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Sexual Health

Sexual Health Information

Herpes simplex-1 and herpes simplex-2 are contagious sexually transmitted viruses that can cause symptoms in the genitals, face, and mouth. The viruses are spread via kissing, skin contact, oral sex, vaginal sex, and anal sex. Herpes can affect the sexual health of both men and women. The infection can cause painful sores, itching and burning. However, some infected persons never show symptoms. The virus can be transmitted through sexual contact, even if the infected person is not showing any symptoms.

Once a person is infected, the virus can stay dormant inside the body for an extended period of time. However, many people suffer from frequent, painful outbreaks throughout the year. There is no cure for herpes, but there are medications that can treat the symptoms and improve sexual health. These medications heal sores, prevent additional outbreaks, and lower the risk of spreading the herpes virus.



Denavir is a topical medication used to treat sores on the face. When applied every 2 hours, it has been proven to heal sores in as little as 4.5 days.



Famvir is an oral medication used to treat and suppress herpes viral symptoms. It is also used to treat cold sores and the shingles virus.



Valtrex is used to treat herpes and shingles. It works by stopping the virus from replicating inside the body so that it cannot spread.



Acyclovir is the general form of Zovirax, a medication used to treat and suppress the symptoms of genital herpes and the shingles virus.

What causes genital herpes to affect sexual health?

There are two types of herpes simplex infections that affect sexual health:

• Herpes simplex-1 causes sores on the face, though it can spread to the genital area after oral sex.

• Herpes simplex-2 causes symptoms in the genial area. It’s a common and contagious virus that can be easily spread via skin contact. People can transmit the virus, even if they don’t show symptoms.

The herpes virus can spread via simple skin-to-skin contact; you do not need to exchange fluids to become infected. Since the virus does not live long outside the body, herpes is not usually spread via toilet seats, towels, or other items used by an infected person.


Sexual health medications for herpes

There are several medications that can suppress the virus and help people go longer between outbreaks. These medications typically reduce the severity and duration of symptoms and allow sores to heal quickly. Doctors prescribe three main drugs to treat herpes viral infections: Zovirax, Famvir, and Valtrex.

All three of these drugs are taken for 7-10 days after diagnosis. If the sores have not healed within 10 days, you doctor might choose to keep you on medication for an extended period of time. Severe infections can be treated intravenously with acyclovir.


There are two main ways to manage herpes viral infections:

• Periodic treatment. In this case, you only take medication after experiencing a herpes outbreak. Medication can relieve symptoms and help you heal faster.

• Suppressive treatment. People who have frequent outbreaks often choose suppressive therapy, where medication is taken daily. Daily suppressive therapy helps patients have fewer outbreaks throughout the year. Since there are fewer viral cells on your skin, suppressive therapy also makes it less likely that you will transmit the disease to others, though it’s still possible.


How do herpes symptoms affect sexual health?

Many people who are infected do not experience outbreaks. Therefore, some people do not even know that they have the herpes virus. When people do experience an outbreak, they will often see the following symptoms:
• Burning, soreness, and itching in the genitals.
• The appearance of skin sores.
• Soft, wet ulcers on the skin.
• Painful urination if the urine touches a sore.
• Swollen lymph nodes in the genital area.
• Flu-like symptoms, including headache, fever, and muscle soreness.
• Difficulty when urinating.

After infection, symptoms may appear in a few days, a few weeks, a few years, or not at all. After the initial outbreak, it’s likely that the symptoms will reoccur at least one time. Outbreaks are usually triggered by physical or emotional stress.


How living with genital herpes affect sexual health

If you have an outbreak, be sure to avoid all sexual contact, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex. When having sex between outbreaks, make sure that your partners understand the risks. Your sexual partner can contract the virus even if you don’t currently have symptoms. You can reduce the risk of spreading the infection by wearing a condom during sexual encounters.

Outbreaks can be triggered by several factors, including:
• Friction that occurs during sexual intercourse.
• Changes in hormone levels.
• Lowered immunity.
• Physical trauma or major surgery.


How treatments for genital herpes affect sexual health

Zovirax, Famvir, and Valtrex can effectively treat and suppress the symptoms of a herpes viral outbreak. Other treatments include a topical form of acyclovir, however topical treatments are not as effective as oral medications. Very severe infections can be treated with an intravenous form of acyclovir.

Heat and sunlight can aggravate herpes viral infection symptoms and cause an outbreak. Infected persons should also avoid strong perfume, scented soap, feminine deodorant, and douches, because it can irritate the sores. When suffering from an outbreak, over the counter pain medications can be used to alleviate pain. Wear light, breathable clothing to reduce irritation and pain.

If you have frequent herpes simplex viral outbreaks, see you doctor at least once per year. Your doctor can help you find treatment options that will suit your specific situation.

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