i have some quick questions about herpes for people with experience. first off, there’s no judgement here, i just have questions. my boyfriend told me today that he just found out he has genital herpes and i love him and i’ve chosen to stay with him, but i want to know what other people with the virus go through. don’t sugar coat please, it’s just not what i’m looking for.
i want to be with him but i really want to know what could happen. your answers won’t affect my decision, i just need to be educated. sorry if some of the questions are invasive, only answer the ones you’re comfortable answering but i’m very curious. feel free to send me a msg through anon if you don’t feel comfortable answering on here.
1. how do you know you’re going to have an outbreak? is there a distinct pain or sensation? does it happen all over or just where the outbreak happens?
2. do they look like pimples? do they act like pimples? as in, do they pop and squirt pus? (sorry if that’s graphic or nosey). from the google images searches, all i’ve seen are worse-case scenarios and extreme close ups. it seems impossible to find out what a mild outbreak actually looks like. do they have an odour?
3. do they always hurt? like from the moment they appear to the moment they go away? does the pain come and go? is it only painful when contact is made, like if they rub against your jeans?
4. are they very tiny or are they larger, looking more like cold sores?
Thank you for reacting to his revelation in this way. Thank you for seeking information and seeing past a stupid virus instead of just freaking out and running for the hills. <3
YMMV on all of this, because every body reacts differently. For me the first maybe 3 outbreaks were the worst. The first year was pretty active. After that they fell off significantly, and now I only get an outbreak with literally one or two spots a few times a year.
1. For me, I feel a stabby, sharp pain — I call it nerve lightening — in my labia before an outbreak. My boyfriend feels a soreness and hypersensitivity in his skin (like having the flu) in his hips and butt and upper thighs. I don’t always feel anything, and when I feel it I don’t always have an outbreak, but I always assume it means I have the active virus on the skin. (Shedding.) OTC painkillers handle that pain pretty well.
2. Can be, but not usually. If I get blisters, it’s usually a little cluster of clear bubbles all together, or a single one all by itself. They fill with fluid until they break, then crust and heal. (You’re not supposed to break them, but I do sometimes.) A few times they’ve filled with white fluid, but not usually. And they’re itchy. Somewhere I wrote a comprehensive list of every symptom I’ve ever had…will try to dig it back up. Now that I’ve had it a while, I usually only ever get one or two little red spots that itch like a mosquito bite, but more annoying, and redder. And every once in a long while I’ll get an ulcer (sore spot that skips the blister stage) on my inner labia or the immediately surrounding and similar skin. I remember for the first outbreak my snatch did smell unusual to me. They contribute that to the ulcers sloughing off damaged skin cells, which can collect as a sort of discharge. Also, because it hurt to touch or run water over the area, I wasn’t cleaning as thoroughly. For the record, none my blisters or sores have ever caused a scar.
3. The first outbreaks were really painful for me, but even then I only remember the sores actively hurting when they were rubbing against something, like skin of clothing. I actually preferred the ulcers tucked between my labia because they were more protected and less likely to touch up against anything. But I have no patience for itch, so that was always the part that bugged the crap out of me. Lately I don’t notice my outbreaks right away, and I usually forget about them when I’m not paying attention to them, so no, they don’t hurt all the time.
4. I’ve never had cold sores, so I can’t compare. The blisters are tiny, like the size of the plastic head of a sewing pin. The sores…The biggest ones were oblong, but probably didn’t take up more total space than the end of a pencil. Most were smaller than that.
EarthWindandHerpes has posted a few photos of outbreaks that people have submitted to her. TheSexUneducated posted pictures of one of her own outbreaks once, on the back of her thigh.
I’m happy to talk about my personal experience in unflinching detail, so if you think of anything else, give a shout!
Apparently that’s a thing! The swelling cause by sores can close the urethra.
Learned something new today. Pretty cool.
I mean, unless that happens to you. I’m willing to bet that’s not super cool.
