Iíve been reading some of these posts concerning genital herpes, and Iíd like to add my comments. I am not sure how many other posters on here actually have genital herpes, or just offer their input from what they have read or heard. There are some postings on here that I do not agree with, because of my experience with the virus.
I am a 37 year old, single, White female who was diagnosed with genital herpes at age 25. It appears that I was exposed to this virus when my then-on-and-off again boyfriend went down on me. We did not have sexual intercourse during that contact, although we had been sexually active in the past. Two weeks after that incident, I had my first breakout. At the time that I shared this intimacy, I was not regularly seeing my then-on-and-off again boyfriend (we had been broken up for a while before getting together on this night). I had not been dating anyone else.
First, not all genital herpes outbreaks looks or acts like a Ďtext-book caseí. For instance, with my initial onset of symptoms, I developed what I thought was the beginning of a cold. I felt tired, feverish and unwell. My right labia (the outer fold of skin on my vagina) was very sensitive to cold (sitting on the toilet seat) and contact (my clothes resting against my vaginal area hurt, as did wiping after urinating). My right labia was also swollen enough that sitting and walking was uncomfortable. But I had no visible sore or blister or oozing. I had no other symptoms.
Because I had never felt this symptom before, I went to my gynecologist for him to take a look. He gave me a thorough examination (we also went through my sexual history), and told me that it probably was an ingrown pubic hair. I asked him to culture the area because I always lean toward being wary, so he did.
My results came back positive for genital herpes. I absolutely flipped out because I am do not have promiscuous sex, and my lovers had been few at that point (two). I have always associated Ďdirtyí or sexually irresponsible people with STDs.
For the next few months, every time I had a series of similar symptoms, I went to my gynecologist every time. Each time I had a different doctor or nurse look at my vaginal area, and each time the answer came back the same Ė that there was no way by looking at my labia that I was having a genital herpes outbreak.
But each time I demanded a culture, and every time it came back positive. After about a year, I did come to accept my exposure to this virus.
I did contact my ex-boyfriend by phone to tell him what I had been exposed to, but he denied ever having any type of oral/genital outbreak or symptoms. Since this man was sexually more advanced than I was, I also had an AIDS test taken at my request soon after it was determined that I had been exposed to genital herpes. I also now make it good practice to have an AIDS test (along with my partner) before committing to a serious relationship with a man.
Since the first year of breakouts, my tell-tale symptoms have become well known to me. First the skin around my labia and sometimes my anus becomes super-sensitive. I feel like I have to urinate more frequently. Then, when my small little lesion comes to a head, there is some burning when making direct contact with that area (if I am wiping after urination). There is also some burning if urine contacts that area. Once my body gets used to having a lesion there, I will spend about two days having the worst itch possible in that area Ė more noticeable when I actually touch that area. Scratching it is sweet pain, because to touch myself there does cause discomfort. Since the initial exposure, I no longer feel ill with any of my outbreaks.
My lesion usually appear at the original site (right labia), but I have had a few small outbreaks (again, my lesions are so small that they donít look like text-book case pictures) near my anus. From the first signs of sensitive skin, I will usually have a lesion appear (or become symptomatic) within a day or two. By my third day of itching, it has pretty much worn itself out. The sensitive skin feeling settles down, and I no longer feel too much discomfort. From start to end, I would say that my outbreaks last about 5-7 days.
Sometimes I can get two outbreaks in a row, but normally now I am good for at least two a year. More if I am stressed or have been sick. But especially after being very stressed out about something. I currently have the start of an outbreak as I type this.
How I deal with Genital Herpes Physically
Many people donít know they even have genital herpes, which is one of the reasons why it can be passed so easily. Additionally, you can pass on the virus even if you have no symptoms. Meaning, you could have a small outbreak without being bothered by symptoms. And sadly, many people who know they have it, think that as long as they donít have any outward signs, that they can engage in sexual practices as if they had never been exposed. Unfortunately, some people choose to ignore the fact that they have this virus, and simply do not tell their partners.
First, since Herpes is a virus, almost everyone has had exposure in one way or another. This means that if you were to get a blood test to check for the herpes virus, most likely it will show up positive. However, even if a blood test shows up negative, without being cultured, a person can still have genital herpes and not know it. THE BEST WAY TO SEE IF YOU HAVE GENITAL HERPES IS TO SEE YOUR GYNECOLOGIST (IF YOU ARE A FEMALE) OR SEE A UROLOGIST (IF YOU ARE A MALE) WHEN YOU HAVE SYMPTOMS TO GET IT CULTURED. Culturing is painless and takes all of less than one minute. The doctor takes a sterile swab and swipes it over the affected area.
