Article updated: 27th March 2023
While some of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia and gonorrhea are curable with the right treatment, the situation is slightly different when it comes to herpes simplex virus, better known as herpes. That’s right, although there are treatments available to help shorten and sometimes even prevent herpes outbreaks, there is no cure for the virus.
With the above in mind, it’s important to know all there is to know about this STI, including the complications associated with herpes.
Some potential complications of herpes include:
- Increased risk of other STIs
- Viral meningitis
- Neonatal herpes
See also: Can Herpes go Away on Its Own?
Does herpes cause long-term effects?
The signs and symptoms of herpes can sometimes go unnoticed - or they may not occur at all. So, without regular sexual health testing, it’s possible to have the virus and not know, meaning it may go untreated and could cause long-term effects.
The herpes simplex virus is categorized into two types - herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). While HSV-1 commonly causes oral herpes, it can also cause genital herpes and HSV-2 is known to be the cause of genital herpes. Both types can sometimes cause complications.
Increased risk of other STIs
Genital herpes can increase a person’s risk of contracting and passing on other common STIs. Visible sores can cause small breaks in the skin, which makes it easier for certain viruses to affect the body. It's important to note that the virus doesn't need to be visible to spread - even when no sores are present, the virus is still active in the body.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), those living with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) who are not taking medication, or those with a compromised immune system, may experience more severe symptoms and frequent outbreaks or occurrences .
In rare circumstances, herpes can cause viral meningitis. This complication can occur when the virus causes inflammation in the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid that surround both the brain and the spinal cord. Other viruses such as HIV infection and mumps can also be a cause .
Neonatal herpes is a type of herpes that occurs when a baby is exposed to the virus during childbirth (either HSV-1 or HSV-2). Women who have genital herpes before pregnancy are at low risk of passing it on to their child, according to WHO, the risk tends to be at its highest when a mother contracts the infection in the late stages of pregnancy .
Can herpes affect organs?
The herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which usually causes cold sores, can sometimes cause eye infections. If these infections are treated, no complications should occur. However, the NHS estimate that around 1 in 4 of these eye infections can cause certain complications, these include :
- Scarring of the cornea
- Loss of vision
- Risk of other eye infections
One of the best ways of lowering your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection is by regularly screening your sexual health. This can be done with your local doctor or from the comfort of your own home with an at-home lab test.
LetsGetChecked’s at-home Herpes Test can detect herpes simplex antibodies for either HSV-1 or HSV-2. Online results will be available within 5 days and our dedicated medical team will be there to offer a helping hand should you have any questions.
You should also consider getting tested if:
- You used a needle or syringe to inject drugs into your body that someone with herpes has already used
- You become sexually active
- You have had unprotected sex
- You are experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted disease
- You are entering into a new sexual relationship
- You have received a notification from a previous partner that they are infected (STDs can remain dormant for years or take up to three weeks to become active.)
See also: How do you Check for Herpes From Home?