The bottom of my right butt cheek and the top of my right thigh have been sensitive today. I realized on my way into work the my travel pill case actually traveled with me this past weekend, so it’s not in my work bag. So while I’ve been taking ibuprofin, which I keep in my desk, I won’t be able to take any anti-virals until I get home. Usually I take valacyclovir at the first signs of an outbreak, and I’m disappointed I can’t do that now.
In other news, Boyfriend had sensitivity in his hips at least a week or so ago, but didn’t have any visible OB symptoms until yesterday, which we both found interesting.
It’s nice that we can do things together.
Not surprised. I’ve been wondering all week if I was getting one. It’s one little bump on the hood above my clitoris, and some skin and nerve sensitivity running from my right outer labia along the bottom of my right butt cheek. It feels like somebody pinching a bruise, anywhere from just-enough-to-know-they-have-my-by-the-nads to GAH-STOP-IT-OW. It makes it uncomfortable to sit. My symptoms tend to be heavier on my left side, so this is kinda new.
Anyway, I allowed myself to go back to sleep until I wasn’t tired anymore. When I woke up again I took two of the smaller valacyclovir pills, a couple l-lysine, and a couple ibuprofin. The skin sensitivity has faded for now.
My answer: thedoddsinator
Howdy. So, I have just set up a tumblr account (it's been on the to- do list) specifically because i came across your blog. Any who, here's the sitch: about 6-8 weeks ago i got what I assumed was a shaving spot. Couldn't see it, naturally i am there giving it a damn good squeezearoo all day. Swollen gland, brief fever later that day and the next, manage to check myself out and it would appear my 'spot' had popped and turned into a teeeny open would, which was an absolute bitch when I peed.TBC
so, got myself to the doctors 3 days after my first symptoms, who gives me a course of acticlovir and says it’s probably our friend herpdederp. Disbelief, tears, head in hands, walk of shame through the waiting room, you know the drill, and I went to a clinic for a swab and blood test. All came back negative. Obviously I am a happy bunny. until yesterday. Exact same place, we’ve got a sore (which hasnt been squeezed) and my gland is swollen again. I am keeping an eye out for flue like
symptoms, but none as of yet. GOD sorry for giving you my life story here brother. What I am trying to get to (eventually) is, how common in your experience are false negatives? I know after a while the virus retreats but- 3 days? if it’s not herpdederp what the blazes could it be?! I havent had any tingling or pre-sore- symptoms, and last time there was just the one spot i squeezed to oblivion and this time there is just a small, pink, swollen area. Doctors again tomorrow methinks.
Hello, anon! Welcome to Tumblr! And, for the time being at least, to Herpblr.
Ok, so, sore spots and swollen glands and such. Sounds totally herpdederpdey. Tests come back negative, both swab and blood. So WTF.
First off, herpes tests. Herpes is a tricky bastard, and false negatives are definitely A Thing. There are a number of different herpes tests, and they test for different things, and have varying degrees of accuracy.
- Swabs: The major disadvantage of the culture is its high rate of false negatives. Because a culture works by requiring virus that is active, if a lesion is very small, or is already beginning to heal, there may not be enough virus present for an accurate culture.
- IgM tests: IgM is actually the first antibody that appears after infection, but it may disappear thereafter. It can also show back up later, so it’s not a good indicator of a first outbreak, and it doesn’t differentiate between HSV1 and HSV2, and sometimes confuses chicken pox and other related viruses with HSV.
- IgG tests: The most accurate! However, [t]he challenge here is that the time it takes for IgG antibodies to reach detectable levels can vary from person to person. For one person, it could take just a few weeks, while it could take a few months for another. So even with the accurate tests, a person could receive a false negative if the test is taken too soon after contracting the virus. For the most accurate test result, it is recommended to wait 12 - 16 weeks from the last possible date of exposure before getting an accurate, type-specific blood test in order to allow enough time for antibodies to reach detectable levels.
