One type of the virus causes a ‘cold sore’ blister made most annoying by the fact that it generally appears just before we have a hot date. The other type causes blisters to form around the penis, vagina or bottom.
The virus is extremely common and although it can be passed on during sex, it can also be passed on just as easily by close body contact if you come into contact with one of the sores. Just like warts, once you have the virus you will have it for the rest of your life. However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll keep on getting blisters or sores; they only tend to occur when you’re feeling a bit run down, stressed out or unwell. Fortunately the virus responds well to treatment and reoccurrences can be managed with drugs and anti-viral creams such as ‘Acyclovir’.
As we’ve already mentioned, you’ll know you have Herpes by the sores present around your penis, vagina or bottom, but people with the virus can also suffer from mild flu-like symptoms and aching in the lower back or legs. A tingling or itching sensation around the affected area occurs before an attack happens and this is followed by blisters and sores forming.
To test for herpes, a swab is taken from the blister or sore and this is checked for signs of the virus. If there are no blisters or sores, a urine sample will be taken.
Treatment for the initial viral infection usually includes a course of anti-viral tablets or creams.
How to avoid it
Avoiding herpes is easier said than done because it’s so easily picked up. However, there are things you can do to decrease your risk of picking up the virus. Firstly, avoid contact with the sores or blisters (this is the hardest bit because you can’t tell the difference between a herpes blister/sore and any other type). If you’re having oral sex or fancy a bit of rimming, use condoms and dental dams. And, as with most other infections, if you’re having anal or vaginal sex, using condoms and loads of water-based lube is the best way to avoid picking up the infection.