and the other genital herpes, both forms of the disease can be transmitted through oral, vaginal, and anal sex.

What Does Herpes Look Like?

People can get bumps in the genital area for various reasons, including ingrown hairs and simple acne. So it is important that anyone who is sexually active can differentiate between common bumps and the blisters that signify the presence of herpes. When someone has herpes, they should present with at least one of the following:

  • Red blisters that leak and crack
  • Blisters containing clear to yellowish fluid
  • Blisters that are clustered close together, even combining to form a larger blister
  • Yellow blisters that form a crust during healing then leave behind pink skin
  • A tingling sensation before the blisters become visible

Where Can Herpes Sores Show Up?

Because they are called oral and genital herpes, people often believe they only develop on the mouth and genitals. In reality, they can live wherever there are mucous membranes or habitable skin. This includes the penis, scrotum, vagina, labia, anus, eyes, mouth, gums, lips, throat, nose, and tongue.

Can Herpes Be Cured?

At this time, herpes cannot be cured. There are medications that people can take to prevent outbreaks, but they are not perfect. People with herpes can also work to prevent outbreaks with things like a healthy diet, exercising, and managing stress.

Is Herpes Deadly?

No, herpes cannot kill on its own. However, having herpes does make people more prone to other diseases, including HIV. Additionally, some people may experience herpesviral encephalitis, which is when the virus infects the central nervous system, and this can be deadly. However, this is rare. People who have herpes must exercise greater caution than the average person when it comes to staying healthy if only because illness can trigger herpes outbreaks, but death is unlikely.

Is Genital Herpes Common?

Yes, much more common than people realize. The CDC estimates that nearly 50 million adults in the U.S. have genital herpes, though many are asymptomatic. This is why people should request new partners get tested before they have unprotected sex with them.

Are There Times When Someone With Herpes Cannot Spread It?

Herpes can only be transmitted to others when the virus is shedding. However, it is not easy to know when this is happening. Shedding can occur without any blisters being present or the tell-tale tingle that signals they are developing. Many people who are asymptomatic shed the virus often. So, while there are times when the infected cannot spread herpes, they cannot know when this is and must always take precautions.

How Can I Prevent the Spread of Herpes?

Barrier methods are needed to prevent the spread of herpes. For couples who are looking to become pregnant or simply wish to stop using barrier methods, it is possible for the infected partner to go on suppressive therapy that will prevent the spread of the disease in about 90 percent of cases. For some, this 10 percent risk is acceptable, but for others, it is not.

Are you worried that you or your partner may have herpes? Use an at-home STD testing kit to get the answers you need.