The name "herpes" refers to a group of viral infectious diseases caused by various viruses of the Herpesvirus family. This family of DNA viruses (in the genetic material they contain deoxyribonucleic acid) with cubic symmetry is composed of different viruses, mainly herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2), varicella-zoster virus (VZV), cytomegalovirus (CMV) and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), which cause a variety of symptoms, which is why it is relevant to review the first hand experiences of herpes.
HSV-1 causes most herpes labialis, while HSV-2 causes most genital herpes. VZV, in its first infection of the human organism, causes chickenpox, and when reactivated, the infection is known as herpes zoster.
Although the most common symptom that alerts the patient that they may have herpes is the appearance of sores in the oral or genital area, the reality is that derived from the first hand experiences of herpes; we know that herpes may not cause symptoms. Thus, it is possible that the patient contains the herpes virus but does not know it, not having detected the presence of symptoms.
On the other hand, the main symptom of oral herpes are sores called fever blisters or cold sores, and they usually appear on the lips or around the mouth, being less common inside the oral cavity. They remain for a few weeks and disappear, although many first hand experiences of herpes report that they may reappear after some time. They are harmless for children and adults but can be very dangerous in newborns.
As for genital herpes, it manifests itself as blisters on the vagina, cervix, vulva, penis, anal area, or even on the buttocks and inner thighs. These blisters turn into sores and may also cause other symptoms, such as itching, burning, difficulty urinating, and pain in the genital area. In some cases, there may even be inflammation of the pelvis, armpits, and throat; fever, headaches, chills, and fatigue.
Below you will find a brief compilation of the first hand experiences of herpes of people who have been encouraged to share what the process of living with this virus has been like.
First Hand Experiences of Herpes
"I never had a problem related to my genitals, but when at 21, I started to feel irritation around my penis. All the time of my day I prayed that it was anything but herpes.
I was extremely embarrassed and I think that is because no one talks about it: it is also strange that it has so much stigma given that two-thirds of the world's population under the age of 50 has the HSV-1 type of herpes.
This strain of the virus usually manifests as a cold sore, also known as a cold sore or fever blister, but can be passed to the genitals by skin contact. Before I had the official diagnosis I googled my symptoms and that was very scary. According to my research on the internet, I self-diagnosed herpes. And reading forums and articles with wrong information I thought it would be the end of my life.
The whole process leading up to the diagnosis was terrifying: I had trouble sleeping after compulsively reading articles on the internet, and later I would suddenly wake up in a state of panic.
After researching on the internet I found a support group for people with genital herpes, and it was then that I began to understand what this diagnosis entailed. And I found out that it wasn't as bad as I thought. You usually only have one outbreak a year, at most.
This whole experience meant that my attitude towards relationships has changed and now I have more meaningful experiences. The reason is that if I go out with someone and I see that we are likely to have sex at some point, I tell them that I have HSV-2. But I only want to take that step with someone I like and can trust. So far no one seemed to have backed out because of HSV-2."
"I've been diagnosed with genital herpes and I feel pretty bad. It's a very strange thing because the gynaecologist has told me that she is not 100% sure since I have no symptoms like more discharge, pain, yellowish colour.... and also the blood tests were negative for HV-II and positive for HV-I so I don't even know what to do or what to think. The truth is that my symptoms are as follows:
- the first 2 days itching
- the next 2 days itching
- then I have some small sores for a few days but they don't hurt or anything.
I only feel itching during those two days. Despite everything, I am treating myself with acyclovir, but the worst thing is that I have been like this since March, the symptoms come and go, and now for the first time they tell me that it looks like herpes.
Is it normal to have so many outbreaks, since I have one week, yes and one week no although the gynaecologist is the first time she sees me I have gone repeatedly because I have itching and until now she had prescribed me Blastoestimulina and even a dermatologist gave me Ictiol? This is very frustrating because I don't know what I have. I have had a steady partner for 12 years and he has never had any of this so let me know how it goes. The gynaecologist told me that it doesn't have to be 100% sexually transmitted.
By the way, I have always had cold sores and even under my nose, and when I was a very little girl I used to get a huge horrible cold sore on my cheek."
"My knowledge of herpes was not very comprehensive back then. I knew what everyone else knew. That herpes is transmitted through sex, that it is the butt of many jokes, and that it was something to be ashamed of.
I came home from the doctor's appointment with a prescription for acyclovir and the certainty that my life was over. I called my mother, who has a lot of nursing experience. She was as understanding as can be and gave me advice on how to deal with my first outbreak (tip: if you have a herpes outbreak and it hurts to pee, pour warm water on it to help get everything circulating).
When my first outbreak went away, I waited for the second one to come. I didn't have any for six months and the one that did occur was very mild. After several tests, I discovered that I had type 1 herpes. Since the virus did not live in its "favourite" place, my outbreaks were less frequent. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I had one, and it's been nine years since I contracted it.
Condoms and oral barriers help, but the virus can be spread through skin-to-skin contact of uncovered areas. I can also take daily suppressive therapy (which I have already done) to reduce the risk of transmission.
Some people are willing to take the risks and some are not. And that's okay. Dating doesn't always have to go well and there are many reasons. Even if a person decides not to date me after learning about my infection, at least I hope they walk away from a little more informed about STIs."
Herpes simplex is a viral infection of the skin and mucous membranes, usually recurrent that usually lasts a week and that resolves spontaneously. Herpes lesions are often painful and warm or tingly.
Consider making a herpes diary, that is, a place where you can write how you feel, what has happened to your life, how you are living today.