Highly contagious, genital herpes is a common infection generally spread through sexual contact. Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2). Herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) can cause genital herpes as well; however, HSV-1 is most often the cause of cold sores. There are a large number of people suffering with genital herpes. Many of these individuals develop outbreaks as a cluster of tiny blisters that are fluid filled. Once these blisters burst, painful sores start to develop. Others may have absolutely no signs and symptoms but the majority of us with genital herpes have visible outbreaks. Outbreaks can occur once or twice a month in certain individuals or these outbreaks may only appear several times a year.
Diagnosing Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is incurable. It is, however, possible to treat the virus with antiviral medications and other natural treatments. Treatment will help to suppress symptoms and reduce the number of outbreaks a person will have. Before treatment can begin, proper diagnosis is essential.
The best way to find out whether you have genital herpes or not, is to visit your doctor.
There are several tests doctors use in making a genital herpes diagnosis. Most doctors will perform a routine exam to look for obvious signs such as rashes and lesions. When lesions are present, a physician may order viral cultures and blood tests. Medical professionals often try to rule out other health conditions first such as psoriasis, syphilis or scabies.
Any person suffering with signs and symptoms of genital herpes are asked specific questions by a member of the medical staff. These questions will assist in diagnosing the virus early. These questions may include some or all of the following:
- What signs and symptoms are you experiencing?
- What is your sexual history?
- Are there any other health conditions that you have?
- What medications are you currently taking?
Once the physical exam is completed, the doctor may order some lab testing. These tests usually include blood, viral culture and even DNA testing. HSV antibodies can be detected in the blood as well as in cultures of tissue scraped from lesions. DNA testing analyses tissue from lesions as well as spinal fluid for even the slightest presence of the herpes simplex virus. This test will also be used in determining the type of herpes virus infection one has contracted. Another test commonly used is the antibody test.
Importance of Knowing
Knowing which type of herpes simplex virus a person has been infected with is extremely important. Those with HSV-2 will suffer more outbreaks than a person with HSV-1. Individuals will also be able to determine how they became infected with HSV by learning the type. HSV-1 can cause infection of the genitals when oral sex is performed by a person carrying the virus. HSV-2 is transmitted by having unprotected sex vaginally or anally.
In addition, some cases of genital herpes may go undetected for many years. These people may never experience an outbreak or any other type of sign or symptoms. The HSV has simply lain dormant in their bodies. These individuals may have spread the virus to others because they were unknowingly carrying it in their bodies. Once a person is infected with genital herpes, they will carry the virus in their bodies for the rest of their lives.