When I know I have an outbreak:
1. I wash my towels, linens, and underwear separately. Because I always caution on the wary side. I have been told that you do not need to do this.
2. Donít share towels, linens, and underwear!
3. I tell my partner when I am symptomatic. I can still have sexual intercourse, but I use a condom. I decline oral sex until my symptoms have been clear for two weeks.
Note there that I will use a condom most times if I am not on the birth control pill, but again, part of practicing safe sex for me is being open about sexual histories beforehand, having both parties get an AIDS test, and telling my partner about my exposure to genital herpes.
4. I am careful to wash my hands after urinating or masturbating, basically after any type of contact with my vaginal/anal area. You can spread genital herpes to other parts of your (or someone elseís) body. Especially around the fingers, hand, eye, and anus area.
I do not obsess about passing on the virus in between outbreaks. After much reading and consultation with my physicians, I do refrain from certain sexual practices when I have pre-symptoms (sensitive skin is my #1 notification), when I have an active outbreak, and for about one week after my symptoms have completely cleared. This took some time on my part Ė I needed to be familiar and comfortable with my symptoms, and be confident that I was knowledgeable enough about the virus and my own symptoms. I didnít want to responsible for knowingly passing genital herpes onto anyone else.
How I deal with Genital Herpes Socially
For me, this diagnosis initially was devastating, as I had always prided myself on never having a one-night stand, I chose not to have numerous different lovers just because I could, and I knew I had a healthy, clean body to offer a potential soul mate. I admit that I did not take my initial diagnosis well. I was beside myself and literally became hysterical when I was told the results of my culture. It was quite depressed and not accepting at all of my diagnosis.
Despite my anguish, I did speak to my gynecologist about genital herpes, and obtained some reading material to arm myself with knowledge.
Initially that wasnít enough however because shortly afterwards I met a man that I was interested in pursuing a committed relationship with. However, when we got to the point where I felt Ďreadyí to confide to him my new ďsecretĒ, he completely rejected the idea of moving forward together. He just couldnít get past the fact that I had an STD. I did bring him some literature on the subject, and offered to have him speak with my gynecologist, but he wasnít able to see anything past genital herpes. Obviously, that relationship fizzled quickly after that, and I was brokenhearted because of the reason he rejected me.
For a while, I was consumed with the fact that I had genital herpes. Who would want meÖ.I felt dirtyÖI would never love againÖ.
But the thing about me too, is that I am pretty much a bounce-back kind of gal. So, even though I was feeling pretty low, and my first time telling someone was horrible, I also made a decision not to let it rule my life.
I knew this would difficult at first because I am a pretty private person, and I knew that telling another potential partner about the fact that I have genital herpes would be extremely difficult for me.
So, shortly afterwards I joined a local Herpes Support Group for a while that I found through our townís Planned Parenthood facility. I enjoyed the camaraderie that came from sharing such personal experiences from the same infection, but soon after I realized that many people in the group were more disconsolate than I wanted to feel. Some of these people had had the virus for a number of years, and they seemed stuck where I wanted to move ahead. Not that thereís anything wrong with where they were, but I just knew that for my own sake, I couldnít allow myself to continue to wallow in something that I had no control over. Basically, I have herpes, and now I was going to have to deal with it. So, I left that Support Group considering myself lucky and blessed that I wanted to deal more effectively and positively than what was being offered in that Support Group. But I do admit that initially, those peers were understanding because they had the same feelings too. I also learned that not everyone has the same symptoms or easy/hard time with their outbreaks.
I also learned that having genital herpes is not the worst thing I could have.
In some ways, I think having something like this has made me a more conscious person: I am not so quick to jump into a relationship with just any man, and even though I have always taken my time about intimacy, I do take the extra time and consideration to think about and learn about the man I am dating before I decide to take it to another level.
