Genital Herpes: Can You Get Rid of It Forever?

The statistics look scary: millions of the world's population are infected with this type of herpes. Where does this virus come from and can we get rid of it?

Dr. Helga


Where can you get infected?

The disease is transmitted only through sexual contact, and the household route is excluded. Therefore, shaking hands or drinking from a friend’s cup cannot transmit the disease. All types of sexual contact — from kissing to oral sex—contribute to the spread of infection, especially if the partner has herpes in the lips and mouth.

How does the virus manifest itself?

The period from infection to the onset of clinical signs can last from 3 to 26 days. First, small bubbles show up, the skin and mucous membranes become reddish and swollen at the site of the lesion, and itching and burning occur. After about 3 days, the bubbles burst and ulcers appear, which heal within 2 to 4 weeks.

The disease can be accompanied by an increase in the inguinal lymph nodes, general malaise, fever, a feeling of heaviness in the lower abdomen, and headaches. It is very important not to scratch the affected area, as this will lead to the spread of bubbles to adjacent areas of the skin and mucous membranes. Women suffer from herpes more often than men.

The frequency of relapses in people of both sexes is the same, but in men, they are longer in duration, and women usually have more severe symptoms.

If I once had herpes, what are the chances I get sick again?

The human immune system is able to suppress the development of the virus, but if weakened, the infection can "wake up" and reinfect. Risk factors for relapse are:

  • Reduced immunity
  • Hypovitaminosis
  • Use of intrauterine devices
  • Artificial termination of pregnancy with curettage
  • Constant stress
  • Overwork
  • Hypothermia
  • Infection with other infections, both sexual and general

People with good immunity often do not even know that they are carriers of the virus since their disease is asymptomatic, but a person can still infect a partner. The risk is not as high as with a disease in the active phase, but it must be remembered that the susceptibility to viruses in people is based on the individual. If one of them has a reduced immunity at the time of contact, infection is still possible, even if the disease did not manifest itself in any way.

When should you go to the doctor?

A dermatologist is your doctor for the treatment of genital herpes. Antiviral drugs are traditionally used in tablets, injections, ointments, creams, and gels. Relief of the condition usually comes quickly after 2–3 days of using the prescribed drugs.

However, it is important to complete the course in its entirety—otherwise, the disease may return after a short time. The duration of treatment depends on the form of the disease and usually lasts from 1–1.5 months. A second course is carried out 6 months later. Unfortunately, many do not complete the full course of treatment, which is dangerous as it increases the likelihood of relapses of a more severe course of the disease.

It is impossible to get rid of genital herpes permanently; therefore, treatment should aim to reduce the incidence and prevent complications. A person with genital herpes will remain a carrier of the virus for life.

22 May 2021

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