Herpes!!!! A very misunderstood STD!

Alright, so this was not a question that was necessarily asked anonymously through email but something I often have to explain to so many of our patients here at New Gen.  It can be a bit confusing so I will do my best to make it more clear.

What is herpes:

The herpes simplex virus (HSV), otherwise know simply as herpes, is a viral infection that lasts a lifetime.  Meaning, the virus never leaves your body – even when symptoms aren’t present (symptoms will be discussed next).  HSV-1 usually affects the mouth and HSV-2 usually affects the genitals (vaginal, penis, or butt area).  However, both types can happen in either part of the body!

What does herpes look like?

Herpes looks like little blister type sores that usually appear in clusters (though they can appear alone), are fluid filled, often itch, and can be painful.  The sores then usually pop and crust over (at this point they are beginning to heal).  When sores are present it is called an outbreak.

Herpes-picturesSo if herpes sores heal, how is it that someone will have it forever?

Outbreaks usually last about 7-14 days, meaning the sores do go away.  However, they can come back.  Usually the longer someone has the virus, the fewer outbreaks they have.  The best way to prevent an outbreak is to take care of yourself.  Sleep well, eat right, try to reduce stress…anything to keep your immune system strong.

How is herpes passed from one person to another?

Herpes is passed between one person to another through skin contact – even when no sores are present (though it is much less likely).  That means you don’t even have to have penetrative (something inside of something) sex!  Simply touching or rubbing your mouth or genitals against the mouth or genitals of someone who has the virus can pass it to you.  That also means that condoms do not protect you 100% because condoms do not cover the entire genital area. Because it’s so easy to transmit (passed from one person to another), it is a really common infection!  According to the Center for Disease and Control, 16.2%, or about one out of six, people 14 to 49 years of age have genital herpes & up to 80% have oral herpes!  I told ya it was common!

How do I know if I have herpes?

If you noticed any unusual bumps in your mouth or genital area, come get it checked out.  The best way to determine if someone has herpes is to test the actual sore.  There are blood tests available but they aren’t necessarily the most useful. A blood test may reveal someone has been infected but it does not reveal where.  Remember, 80% of the population has been exposed to oral herpes therefore the chance of a positive blood test is high.

How do you prevent the transmission of herpes?

  • Not having skin to skin contact with the affected area of anyone who has sores visible (on their mouth or genitals). Other kinds of touch, like hugs and hand holding, won’t transmit the infection.
  • Using condoms and other types of barriers like dental dams (don’t know what that is? askshawna@yahoo.com). Remember, condoms don’t protect you 100% as they do no cover the entire genital area.
  • There are also medications that can help lower the chance an infected person passes it to their partner(s).  This is called suppressive treatment.

How is herpes treated?

There is no cure for herpes but there are several medications that can help shorten the length and severity of an outbreak as well as to reduce the number of outbreaks all together.  If you have herpes, come see us at New Gen and we can hook you up with these meds.

There is life after herpes!

Yes, there is life after herpes.  Often times when people find out they have herpes they are devastated.  They may feel embarrassed, ashamed, and think that no one will ever love them or want to have sexual contact with them again! Although these are all very common feelings, it’s definitely not the truth.  Like I mentioned before, herpes is super common.  It doesn’t mean someone is ‘dirty’.  People with herpes go on to live very normal lives, including sex lives.  The fact that the longer someone has herpes the fewer outbreaks they have, many people forget they even have the infection.  And with several different treatment options, it’s totally possible to reduce the chance of spreading the infection.  Having herpes simply means there will be a few days/weeks from time to time that are pretty annoying.  The infection will not cause any permanent damage, it will not effect future pregnancies, nor will it cause death.

Having herpes also means becoming a better communicator with your partner(s).  It means talking to your partner(s) about the infection and ways to prevent  it’s transmission.  Now you may find that not all people are willing to have any kind of sexual contact with someone who has herpes and that can be a bummer but there are plenty of people who see past the infection.  The people who care about you realize that herpes is just a part of the deal.  If you find it difficult to talk to your partner about herpes, schedule an appointment with us at New Gen – we can totally answer all your herpes questions individually and as a couple.