(The Herpes Handbook also discusses various types of tests at length, starting on page 6.)
I’m having a hard time finding definitive, reliable data on how often tests results come back as a false positive, but the short answer is definitely yes, it’s possible that you contracted herpes and tested negative for it anyway. It all depends on which tests they used, and how much of the virus or antibodies they were looking for were present in the samples they took. Your best bet is definitely to have the doc look at it again, and maybe hit you up with an IgG test now that some time has passed.
What else could it be? Any number of things. A recurring cyst, perhaps. The things that go wrong with Vagina&Co bits all tend to look pretty similar, and herpes likes to look different on different people. No way of knowing what it is without your doc pokin’ around again and gathering more information.
Good luck! Let me know what happens. I’m here to yay or mope with you, whichever proves appropriate.
and I noticed something that he, apparently, had not.
He sensed my moment of hesitation.
What’s wrong, do I have a spot?
Yep. It’s a little scabby right here. I wondered if you had something going on the other day, remember?
Yeah, it’s worse now, but it didn’t feel like anything. Not even that tingly feeling, that skin sensitivity, you know?
Yeah. But it doesn’t even itch? Mine always itches. That’s crazy.
Well, this is what you have to look forward to, maybe, I guess.
…You know, it’s been a year.
For me. It’s been a year now.
…Thanks for reminding me.
…Wait, me saying that upsets you?
It’s still a sore subject for me.
The conversation fizzled there. A little while later we exchanged goodnights and I love yous and went to sleep.
First thing I took away from this whole conversation was this: Boyfriend has been experiencing outbreak symptoms for at least a few days now, AND HE HAD NO IDEA. This is a guy who is aware of his HSV+ status, who knows what the symptoms look like, and we even noticed a rough texture on a little area of his penis a few days ago, AND HE STILL DIDN’T KNOW HE WAS DEVELOPING AN OUTBREAK. This is the reality of herpes, people. For most people who have it, it’s super mild. This is why it’s so easy to spread it. This is also why the stigma is ridiculous. You’re going to alienate people who have a generally harmless condition that is such a non-event that they’re completely oblivious to it.
I’m also a little bummed that I can’t always talk to him about my own experience without upsetting him. I mean, this is my life now. This is something I’m experiencing, and I share it with him, and it’s really something that only affects me and him in any real, functional way. I can tell him if I have symptoms, no problem, and he can tell me if he has them, and we adjust our activities accordingly. But he beats himself up so much for having spread it to me that I can’t talk about the transmission part of the whole deal without him going to a negative place. I don’t like making him feel that way, but I also don’t like feeling like I can’t talk about it. I have no idea if this will change or improve, or if it’ll always be an emotional taboo.
It makes me doubly thankful for the Tumblr community. I know I can always talk to you guys.
It’s not bad. Three little blisters, all in the same place, no bigger than about the flat surface of a metal thumb tack. They’re on my left outer labia, and it’ll probably suck a bit when they break and start sticking to my underwear.
This morning I was proud of myself because I remembered to request the white bread toasted for breakfast instead of the wheat. (Wheat bread is high in L-Arginine, a natural amino acid that can trigger outbreaks.) Generally I completely forget to consider my food choices during outbreaks, and I certainly can’t be bothered to worry about how herpes-friendly my meals are are between outbreaks. Today, today I remembered.
Of course, then I went out and picked up Halloween candy (because I wanted it), caffeinated soda (because Boyfriend wanted it), and pistachios (because we both like them). Chocolate, caffeine, and nuts? All trigger foods.
New Model For Vaccination Against Genital Herpes
This is not only really great just on the merit of being closer to a genital herpes vaccine, but also because this technology could be used for an HIV vaccine and many other infections.
um, but why? herpes doesn’t hurt you in any real way (except if in the eye), it’s just socially constructed as shameful. great way to commodify on shame. fuck that.
