Genital herpes is very prevalent. It is a highly contagious infection and is usually passed on through sexual contact. But not always!
Genital herpes affects the genitals, buttocks and the area around the anus. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Most of the genital herpes are caused by the herpes simplex virus HSV type 2. In modern societies, children have begun to have sex at a younger age and the herpes simplex virus HSV type 1 infection (which causes cold sores around the lips and mouth) is increasingly becoming prevalent.
HOW WIDESPREAD IS IT?
It is estimated that in the United States alone, over fifty million people suffer from the disease. It is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Since the late 1970s, the number of people diagnosed with genital herpes in America has increased about 30%. Most of this growth is seen amongst the teens and young adults. This increase is not surprising given that genital herpes is a highly contagious, chronic disease and the viral infection lasts a lifetime. With increasing and more widespread sexual activity, Genital herpes is passed on to an increasing number of people through sexual contact and intercourse.
Women are more likely to carry Genital herpes than men.
WHAT CAUSES GENITAL HERPES?
Typically Genital Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2). Increasingly herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1), which is the virus that causes cold sores, is the cause of the disease.
The virus can spread by having sex with a person who is infected (whether or not the person has an open sore ), by having oral sex or anal sex. Unfortunately the disease can also spread when sores are not visible. When sores are present and during outbreaks, sexual intercourse will almost certainly spread the disease to your sexual partner. When ulcers are not apparent (sometimes called asymptomatic shedding), the risks of transmission is slightly reduced. Newborn babies can contract the disease during birth, if the mother has an active infection.
Genital Herpes can be spread by an infected partner who does not have any sores. Sometimes the person who has the disease may be unaware that he or she is carrying the Herpes Infection.
The Genital Herpes virus usually dies quickly outside of the body. Therefore it's not easy to get the infection through contact with toilets, towels or other objects used by an infected person. That said, the best policy is to practice good hygiene practices at all times. It is never a good idea to share towels or undergarments or adult toys which can come in direct contact with genitals of other persons.
Persons who have more sexual partners stand a higher chance of getting infected. Every sex partner increases the chance of getting exposed to the virus. Sexual partners who are not infected today, and who have not posed a danger before, may be infected tomorrow and can infect their partners.
It is thought that different triggers affect patients differently. These triggers include stress, vigorous sex, illness, diet, surgery and monthly menstruation. Ongoing chronic stress lasting more than a week is the strongest trigger for genital herpes outbreaks.
SYMPTOMS OF GENITAL HERPES?
Most people infected with genital herpes are at first not even aware that they have been infected. The first visible signs are when the skin on or around the genitals becomes inflamed. The skin may start to have a burning sensation, feel itchy, or become painful.
The next stage is that blister-like sores appear on or near the genitals and sex organs. These sores open, leak fluid, scab over, and eventually heal. It can take several weeks for an outbreak to end.
When Genital Herpes first appears, the patient may suffer from headache, muscle pains, fever, swollen glands and a burning sensation when urinating. After the outbreak, the virus retreats to reside in the nervous system and remains inactive until another trigger creates a new outbreak.
The Genital Herpes remains in the body permanently. Repeat outbreaks appear some weeks or several months after the first. Typically the repeat outbreak is less severe, less painful and shorter in duration than the first episode. As the years go by, the patient usually experiences fewer outbreaks each year. On average, persons who carry the infection experience four outbreaks per year.
Carrying the Genital Herpes Infection increases the risk of transmitting or contracting other sexually transmitted infections, including the AIDS virus.
In some patients, the sores from genital herpes cause significant swelling around the urethra which is the tube that transports the urine from bladder outside of the body. The inflammation can close the urethra and the patient may not be able to normally pass urine. This problem can last for several days and it may become necessary to insert a catheter to drain the bladder.
In some instances the HSV viral infection can lead to inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (the meninges). The inflammation is caused by an infection of the cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain, or infection affecting the membranes, the brain itself and/or the spinal cord. The patient will suffer from Meningitis and in rare occasions this can result in death, especially if the person suffers from immune deficiencies. Herpes can infect the brain, leading to herpes encephalitis. In such cases the patient will experience fever, confusion, and seizures. Herpes encephalitis can be fatal.
