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Can you have herpes and not give it to your partner?

Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection passed on through vaginal, anal and oral sex. It is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) which is categorised into two types; Herpes Simplex Virus – 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes Simplex Virus – 2 (HSV-2). Both types of Herpes can cause oral and genital herpes infections, however generally speaking HSV-1 causes oral herpes and HSV-2 causes genital herpes. 

In this blog we will specifically look at genital herpes, including its symptoms and how it is transmitted.

What is herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can remain in the body for a lifetime, but lays dormant between outbreaks. Herpes usually affects the genital area and the skin around it in both men and women. The infection may be irritating and painful, however it usually does not lead to serious health problems. 

What are the symptoms of herpes?

The common symptoms of genital herpes for men are blisters that may appear on the penis, scrotum, and buttocks For women they may appear on the vagina, anus and buttocks. Other symptoms may include:

  • Blisters that ooze fluid
  • Lymph glands may become swollen
  • Crust appearing around the sores
  • Blisters may also appear on the face or anywhere else that has came into contact with the infection
  • Body aches, headaches and fever

It is vital to spot genital herpes if you are pregnant as babies can contract herpes through vaginal delivery. This may result in serious complications such as blindness, brain damage and, in some cases, death. If you know that you have Herpes, doctors can take precaution and deliver the baby via C-section to prevent the spreading of the infection.

How is herpes transmitted?

Herpes is transmitted during vaginal, oral or anal sex with someone that is infected with the disease. The infection is spread through skin on skin contact, usually via  genital surfaces, sores or through the fluids of someone that is infected. The sharing of sex toys with someone that has herpes can also transmit the disease. 

The transmission rate of Herpes is extremely high when an infected person has an outbreak at the time of sexual activity, however it is still possible to transmit the infection whilst there are no symptoms, usually just before or after an outbreak which will begin with a tingling sensation around the infected area. 

Genital herpes is much less infectious if all of the sores on the skin have fully healed and there are no signs of an outbreak. Therefore, it is possible to have herpes and not give it to your partner, particularly if you have not had an outbreak for a substantial amount of time.

How can it be prevented?

It is estimated that around the globe, 491 million people under the age of 60 have genital herpes. Herpes is incredibly common in today’s society, therefore it’s important to be tested regularly in order to prevent it from spreading further. Your Sexual Health offers a wide range of tests that can be conducted in private, from the comfort of your own home.

Practicing safe sex and using contraception is an effective way to prevent the spread of Herpes, providing that you do not have an outbreak at the time of sexual activity. If you or your partner have blisters or sores, or experience a tingling sensation, it is advised to not engage in vaginal, anal or oral sex as the risk of transmission is increased. Similarly, do not share sex toys. 

How is it treated?

Outbreaks may occur during your lifetime due to a number of factors such as stress or changes to your diet but, usually, they are unpredictable. If an outbreak should occur, treatment such as antiviral medication will help to reduce the symptoms. 

It is important to keep in mind that the first outbreak of Herpes is usually the worst. Outbreaks may recur throughout your life, however should become less frequent as you get older. 

If you are unsure if you have genital herpes it is important to take a test to find out whether or not you have the infection in order to reduce the risk of transmission. At Your Sexual Health, there is a wide range of sexual health tests including genital herpes test to give you peace of mind.