Living with Herpes - Daily Challenges

So, you’ve been diagnosed with genital herpes. Will it affect your life dramatically?

Published: Saturday 14 April 2018

So, you’ve been diagnosed with genital herpes. Will it affect your life dramatically? Maybe, but probably not. With a few simple changes to your daily routine, you can minimise inconveniences and disruptions.

Accept it

Chances are that you are angry. Perhaps you are angry at the person who passed on the infection, but often, many are not even aware they have the infection and have passed it on unknowingly. This is because the virus can be dormant in the body and not show any symptoms, especially in women. It can still be infectious as the skin cells shed the virus continuously.

Herpes is very common and since there is no cure to the virus infection, it is a lifetime condition. But chin up, there are medications that can help keep your lifestyle more or less the same.

Managing Aches

Carry some over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers with you to reduce the pain during symptomatic outbreaks. Common OTC painkillers to choose from are paracetamol, aspirin, acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Each person is different so if one of these medications does not work for you, you can try another. If you need something a little stronger, your doctor will be able to provide you with a prescription.

Day-to-day Care

Daily care is important to minimise the pain and discomfort. The affected area can be soaked in warm water to clean it but make sure it is kept dry otherwise.

If towel drying the area is uncomfortable or painful, use the cool function on the hair dryer instead.

Also, use cotton underwear as cotton absorbs moisture much better synthetic materials.

Don’t take risks

Always be upfront and honest with potential partners and wear a condom for sex, even if you do not have an outbreak at the time.

During an outbreak, make sure that the affected areas do not come into direct contact with your partner. It is best to avoid sex during this time, until the symptoms have subsided.

Treatment

Herpes is a lifelong condition so you will probably need to take medication for the years to come. But, for many, taking medicine is a part of modern life these days. Everyone takes tablets for something or the other, even if it is just vitamins or supplements.

Medications can reduce the severity of the symptoms and their duration during a flare up. There are three main medications for genital herpes: aciclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valaciclovir (Valtrex).

These are not a cure but they can help to control the flare ups both in terms of their severity and their duration.

Courses of Treatment

Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your doctor can put you on a different course of treatment -

Intermittent treatment - if you experience just a few outbreaks of herpes in a year and your symptoms are mild and manageable, you will only have to take a short course of medication for about 5 days.

Suppressive treatment - if you have outbreaks often (more than 6 per year) and your symptoms cause you severe pain and tenderness, your doctor might put you on a longer course of suppression to keep the virus at bay, repressing its action. In this case, you should take the tablets everyday.

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