How I tell people
I donít announce it to the world that I have genital herpes! Telling someone for me is an obligation if I am going to be sexually active with someone, but otherwise, itís based on my comfort level, and the appropriateness of the situation. I also am select in whom I tell (like for example, no-one at work needs to know because thatís crossing the line of professionalism and I donít enjoy sharing too much of my personal life with co-workers anyway). But I have shared my exposure with (my immediate family of course) close friends and obviously those gentlemen that I have been in committed relationships with.
I remember one night going out with a group of friends for a Girls Night Out, and one of my friends cracked a herpes joke and made some reference to catching it. I smiled at her and set her straight on catching it, and then when she wanted to know how I knew so much about the virus, with a smirk, I told her I had it. Her eyes went wide, but I ended up laughing at the herpes joke anyway! Sometimes itís good to have a sense of humor, even if itís at your expense and the topic matter isnít that funny. I have found that the more comfortable I am with myself (and genital herpes), the more other people around you will be at ease.
For me, the most ancy I get is when I meet someone that I think is going to be special, and I wait for the right time to tell him that I have genital herpes. I hate that waiting period because there is always that fear of rejection. But, aside from the first man that I told after my diagnosis who rejected our relationship based solely on that, I have never had anyone else react negatively. I have encountered some surprise, and lots of questions! Some of my boyfriends werenít familiar with the genital herpes until I told them about my exposure and educated them on it.
Telling a potential partner is different for me than telling a member of my family or a girl friend. I take my time getting to know someone, so after a while I may not even decide to share my history because the relationship may end for other reasons first. But I have found for me that the best way is during a non-sexual moment when the conversation is casual, and simply bring it up.
What has worked well for me is simply saying something like, ďI am enjoying our relationship immensely, and I want you to know a few important things about meĒ. Then I may tell him one fear I have, or one goal I have, and then I tell him that I have genital herpes. How you react can sometimes rub off on how he reacts. So, I have found that remaining casual, poised, confident, and meeting a personís eyes when you have something significant to convey is usually the best way. I donít go into explicit details unless I am asked specific questions, but I do provide enough information so he is informed. The bottom-line: I always tell the person I care about. I just would not feel honest to NOT say anything.
I always ponder about this whenever I meet someone I am attracted to. It never fails to cause me some unrest, but I think that I natural. I am going through that now.
I have always felt that if a person truly cares for you, anything is work-aroundable. If someone isnít willing to move forward with you because of having genital herpes, or doesnít want to take the time to learn about it, or wonít take a chance on the possibility of a great relationship because of it, or canít/wonít see you as a whole person (but only can see you as a person who has genital herpes) then you are better off not being with that person. Even if that hurts. You wouldnít want to be with someone if you have to lie or make them want to be with you anyway; in the end, that wouldnít work out. Some people just canít deal with it; and thatís okay. The thing is, with someone who does have genital herpes, you HAVE to deal with it. Itís important to be responsible and act responsibly. And part of that is informing the people that you need to.
Iím not saying that every itch or burn is genital herpes. But I am saying that if you care about yourself, itís important to have a concern looked at. I see many posters with questions on what a symptom could be. Itís up every person on here to have their symptoms looked at by a reliable medical person. For that sake of yourself and your partner or future partners. Practice safe sex all the time, educate yourself. And deal with what comes your way responsibly. Even if itís tough. Even if itís scary. Easier said than done, I know. I had to do it, and I continue to deal with the impact genital herpes has on my life. Genital herpes is not a death sentence.
I hope my experience will help someone else whoís having a difficult time in coping. <IMG SRC="http://www.healthboards.com/ubb/smile.gif">
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I'm glad my posting was able to help out a little. I don't have too many questions on herpes any more, since I've had it for so long. But I have seen many posters with concerns on here, so I thought adding my input might make someone else feel better.
After reading your post i to have some of the symptoms you have posted i will be checked out soon my concern is I have been celibate for 2 yrs and I also have a 2yr old daughter could i have had herpes this whole time and does this in anyway affect my daughter. I have had reoccurences in the same spot but only one spot. After talking to my girlfriend she told me this sounds like herpes so i just popped in to see what some of the post are and i think i may have it im 26. Your post really helped out
Hi... Just because you have Herpies ..this should not affect your daughter's health or for her to have it.
When you are broke-out just be careful to follow the procedure of keeping yourself cleansed and our hands clean , your own towels and toiletries for yourself.
