The Emotional Side of Genital Herpes | Everyday Health
Finding out you have herpes can be tough, but it's not the end of the world. Millions of people living with herpes have great lives and relationships. A diagnosis of genital herpes can cause confusion, anger, and feelings of shame, but for most people, a normal life with normal relationships is. Relationships. The best way for couples to deal with herpes is to talk about it openly and make decisions together. So what's the best way to start the.
If a partner decides not to pursue a relationship with you because you have herpes, it is best to know this now. There are many people who will be attracted to you for who you are—with or without herpes.
Most people react well. They appreciate your approach, honesty and maturity in addressing an important health issue.
Remember to put herpes into perspective: What if a Partner Has Herpes? In a new relationship there is always risk. Usually this risk is emotional. When a partner has herpes, there is additional risk that you could get it, too. You may have concerns about risking infection for a relationship that may not last. Remember, if you have been sexually active you may already have been at risk for herpes.
You may have it and not know it. Because herpes can be spread without symptoms asymptomatic shedding it can be hard to know when a person became infected and who infected them. In an intimate, sexual relationship with a person who has herpes, the risk of contracting the infection will never be zero.
Some couples have sexual relationships for years without transmitting herpes just by avoiding sexual contact during outbreaks, using condoms regularly and using suppressive antiviral therapy to reduce outbreaks.
Couples deal successfully with herpes all the time. For many, it is a minor inconvenience. Since herpes does not pose a serious health risk, some couples choose not to use condoms in a long-term relationship. Some committed couples choose one but not necessarily all of the above strategies, says Handsfield. If they have a partner with active herpes, they are more likely to be susceptible to getting the infection than a healthy person who is not taking those drugs.
Collect yourself emotionally before speaking with others. Once you have a good understanding of your medical situation, you are almost ready to discuss the topic with a potential or current partner. But take some time to get centered emotionally so you can convey to the other person that herpes is something the two of you can deal with together. Discuss having genital herpes before having sex with a partner. Keep any rejection that occurs in perspective. Give yourself credit for being honest with partners.
To ensure that you and your partner both get your facts straight about herpes, have an appointment together, suggests Dr. You will be able to cope calmly, stay as healthy as possible, and protect the health of anyone with whom you have intimate contact.
The Emotional Side of Genital Herpes
Thanks for signing up for our newsletter! You cannot catch genital herpes by sharing cups, towels or bath water, or from toilet seats. You can still cuddle, share a bed, or kiss. Where can I get more information and advice? After you have read this booklet and discussed genital herpes with your partner, you might have specific questions or concerns about herpes. Continue to go back to your doctor or counsellor until all your queries about genital herpes are answered. Sexual Health Clinics also provide confidential free treatment, management and information.
In some areas, there are local genital herpes support groups that can be a valuable source of information and support. Controlling recurrent Genital Herpes: Aciclovir has been used for this indication for a number of years now and found to be highly effective in controlling herpes recurrences. Some people with genital herpes have identified factors which may influence frequency or severity of recurrences. Factors such as stress, diet and lifestyle may be worth considering when looking at ways of managing herpes in your life.
Each case is individual and what works for one may not work for another. Frequent or severe recurrences of genital herpes infection may interfere with normal work and social activities, and cause disruption to your sex life. However, there are steps which you can take to reduce outbreaks and help bring the herpes virus under control.
This section explains what you can do and answers some other questions which you may have about living with genital herpes.
Recurrences Once you have acquired the herpes simplex virus HSV-2 it remains permanently resident in your body, living in a structure called the dorsal root ganglion, which is part of the nervous tissue located near to the base of the spinal column. It spreads down the nerve to break out on the skin from time to time.
Most of the time it is inactive, but every so often something happens to reactivate it, which causes the symptoms you recognise. Sometimes the herpes virus can reactivate and be shed without recognisable herpes symptoms asymptomatic shedding. It is not known exactly why the herpes virus becomes active again. Some people recognise certain trigger factors which contribute to an outbreak.
These may include friction due to sexual intercourse, ill health, stress, fatigue, depression, loss of sleep, direct sunlight and menstruation. Many people find that as the years go by the number and severity of their herpes recurrences naturally diminish. Education and counselling will often help an individual cope with recurrences. People who make contact with a support group for people with genital herpes often describe this as being a turning point in their coping with genital herpes in their life.
Suppressive therapy involves taking an oral antiviral drug every day for prolonged periods. When recurrences do occur, they are usually less severe and shorter lasting.
If you find the frequency of your outbreaks unacceptable, or if you are finding it difficult to cope emotionally with having recurrences of genital herpes, tell your doctor and discuss the use of suppressive therapy. How effective is suppressive therapy? For example, a very large study found that people who had an average of over 12 herpes occurrences a year, could reduce the frequency of their herpes outbreaks to less than two a year after one year of continuous suppressive therapy.
