Common questions about genital herpes:

  • What are the symptoms of genital herpes?
    • For some, a cluster of blisters forms on the genitals; others may never get any physical symptoms but could still put their sexual partners at risk of getting herpes. Some people claim to feel a “tingling” on the genitals before a herpes outbreak that signals that the virus is preparing to surface. Some feel a tingling in their calf, thigh, buttocks or lower back¬†regions because the virus uses the nerve ganglia as its method of travel from the base of the spine (where it hibernates) to the skin (see herpes prodrome symptoms).
  • How can I spread herpes?
    • Herpes can only be spread when the contagious area comes into direct skin-to-skin contact with a mucous membrane or a break in the skin. In many instances, the location of the herpes outbreaks will stay in the same area time after time, so if that location is covered by a condom, the chances of spreading the virus are much less. However, some people’s herpes locations are in areas that a condom cannot cover.
  • Can I spread herpes even when I’m not having a herpes outbreak?
    • Physical signs of herpes don’t have to be present in order for to pass the virus to your partner. This is known as “viral shedding,” when the virus is silently active, which occurs 5-10% of the time. You can never know for sure when shedding is occurring, although some claim they get the same tingling sensations as though an outbreak were about to happen but never does.
  • I’m not really sure if I have herpes. How can I know for sure?
    • There is a definitive test called the IgG test that looks for antibodies in the blood that would be present to specifically combat the herpes virus. This test can tell you which type of herpes you have, whether HSV1 or HSV2 (either can show up on either the lips or genitals, but 1 prefers oral and 2 prefers genitals).
  • I’m feeling really alone. What can I do?
    • Talk to someone who loves you, who you feel safe with. Or visit a local support group (to find a herpes support group near you,¬†click here). If you aren’t ready yet to go to a live group, the herpes opportunity seminar might be a good next step for you.