Sometimes when the child is born and the parent breaks out while giving birth the child can contact the virus while in the labor process by passing through the vagina area but if the virus was not active at that time then it is not going to be past on through the blood stream. The virus has to be active for the baby to contact the virus. I hope this helps with your questions. Take care Magie
I'm glad some posters find that sharing my personal experience is an enjoyable (informative) read. I've been back to this board a few times, but haven't really seen to many other posters writing about their actual experience with this virus. I must admit, I would like to hear about others' experience with genitial herpes because (obviously) it's an interest to me because I have it.
<B> Drake</B>: You had mentioned that you were going to have your symptoms looked at. How did that go? Are you okay?
<B> jaej25</B>: You also stated that you had some symptoms that you were going to have checked out - please let me know how that went for you. Magie is correct, you really can't pass on genital herpes to a child unless you have an active outbreak during vaginal delivery. Normally, if you do have genital herpes, your OB-GYN will culture you when you are near your due date to determine if you have an active lesion. Then at that time, if the results come back positive, a decision between you and your OB-GYN will be made as to how to handle delivery. In many cases, with the new information I hear, some doctors don't even culture you when you're near your due date unless you have active symptoms.
If you have cold sores on your mouth/lips, which also is a form of the herpes virus, and you drink out of a glass and then give the glass to your child (or any person) to drink out of, then you do run the risk of passing on your cold sore to another person.
As for being celibate for the past two years, you can be exposed unknowingly to genital herpes years before, but not have an outbreak until much later - although "normally" you will have symptoms two weeks after initial contact.
I realize that a person can carry the virus not knowing about it and pass it along - but <B>I</B> am of the opinion that a person definitely is aware of symptoms for the most part, and that even if they aren're sure what it is, they will know they have some kind of symptom. They are only in denial if they choose not to have a symptom looked at either because they start to feel better or they don't want to know what it is. Since the outbreak symptoms do pass, someone could wait until their symptoms go away and then not think about it again.
I desperately wanted to NOT think about my symptoms after I received my initial diagnosis - I wanted to believe all the doctors who initially thought I just had an ingrown pubic hair. But since every culture came back positive, I knew that I wouldn't be able in all honesty turn my back on something that I could pass onto other people.
Quite frankly, I did think about NOT telling my future partners because if the symptoms aren't there, it's easy not to think about the virus, but morally and personally that wouldn't work for me. But I played different scenarios over and over in my mind, and weighed all the pro's and con's. It was truly a difficult time for me. But I feel that I made the right decisions for me, even if that meant rejection on occasion.
Please feel free to post back here if you have any questions or want to talk about a positive diagnosis.
Hi I made a appointment 7/6 and explained to them i may have symptoms of herpes and they gave me the closest appointment for the 15th is it still possible to be diagnosed even if the herpe spot isn't there anymore
If your outbreak is over, they might not be able to do a correct culture. Perhaps the doc's office can agree to let you call and they can squeeze you in if another outbreak occurs. Another option would be to go to one of those "doc-in-a-box" facilities during an outbreak. No appointment necessary.
White Sneakers, Your story is a marvelous account of what can happen. I found out I had herpes years ago, February 1987, and was so devastated that I stayed in bed and cried for four days. My symptoms were similar. I felt like I had the flu and my genitals were all inflamed but no lesions. Then the outbreaks came frequently, about once or twice a month in the form of lesions. I began taking acyclovir, 200mg once a day, and it got the outbreaks under control.
I too agree that being upfront is the best. Many people aren't. And there is love to be found even after diagnosis. I am now married to my soul mate, deliriously in love with each other. I am 47.
It took years to get over feeling ashamed. But it happens. Now, I rarely have an outbreak and if I do, I have a bottle of acyclovir on hand and I take the meds. It usually is over in two days. It means we might not have sex for a couple of days but that is okay, we're able to wait.
It isn't the end of the world. And it has been around for more years than any of us has been alive.
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Thanks White Sneakers, it was a great piece of writing and you sound like an incredibly strong person. I've been told all mylife how strong I am but now I don't feel strong at all right now but I guess according to how everyone else feels, that's normal.
My ex boyfriend, on again off again travels a lot and although he swears he didn't know he had it, i think like you say, he know's in his heart that he did. My prescription from the clinic is supposed to be in the mail but I still don't have it which is frustrating. I'm not sure what she prescribed. I was reading about a product named H-Balm too, have you heard of that is is just another gimic?