Although I agree that herpes definitely isn’t something to worry about too much because it can’t cause permanent damage and the stigma against it is the main problem with it, it’s still incredibly uncomfortable and can cause pain and problems with your immune system. As someone who already has problems with their immune system, getting genital herpes made that worse and if I could have taken a vaccine to ensure that didn’t happen and that the incredibly painful first outbreak didn’t happen I would have taken that vaccine. That’s why I also caution people to use protection with various types of sex. Yes getting herpes isn’t the end of things and you can live an amazing life and have a great sex life after, but it is difficult to go through.
Not to mention the fact that this all over increases technology that may one day include a vaccine for HIV which definitely has more of an impact on your life than herpes and has an even more detrimental impact on your immune system.
As someone who has Genital Herpes, I see a vaccine as something that could be incredibly helpful. Living with this STD is complicated - complicated because of social stigma, physical discomfort and its potential to effect my ability to have relationships and sex. All of these things have an immense effect on my ability, at times, to operate in the world. It sometimes changes interpersonal dynamics, it sometimes changes my ability to wholly express myself sexually and makes me much more susceptible to other medical issues and other STD’s. A vaccine could not only prevent other people from experiencing this kind of inhibition, but could also prevent future partners from having to worry about contracting the virus.
You can’t just shrug things off as social construction. Yes, social construction is a very real mechanism that is operating on all things and provides meaning and context for those things, but you know what else is real? Having a really fucking painful herpes outbreak. That is real as real can be … and uncomfortable … and painful … and it doesn’t matter what society says about that, when its just me and my body all alone in a room, I have to walk myself through that experience in a very loving way so I don’t allow the negativity of the very social construction you’re talking about to eat me up inside.
I also have HSV, and if I had the opportunity to go back and be vaccinated? Damn skippy I’d do it. The symptoms are not fun, and the medication to treat them or keep them at bay is fucking expensive. I don’t know a whole bunch of people right now who have a lot of spare cash to throw around. Right now I’m fortunate enough to have medical insurance, but I’m working part time and collecting part time unemployment. This morning I woke up with an outbreak. I don’t have any anti-viral pills left. So do I call my gyno and have my script refilled, and fork over $120 towards my new deductible? Or do I rough it out and hold onto that cash so I can contribute more fairly to my and Boyfriend’s living expenses? Somebody with a compromised immune system might be in enough discomfort during an outbreak that they need to take off work, missing out on the income they need.
Living with medical afflictions costs people money. All the body positivity in the world won’t change that.
I’m about to do something that is probably a terrible idea. I’m about to talk about STIs. I’m not a doctor. I am familiar with how things said on the internet are quoted out of context or read without full comprehension. I feel like these things need to be said anyway.
The way that I see it, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Syphilis are kind of like Strep Throat for your genitals. They’re all bacteria. They’re all easily cured with antibiotics if caught early. If you don’t catch and treat them early, they can cause serious damage to your body. Untreated Syphilis will eventually eat your brain, and kill you. Strep Throat can progress into Rheumatic Fever, which people used to (possibly still do) die from too. If you have one of these infections, it’s really freaking rude to pass it around. Do you see the parallels here? Sweet.
First let’s talk about catching things early. You’re aware of your throat. You’re aware of how it usually feels when you swallow and how things usually taste. You’re familiar with what your tongue and mouth look like on an average day. You know when something isn’t right. How aware are you of your genitals? Do you know how they usually feel? Do you know which parts are sensitive in which ways, what they look like in their resting and aroused states? If you have a vagina, do you know what goo happens during which parts of your cycle and what the typical texture and taste of these goos is? If you have a penis, I’m sure there’s some kind of equivalent, but I’m not qualified to speak on that. If you’re good friends with your genitals, you’re more likely to notice as soon as something out of the ordinary is going on with them. However, some STIs don’t show symptoms. Some people don’t show symptoms. Sometimes things get overlooked or written off as symptoms of another issue. This is why frequent STI testing is recommended, even if you’re diligently using condoms. Condoms can break, they can slip off, and they only cover part of the genitals. STIs can be transmitted through oral sex. STIs can be transmitted via shared toys, a finger that goes in a vagina and then into your mouth.
