What is a herpes outbreak like?
For each person, a herpes outbreak is different. But there are overarching similarities between herpes outbreaks. Some people have very few herpes sores in a herpes outbreak. For most people, the herpes outbreak will occur in the same physical location each time. Normally, genital herpes will show up as one, a few or a small cluster of very small blisters (see herpes pictures).
How do I know when a herpes outbreak is coming?
The best way to know if herpes symptoms are sneaking up on you? Pay attention to your body. People commonly report feeling a slight burning, itching. For most of the time, herpes lies dormant in the body in the sacral ganglion at the base of the spine. (For some, herpes dormancy can last forever without ever having a visible outbreak, but be aware of viral shedding!) Since herpes uses the nerve pathways to travel from the spine to the surface of the skin, some people report cramps in the back of their legs before getting a herpes outbreak. When you become more knowledgeable about your own body, you can pick up on signals of an impending outbreak. Then you can be pro-active and take your anti-viral medication to avert the outbreak altogether.
With so much stigma out there around herpes, there’s bound to be some misinformation as well. Here are some myths that are floating around out there accompanied by their truths to set the record straight. More >
Need to get out from behind your computer and find a supportive group of people to help you heal? A safe space to say “I have herpes” and be accepted for who you are? Chances are there is a herpes support group close to you. If you’re interested in joining our over-the-phone support group, please email hello [at] thehopp [dot] com to inquire about upcoming dates.
Here is a full list of herpes support groups …
Herpes infection — either HSV 1 or HSV 2 — happens when the virus enters the body. It usually finds a vulnerable part of the skin, such as the mouth or the genital area (a small cut, abrasion or a mucous membrane). Because mucous membranes are more vulnerable than the tough barrier of the skin, women are many times more likely to get herpes than men. Once inside the body, herpes travels to certain nerve ganglia, where it “sleeps” (also see herpes dormancy) until something triggers herpes into action. Centers for Disease Control statistics indicate that up to 80% of people infected with herpes don’t even know they have herpes because they experience such mild symptoms of herpes, or sometimes none. See also How can you get herpes? More >
Recurrent genital herpes outbreaks will occur after a period of herpes dormancy. The amount of time that herpes lies dormant varies by person (each person’s health, immune system and overall biology is different). Genital herpes stays at the base of the spine (in the sacral ganglia), invisible until something triggers the herpes symptoms. It wakes up and makes its way to the surface of the skin to generally end up at the original site of herpes infection. More >
Since there is no herpes cure, it does stay in your body for life. But for most of the time it’s not visible. On average, people have 2-4 herpes outbreaks per year (see more herpes statistics and herpes facts). Some may never have a visible herpes outbreak. This is due to herpes dormancy. Think of herpes as a bear who hibernates until rustled from its slumber to head outdoors again (see herpes triggers). Sometimes this metaphorical bear is restless, while other times it sleeps long and hard. (Keep in mind that even when it lies dormant, you can still spread herpes due to herpes viral shedding.) More >
What are the symptoms of genital herpes?
The very first genital herpes outbreak tends to be the most severe, so don’t think that it’s representative of what you’ll be experiencing for the rest of your life! The experience gets much easier to handle. I promise. When you first get herpes, the body hasn’t had a chance to develop any immunity to resist the herpes virus. This foreign intruder launches a sneak attack on the body before it has adequate time to prepare a proper defense. With time, the severity and how often the herpes outbreaks occur lessen as the body builds immunity. More >