The study also showed that if recurrences do occur during suppressive therapy, they are usually less severe and shorter lasting. I now take aciclovir mg twice a day and have not had any outbreaks since. If your outbreaks are frequent, I really recommend it. Your doctor may agree that suppressive antiviral therapy is suitable for you if one of the following applies to you: You are having frequent herpes recurrences.
You have less frequent but particularly severe or long lasting herpes outbreaks. You find recurrences of genital herpes are making you depressed, anxious or withdrawn, or the emotional upset caused to you by genital herpes is disrupting your social activities or sex life.
Such feelings can themselves bring on a recurrence and so you can easily get into a vicious cycle. Taking suppressive therapy, perhaps only for a short time, can help you break the cycle and give you a sense of control over the infection. You experience severe pain neuralgia due to recurrent herpes episodes. You have only a few herpes recurrences but they always occur during specific situations, for example, when you have exams or go on holiday.
You may wish to start suppressive therapy before you go on holiday and continue on it until you return, thereby reducing the chance of a recurrence. You have recurrences when you are starting a new relationship — suppressive therapy may decrease the risk of herpes transmission to your partner.
You know that stress is a trigger factor for your herpes recurrences, and you are going through a stressful period, for example a new job or a recent death in the family. You want to avoid a situation which would be spoilt by a herpes recurrence, for example if you are going on your honeymoon.
You have another illness which triggers a recurrence of herpes — a course of suppressive therapy may be appropriate until the condition triggering the outbreak has resolved.
Get the facts about Herpes in relationships
How do I take suppressive therapy? There are two oral antivirals available for suppressive treatment in New Zealand: Aciclovir tablets mg taken twice daily, morning and night. If you start suppressive therapy, it is important not to miss any doses and to take it regularly at approximately 12 hourly intervals. If your recurrences are not suppressed by this dose, you should discuss this with your doctor as taking mg four times a day may be more effective.
Aciclovir is also avalable in a soluble form if you are unable to swallow tablets. Valtrex tablets mg taken once a day. This is a new generation antiviral with better absorption. How long will I need to take the treatment? Many people who use suppressive therapy say that they get so used to taking the tablets or capsules they are happy to continue with the treatment. If you choose suppressive therapy, you do not have to stay on it permanently. If you prefer, you can take it until you feel in control of the herpes infection, but this is usually a period of months initially.
Your doctor may suggest you stop the suppressive therapy for several months after you have taken suppressive therapy for some time, in order to assess how active your genital herpes remains. If you are still having problems with herpes recurrences, you and your doctor may then decide that you should start suppressive therapy again. Is it safe to take the treatment for a long time? Aciclovir has been reported to cause no serious side-effects, even after years of use.
A few people taking suppressive therapy do experience minor side-effects such as headache, nausea and diarrhoea. If you have a problem, discuss this with your doctor. Research to date shows that people with normal immune systems who are on oral antivirals for a long period do not develop virus resistance or clinical breakthrough.
Also, there is little interaction with other drugs, e. Will suppressive therapy make it easier to live with Genital Herpes? Suppressive herpes therapy may give marked improvement to your emotional well-being. Many people find the fact that they can control the infection gives a boost to their sense of well-being and self-confidence. Even if only taken for a few months, suppressive therapy can help you to come to terms with emotions caused by recurrent genital herpes, including depression and anxiety.
However, suppressive therapy is only part of it. There are benefits gained from expert counselling from your doctor or nurse, or by speaking to a counsellor on the tollfree Herpes Helpline 11 12 Make sure that you continue to talk to a health professional you are comfortable with, at least until you feel completely at ease with having genital herpes and in command of the infection. Are any other treatments effective against Genital Herpes?
The antiviral drug Aciclovir was the first therapy which had been shown conclusively to be effective in treating genital herpes. New antiviral drugs have become available which work in a similar way to Aciclovir, are more effective and require less frequent dosing to treat or suppress the recurrence.
These are not available in New Zealand. However, these are still in the developmental research stage and will not be available commercially for some years. Many people find that having a healthy diet, eating regularly and getting enough sleep are helpful in preventing recurrences. Can Genital Herpes harm babies, either during or after pregnancy?
Having genital herpes does not affect your ability to have a baby. Overall, the incidence of neonatal herpes babies up to 28 days old infected by herpes is very rare. However, when it does occur it is potentially very harmful to the baby. It is therefore important to tell your doctor or midwife if you or your partner have had a history of genital herpes.
They will then be able to provide information, reassurance and optimal management.