Alright, I know there is a lot of information here so I will end it here.  If you have further questions,  feel free to come into the clinic or email me a question(s).  I’d love to answer them for you!

In happiness & health,


Reviewed by Andrea Raider, NP

17 thoughts on “Herpes!!!! A very misunderstood STD!

    • There are many things that can cause bumps or skin irritation in the genital area – it may or may not be a sexually transmitted infection. The best way to determine what causing the bumps or skin irritation is to get evaluated by a clinician. Because some bumps and skin irritations, including herpes, can go away without treatment, it’s important to be seen by a clinician when the issue is still visible. Once bumps or other skin irritations are gone, it’s unlikely a clinician will be able to tell you what the cause was. I hope this answered your question. Let me know if not!
      In happiness & health,

  1. Hi, I was wondering is likely for someone to contract genital herpes from using the same razor as some who didn’t know they had it. I have three very small bumps in the genital area, no itching, no pain a small amount of discomfort but not sure if that’s my paranoia or what. FYI I’m still a virgin and I’ve never participated in any type of oral sex

    • Hi,

      It’s a low likelihood of contracting genital herpes from a razor. It’s possible that your symptoms are from razor burn. However, it’s best to get any symptoms you are experiencing checked out by a clinician. Oh, and sharing a razor is a bad idea for a number of other reasons. If you don’t a personal razor around, it’s best to just skip a shave. Hope this helps!

  2. My husband had it been with him for 14 years
    He told me that as long as we don’t have sex during and around outbreak I’m okay
    I never had anything resembling any herpes
    After 3 years that I was saparated from him something came out I have only one small flat sour at the button looks like bartholin Cyst same area a bit swollen and shows one small sour
    Just Lightly burning
    What do you think I’m lost and so ashamed…please help thank you

    • Hi Cathy,

      I am so sorry you are feeling lost and ashamed! I know that dealing with any health issues can be stressful. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you what your symptoms might be. I recommend seeing your clinician. If you are in the Bay Area and do not have private insurance, please come see us. Whether or not it’s herpes, we are definitely here to support you in any way that we can. I am sorry I can’t be of more help.

      In happiness & health,


  3. Hi Shawna: Thanks for the amazing post! I found it while researching my wife’s infection. She has a breakout every few years of… something. It looks and behaves a lot like herpes, so her OB/GYN and a clinician have tested her for it (blood test and direct from the sores), and both times the tests came back negative. No help from a biopsy either. They’re stumped. We’re in a pretty low-population part of the country, so not a lot of other diagnostic options open to us without driving several hundred miles. Are there other common infections that present like herpes, or are there reasons that multiple tests would come back negative erroneously?

      • Shawna: Got your e-mail. Thanks so much for all the research! Great to know that negative test results are pretty definitive. The bits about allergic reactions were super interesting. We just noticed over the past few days that antihistamines do seem to help, so an allergy seems like a possibility. My wife is at the doc right now, and we’re relatively optimistic they’ll be able to figure things out. Thanks so much again. You’re a fantastic resource!

  4. Hello. I went to the dr today because I have been suffering w some skin irritation for the last couple of weeks in my genital area. My gyn dr thinks it might be herpes and did a blood test. I cant get the results until Monday and I am scares to death! I have no other symptoms that are known to come w herpes and I dont have any of the bumps or clusters, just a snall blister. II had sex w my current boyfriend for the first time a month ago and didnt show any symptoms until after. I thought maybe he tore me because his penis is very thick. If I do have it did having sex trigger the outbreak? I was with an ex last year and had sex with him but never had any issues until now.