Another complication of the Genital Herpes infection is rectal inflammation, otherwise known as proctitis. Sometimes the Genital herpes leads to swelling of the lining of the rectum, particularly in men who have sex with other men.
Herpes can spread to infect one or both eyes. If the cornea of the eye is infected (called herpes simplex keratitis), it will cause significant pain, a gritty feeling in the eye and the patient becomes sensitive to light and sometimes experience discharge. Without treatment, scarring of the eye tissues may result leading to cloudy vision and eventually blindness.
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can enter the body via injuries to the skin. The finger can become a channel for infection, causing a condition known as herpetic whitlow, where the fingertip becomes red, swollen and painful. Often dentists and health care workers are exposed to body fluids if not wearing gloves.
Genital Herpes can pass to the child at point of birth This may result in blindness, brain damage, or even death of the newborn child. Mothers exhibiting outbreaks of genital herpes during pregnancy experience a higher chance of stillbirth, miscarriage and child birth prematurely.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
The best practices for preventing genital herpes are the same best practices for preventing other sexually transmitted diseases. The best way to protect against infection is to abstain from sexual activity or to limit sexual contact to only one person who is infection-free.
Limit the number of sexual partners. Always use a latex condom during sexual contact. Avoid sexual contact, oral sex, anal sex and intercourse if either partner has a visible outbreak of herpes.
Reducing emotional stress is one of the most important strategies for reducing the number of herpes outbreaks. Getting sufficient and quality sleep, exercising regularly, eating a balanced diet, and using relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga or laughter therapy may help reduce stress.
It is important to try to minimize the length of time that blisters are actively present and avoid complications. Keep the affected area and the sores dry and clean at all times. Avoid touching them and scratching them (this can help keep the virus from spreading to other parts of the body). For genital herpes, wash the sores with saline solution (salt water) and dry the area with tissue. Using warm air from a hair dryer held far from the affected area is another helpful strategy.
At present, there's no cure for genital herpes.
Antiviral medications (in pill or ointment form) may help the sores heal faster. Medications such as Zovirax, Famvir and Valtrex can be used to shorten or prevent outbreaks. If genital herpes recurs often in a patient, doctors usually prescribe the antiviral medication on daily basis to help suppress the outbreaks.
Over-the-counter painkillers help with the discomfort and pain.
There is no cure for Genital Herpes. However some natural supplements may help reduce the frequency of outbreaks. The fundamental assumption for use of these naturopathic solutions is that the immune system must function well to prevent the latent viral infection from reactivating frequently. Therefore, natural products that help support the health of the immune system may help prevent outbreaks.
Antioxidants can help neutralize the reactive oxygen species. These damage cells of the immune system (Cannizzo 2011; Hughes 2000). The role of the antioxidants is particularly pronounced for older patients whose immune system functions less optimally than the younger individuals. Antioxidant supplements help combat this age-related phenomenon and help avoid nutritional deficiencies, commonly found in the elderly. (Chen 2012).
Recommended Natural Health Products:
Vitamin C: 500 – 1000 mg daily with food
Reishi (std. to 13.5% polysaccharides [132.3 mg] and 6% triterpenes [58.8 mg]):
980 mg daily
Vitamin A (as 90% beta-carotene and 10% acetate): 5000 IU daily with food
5000 – 8000 IU daily, depending on blood levels of 25-OH-vitamin D
30 mg one to three times daily with or without food
L-Lysine: 620 mg one to three times daily on an empty stomach
Propolis Extract: 1000 – 2000 mg daily; or, propolis ointment: per label instructions
Lactoferrin (providing 95% of Apolactoferrin [285 mg]): 300 mg daily with or without food
Curcumin (as highly absorbed BCM-95®): 400 mg daily with food
Fucoidan: 75 mg one to two times daily with or without food
Licorice Root: 450 mg twice daily
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