Article updated: 27th March 2023
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is categorized into two types - herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). The former is the cause of oral herpes, and genital herpes can actually be caused by either strain . According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around one in every sixth person in the U.S (aged 14-49) has genital herpes with most people with the infection not even realizing they have it.
It’s important to note that contracting herpes is not something to be worried about and it is possible for the symptoms or signs of herpes such as blisters to heal themselves. In saying that, treatment can help sores heal sooner, lessen the severity of outbreaks and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to a partner.
How do you treat herpes?
Although there is no cure for herpes and symptoms can sometimes clear up on their own, it’s important to seek treatment to reduce both the severity and frequency of the infection.
In saying that, while treatment for herpes cannot completely cure the virus, it can help in reducing the symptoms of herpes and reduce the likelihood of it spreading between sexual partners. Similar to how the signs and symptoms of oral and genital herpes can differ, the treatments for each tend to vary.
What is the treatment for oral herpes?
Possibly more commonly known to the majority of us as cold sores or fever blisters, oral herpes is primarily caused by HSV-1 . This type of herpes is typically spread through direct skin contact with someone who has the virus. In fact, according to Mayo Clinic, many people contract HSV-1 as babies if they have been kissed by a family member who had a cold sore.
Though oral herpes usually clears up on its own within a number of days, there are some things you can consider that will help relieve any irritation or pain:
- Cream to ease pain and irritation
- Antiviral cream to speed up healing time
- Cold sore patches
What is the treatment for genital herpes?
Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that almost anyone who is sexually active is at risk of contracting it. Despite popular belief, you can’t contract genital herpes from a toilet seat but you can contract by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus.
Similar to oral herpes, genital herpes sores are known to clear up on its own but the right medication can stop the symptoms from getting worse as well as ease any pain . If you have genital herpes, you may be prescribed:
- Antiviral medication
- Anaesthetic cream
What happens if you leave herpes untreated?
Many people who contract herpes don’t realize it. This comes down to the fact that herpes doesn’t always show obvious signs and symptoms, and when herpes symptoms do show - they can sometimes be quite mild.
Without regular sexual health testing, it’s possible to have the virus, not know, and, ultimately leave it untreated. Unfortunately, there are some notable complications associated with untreated herpes, particularly untreated genital herpes, these include:
- Increased risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Babies can be exposed to the virus during birth (neonatal herpes)
- Inflammation in the bladder or the lining of the rectum
Can you get rid of herpes yourself?
As mentioned above, the herpes virus cannot be completely cured but it can be treated. And while there is no way to treat the virus yourself from home, the blisters can sometimes heal and clear up on their own without treatment.
If you are experiencing discomfort from herpes sores, and you have been diagnosed with herpes by your doctor, according to the NHS there are a handful of ways to help relieve herpes symptoms, these include:
- Keep the area clean to avoid the blisters becoming infected
- Apply petroleum jelly or painkilling cream to ease any pain when using the toilet
- Avoid wearing tight clothing that could irritate the blisters
- Don’t apply ice directly to the blisters
Can herpes go away forever?
While the signs and symptoms associated with both types of herpes can come and go, the virus stays in the body and there is no cure.
With that said, the treatments available can help herpes outbreaks become shorter and less frequent. There are also medications available that can lower the risk of spreading the infection to others.
One of the best ways to reduce your risk of contracting an STD is with regular screening. This can be done by taking a trip to your doctors office 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 consider taking the test if:
- You become sexually active
- You have had unprotected sex
- You are experiencing symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection
- You are entering into a new sexual relationship
- You have received a notification from a previous partner that they are infected (STIs can remain dormant for years and/ or take up to three weeks to become detectable.)
See also: How do you Check for Herpes From Home?