  5. Hi there, I’ve been dealing with this problem of mine since spring 2012. I had unprotected sex with a girl I had been seeing for a while and got an infection from her. Bad sores on my genitals and one or two sores on my lower lip. I went to my schools clinic and the doctor told it was probably herpes. He also took a swab test from my genitals. A week later I get a call and its negative. I’m relieved but about six months later I flare up again. Not as bad just sores on my lip. This continued to happen maybe just every six months. However, I made a stressful move to a new city after earning my degree and have been here for nine months now. All of those months I have had flare ups BUT they are different…every time I get these small red dots on the inside of my lower lip and red dots on my tongue. Sometimes my tongue has a burning feeling like I had a drink of something too hot. There’s also pain in my genitals, not when I’m peeing but at rest. And occasional itching. Ahhhh, I’m convinced the test was wrong a few years back and I do have it. But the frequency of these recent flare ups is just throwing me off because I KNOW that I was more unhealthy before I moved and was in school. I mean drinking all the time and much more intercourse. ALSO, I’ve noticed sometimes that right after drinking a beer or two the red dots on the inside of my lip come out of nowhere. I’m going to get tested again but I’m just really confused and have felt so much happiness drained out of me. Does this sound like anything you’re familiar with? Thanks. Feel free to email me at gnoble@elon.edu

  6. I just found out that I may have herpes , I’m just 17 years old and I really do not know how I got it also ask my sex partner day he know if he had it and he got check he was negative yes he does understand he’s helping me but I also feel depressed sometimes and since I got The medicine it has gotten worse but in the few days that I had it some days will be good and some days will be bad sometimes I don’t know what to do most times I try put myself up for joy and hope it’s not but every day I see the symptoms The only symptoms I didn’t get was fever and is only in the vagina area I have not got it on my legs up on my butt … My question is how long does it takes for the bumps and sores to go away if I have it ?

    • That’s a great question! I am so sorry you are feeling depressed. Do you have any friends or family you can talk to? As far as sores going away, it usually takes a week or two. Please let us know if you have any further questions or would like any more information.

      In happiness & health,

  7. I’m very afraid that I might have herpes but I’m hoping it might be a misdiagnosis. I have to wait for my test results and I’m terrified right now. I’m not very sexually active so I thought it was just an irritation reaction from going to visit my boyfriend over the weekend. The last time I had sex was with him about a month ago and my only other partner was almost a year ago. I had gone to get waxed a day or two before I met with him and I had to shave some areas that got missed so I assumed this was all from irritation or a bacterial infection but the doctor I saw was adamant that he believes its herpes and refused to consider another option. We first had sex last Thursday night, then Friday and Saturday. On Saturday/Sunday I started to notice some irritation. I thought maybe I had torn a little, the pain I was experiencing was contained to my vaginal opening area. By Monday, sex was more painful, the area between my vagina and anus felt raw and painful. My clitoris is a little swollen and painful to touch. Also, I had discharge that had an odor on Monday. I began to feel itchy on Monday/Tuesday and this is also when I began to notice lumps on my labia. The bumps I have aren’t blistering or crusty from having popped before I noticed they blistered. They are spread out and not clustered like the pictures I’ve seen and I have none on my thighs (they seem contained to my labia). They only hurt if I tried to squeeze them. They are already decreasing in size and no longer painful. The itching also stopped already and the raw patch of skin is healing already as well. Is there any chance that this could be something else? And should I go get a second opinion? He just had STD testing 3 months ago and nothing came back. He has not had any signs of being infected and has not had unprotected sex with anyone else.

    • Great question! Herpes is relatively easy to diagnose visually. Did your doctor do a swap of the area? Either way, a second opinion is often necessary for diagnosing herpes but if it would make you feel more comfortable, it couldn’t hurt. However, keep in mind that the sores need to be present in order for a clinician to be able to test for herpes. As far as your partner’s STD test, it is unlikely he was tested for herpes unless sores were present. I hope this information helps a bit. Feel free to write back if you have any other questions.

      In happiness & health,


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