Condoms & Genital Herpes
What is Herpes?
Genital Herpes is a common viral infection caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). Genital Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that is so common but often not noticed by those who are affected by it. It is estimated that of those affected only 1/3 become aware that they are infected. In the United States alone around half a million people are diagnosed each year. Genital herpes often go unnoticed since most of the people infected do not show obvious symptoms or if they do the symptoms are so mild that they are often attributed to insect bites or other skin conditions. Typical herpes symptoms include red and sensitive skin in the genitals or the area surrounding it. The reddish skin can turn into blisters or sores and may develop small bumps. During a first outbreak of herpes the affected area usually itches, burn, or tingles. Those suffering from herpes may also experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle ache, and swollen glands, which people often misinterpret as the common flu. In instances where herpes affects the urethra a burning sensation during urination is experienced.
How is Herpes Diagnosed?
Herpes is hard to spot between outbreaks. During an outbreak the best thing to do is visit your doctor to have your sores examined. If the outbreak is typical the doctor can diagnose on the spot purely through visual inspection. For atypical outbreaks the doctor can test you using cell culture, antigen test, or pap smear.
Treatment for Herpes
There is no treatment for herpes. Once you have the virus all you can do is to try to control the virus to reduce and shorten the outbreaks. This can be done by taking antiviral medication as well making sure that your immune system is as strong as it can be through proper diet, rest, and exercise.
Herpes vaccines are currently still being developed and tested. In the meantime there is no way to prevent the transmission of herpes except through abstinence, being faithful to an uninfected partner, and by using condoms. Condoms are very effective in containing the herpes virus since lab tests show that the virus cannot penetrate latex. However, even with the use of condoms there is a chance of transmitting the virus in cases when the herpes sores are located outside of the area covered by the condom. The best thing to do when you have a herpes outbreak is to refrain from having sex at all. However, in between outbreaks the virus can still be transmitted so that the use of condoms is still necessary. Aside from condoms a good idea would be to use spermicidal foams, creams and jellies along with the condom since they are proven to kill the herpes virus as well as some other STDs.