MedSpring Viewpoints

Common STD Questions: Herpes Edition

Awareness is key when it comes to preventing and treating sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).  Let’s review some of the key questions around one of the common types of STIs: herpes.

herpes common sti questions

Read on to get answers about herpes.

  • How can you tell if someone has herpes?

Unless someone is experiencing a herpes outbreak via a visible rash, you can’t tell if a person has herpes.  To medically diagnose herpes, doctors often examine the herpes sores (if present) and perform a swab test if necessary.  If you are worried a partner has herpes or any STI, the only accurate way to know is with a test to detect an STI.  It may not be a bad idea to get checked. Around 50% of people get herpes from partners who are unaware they have herpes.

  • Can you get herpes through kissing?

Yes.  Herpes virus can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact like kissing or oral sex.

  • Are oral and genital herpes the same thing?

They are both in the herpesvirus family.  Both are contagious but treatable.  Oral Herpes (or “cold sores”) can be caused by herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1).  Herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2) is generally the cause of genital herpes.  However, HSV-1 (cold sores) can cause genital herpes via oral-genital sex.

  • How can I tell if this is an ingrown hair or herpes?

It’s not uncommon for people to confuse an ingrown hair with genital herpes.  However, it’s not always possible to tell the difference between the two by physical exam alone.  The best way to rule out herpes as the cause of an unknown sore in the genital area is to be evaluated by a doctor.

  • Is there a cure for herpes?

Unfortunately, there is no “cure” for herpes.  However, there are a variety of treatments to reduce herpes outbreaks and help avoid transmission.

  • How do you treat herpes?

Medications can be taken to reduce the duration and frequency of herpes outbreaks.  Herpes treatments are antiviral medications.  These medications come in two forms: an ointment or a pill.  The ointments prescribed help relieve symptoms of herpes like burning and itching.  The pills help reduce the length of time of an outbreak and the severity of symptoms.

  • What is the best way to prevent genital herpes?

Although the chance of spreading the illness is greatest when a rash is present, the virus can become active and transmitted to a sexual partner even when the skin appears completely normal.  For this reason, safe sex practices (use of a condom) should be used routinely to lessen the chance of spreading the illness to a sexual partner.

To continue educating patients and non-patients alike about STIs, we’re working on a series of blog posts covering other STI questions.  Additionally, in case you missed it, we recently wrote a post about the difference between vaginal and urinary tract infections like UTIs and yeast infections.

And if you need us, MedSpring offers confidential and discreet STI testing and treatment

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