Womens Health

Preventing Herpes

About Herpes

Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the by the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Herpes is contracted by having sexual contact with someone who has the virus. Often there are no external symptoms of herpes, and when there are symptoms they are often mild and resolve themselves naturally within two to three weeks. Besides evidence of a rash or blisters on and around the genital areas, some common symptoms of herpes include a low-grade fever, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes.

Can Herpes Be Cured?

While there are medications that treat herpes infections and help prevent the recurrence of infection, herpes cannot be cured. Even once external signs of infection have disappeared, the herpes virus remains in the body and herpes outbreaks can reoccur in the future. While there is no way of predicting how many herpes outbreaks an infected individual will have each year, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over time.

Preventing Herpes

The good news, however, is that there are many steps one can take to help prevent herpes and to decrease the number of herpes outbreaks.

A) To prevent contracting and spreading herpes, follow these guidelines:

•- The surest way to prevent any STD is to abstain from sexual activity. Alternatively, if you are sexually active, choose a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship and make sure that your partner is tested for herpes.

•- Practice safe sex and always use a condom. Condom use should begin before any sexual contact, including oral sex.

•- Maintain good hygiene by washing your hands regularly and especially after sexual contact.

B) Preventing Recurrent Herpes Outbreaks

Herpes treatment protocols depend upon a person's individual symptoms. If herpes outbreaks are infrequent, doctors usually prescribe medications that shorten the length of herpes outbreaks when they occur. However, if one experiences frequent outbreaks of infection, or if the infected person lives with a non-infected individual, doctors often prescribe medications to take on a regular basis. Known as "suppressive therapy," the affected person takes medication daily in order to reduce the number of herpes outbreaks. For many people, the frequency of outbreaks decreases over time, and therefore even those who are on suppressive therapy should periodically reassess their situation with their healthcare provider and consider the pros and cons of stopping daily medication.

C) To prevent spreading the herpes infection and to speed up the healing process, follow these guidelines:

- When symptoms are evident, refrain from all sexual contact

- If you have herpes, notify all your sexual partners so that they can be tested

- Practice strict hygiene and wash your hands regularly, and especially after touching a herpes sore

- Try to avoid touching herpes sores or blisters

- Keep the infected area clean and dry

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