I will print your story for my own reference on how to deal with it and hopefully it will help me get through this. I too have gone through the AIDS test with a partner and silly me, I never gave herpes a second thought!
What prescription from the clinic are you waiting on? When I was first diagnosed with genital herpes, my OBGY did not prescribe me anything. But then again, I didn't want to take anything either. After the initial outbreaks stopped, I wasn't bothered too much to need medications - although once and a while I'd get a pretty "good" lesion that left me super-sensitive and swollen for a few days.
I have never heard of H-Balm. I read a lot of these posts on here about all the medications (oral and topical) that people take to reduce symptoms, but my interest lies mainly in coping with the symptoms and the psychological part of the STD rather than the preventative side.
I do consider myself a very strong person. Sometimes things do get the better of me, but I am a bounce-back kind of person despite any physical concerns or fears I have. Everyone is different, so some people will not bounce back as quickly as others - and that's okay. It did take me a while to "get past it", meaning not letting this diagnosis bring me down to a level where my self-esteem and outlook was completely colored. For a while in the beginning, genital herpes overshadowed everything, but I got bored with that and made a decision to just move on and be thankful that I didn't have something worse.
Now I look at my exposure as a learning experience. I guess that sounds silly to someone reading this who isn't in my shoes, or in the same place, but what I mean is that along the way, I have had some grueling physical and emotional trials in my short life; and each trial can either bring me to my knees or I can make the best out of it and learn and grow from it. Having herpes has made me more sensitive to others' who had equal or different conditions; aware of how important and worthy I am when it comes to relationships and possible rejection; and grateful because it could have been something ten times horrific. I just decided to give myself a break and face any fears that resulted in having herpes, rather than let it get the best of me.
I still feel that nervous stomach when I meet someone whom I'd like to share myself with intimately, knowing that eventually the romance could end because of what I need to tell a possible partner. But I will tell you that since being diagnosed, I have only had one person reject a relationship with me based on genital herpes - talk about a double-whammy; he was the first man I told after my diagnosis, so I was petrified of being judged, but the worst happened anyway!
I am not promiscuous, but I've had other boyfriends since then and each one that I've confided in didn't stop our relationship from continuing to a physical level. I think it will always feel a bit unnerving for me to let someone know that I have an STD when necessary, but I grow a little more every time I face it - nervous stomach or not.
And when I do have an active outbreak when I am with a partner, it's never been a big deal to say "hey, I've got a herpes outbreak right now", and either move onto other less risky intimacy or just hold on until it passes. Most of the time even when I had an active outbreak, it didn't stop me from being physically sexual, and it didn't turn my boyfriend off in the least.
Having herpes hasn't taken away anything from my womanhood or sexuality. If anything, it shows me how strong I am, and how much respect I have for myself and my partner.
I didn't go looking for exposure, but now that I am a carrier, I've made the decision to work with the knowledge I have and live my life in the way I want despite it.
<IMG SRC="http://www.healthboards.com/ubb/smile.gif"><p>[This message has been edited by White Sneakers (edited 12-31-2001).]
The Following User Says Thank You to White Sneakers For This Useful Post:
thank you so much for your story i just found on few days ago i have it and i just couldnt stop crying.. i never had anything never even a yeast infection and those are normal for woman. never an outbreak nothing.. i feel confused, terrible, dirty, gross, like you mentioned all the things you thats how i feel and the worst thing is i may have exposed someone i hold very dear to me.. the first real dating situation I've been since being divorced.. but i did have to courage to tell him the same day i found out and i have been sick about it he said he would go get checked out and we hadnt talked since i feel terrible and the anticipation of hearing back from him as to what his results are is eating my alive inside.. I wondering if he does have it and maybe thats why no response or maybe he is just trying to keep his mind off it until his results come in I dont know.. i pray to God I didnt give it to him..he said he has had a herpes test few months ago and he was negitive so I'm scared.. I dont think i would be able to forgive myself... i know it could be worst much worst and i know its going to take sometime to settle in that i have this and i know life will go on like you wrote but its hard for me right now.. wow I'm tearing up now just writting this thinking about it here at work...i better pull it together before people start to asked whats wrong...again thanks so much for you post! God Bless you
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Thank you all for sharing your experiences. My daughter was just diagnosed a couple days ago and we are so upset. White Sneakers, your story was so touching, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing it. I will be telling my daughter about this site. Keeping you all in my prayers.