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Herpes - Am I At Risk?

Dr. Radhakrishnan Nair 91% (228 ratings)
MBBS .DGO.DA.(Trained In Andrology)
Sexologist, Ernakulam  •  27 years experience
Herpes - Am I At Risk?

Herpes is one of the most common STD of present times. Sometimes, there are people who are infected, but do not have any symptoms and can spread the infection to their partners. Genital herpes infection can be caused by two strains of virus, HSV1 or HSV2 (HSV for herpes simplex virus). It is spread by direct contact, from the site of infection to the site of contact. The infection usually presents as a sore (vaginal, anal or oral areas) and the fluid in these lesions contains the virus. When another person comes in contact with these sores (any region), then the infection spreads. This spread could be from any one contact area to another contact area.

When herpes is transmitted from people who are infected with the virus, but have no obvious symptoms, these are usually called prodromal symptoms, which include itching or tingling in the area of contact. The virus can spread from this area to the other person, and this form of transmission is known as “virus shedding.”

The infection can spread even during these initial stages until the sores are formed, to the time when they are completely healed and the skin looks normal again. Any sexual contact (vaginal, oral, or anal) can be risky and lead to the partner getting affected (75% chances of infection).

Asymptomatic transmission is also possible wherein the infection spreads when there are no symptoms in the infected person. In some people, the virus remains dormant for years together, but these people continue to shed the virus and are capable of infecting. This is more common with HSV2 strains than HSV1.

Pregnancy is another tricky situation where the infant can get infected through the mother. If there are traces of the virus in the vaginal tract, then it is safer to not have a vaginal delivery, else there are higher chances of the infant getting infected.

Newborns and/or babies can also get infected when someone who is infected kisses the baby. Given that their immunity is low, the chances of developing an infection are quite high. It has also been suggested that having cold sores puts a person at higher risk of developing HIV, though this remains to be proven.

Prevention:
Listed below are some ways to prevent or lower the chances of getting infected with the herpes virus.

  1. The most effective way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal or oral sex with a person who is likely to be infected.
  2. Get involved in long-term, monogamous relationship with a person who has been tested negative.
  3. With every sexual interaction, use latex condoms in the right manner. However, please note that condoms may not offer full protection from getting infected. If you wish to discuss about any specific problem, you can consult a Gynaecologist.
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