Moving on to how it’s rude to pass it around. If your throat hurts and you feel sick, I’d like to think you’d call out of work. I’d like to think that you’d wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough, and be careful about where you leave your tissues. You might warn people you’ve been in close contact with you’re sick and remind them to drink their orange juice. If it burns when you pee, you have an odd rash, or your genitals smell different than normal, I’d like to think you’d keep them in your pants until they can be assessed by a doctor. I’d like to think you’d immediately tell your sexual partners that they may have been exposed to something.
This paragraph is kind of random but definitely related: Most sexual education materials seem to have a worst-case scenario approach to what STIs look like and how they present. The most readily available pictures of each disease are, frankly, horrifying, but they don’t stop people from having sex. They don’t even stop people from having unprotected sex with near-strangers they’ve picked up at a bar. I think these worst-case images may actually contribute to an unrealistic feeling of ability to spot someone with an STI. For instance, you meet someone at a nightclub. They seem nice, smart, clean. You take their pants off later and see one small irritated bump. It could be a shaving injury or an ingrown hair. After all, it doesn’t look a thing like the cauliflower-like growths you’ve seen in pictures of HPV and certainly isn’t a blistered mass of angry red sores like the images of HSV2 (genital herpes) you were shown once in 8th grade. You really want to get your dick wet, and they *do* seem nice and clean. Maybe it is just razorburn, or maybe you end up with an incurable viral STI, partially because you were making decisions based on faulty information.
Why don’t we approach sexually transmitted infections the same way that we approach the flu or pinkeye? Why isn’t practical, easily understood information about STIs readily available? Why, in a world where Jenna Jameson is a household name and people can (and do) google up every sexual act imaginable to watch video footage of it, are we still so uncomfortable discussing sexual health?
I’m really glad the OP touched on something that bugs the crap out of me: It’s almost impossible to find photos of STD symptoms that are not horrific, exaggerated and worst-case-scenario.
My first outbreak? Pretty bad. A bunch of sores. Still nowhere near as bad as the photos I’ve seen online. Subsequent outbreaks? The earlier ones were maybe 3 sores. Now it’s one. That’s it. A small, tucked away, not-that-scary-looking papercut kinda thing. I could have had an ingrown hair, or cut myself shaving, or maybe my partner had a sharp fingernail and was a little too rough during sex play.
Boyfriend’s first outbreak? Tiny. One little place. He describes it as a “weird-looking spot.” A SPOT. Not a horrifying bumpy mess all over his penis. It was so small that the medical professional who inspected it wrote it off as “could be anything,” wrote him a script for UTI meds, and sent him on his way.
So in a world where we can’t talk openly about STDs and sex and sexual health? Where we’re afraid to talk about our own bodies and desires and what we do with those things? Where people would rather not be tested than know what they might be carrying? Think about how easy it is for someone who has a suspicious looking bump to think, “Hey, it doesn’t look like the awful photos they showed us in health class, so maybe it’ll just go away.”
It’s feast or famine. Either we’re afraid to talk about it at all, or we flash around a photo of someone with lesions covering half their body. For the majority of people, this will not be anything like their experience. For the majority of people, the information we’re (not) providing is utterly useless.
**Also, a friendly reminder that while HSV2 is the herpes strain more likely to thrive in the genital area, HSV1 and HSV2 can both be found on the genitals or on the mouth.**
Mild itch, a couple bumps.
When they tell you that 80% of people who have genital herpes don’t know it, because they don’t recognize the symptoms?
This is why.
I know I have it, and I still don’t always recognize my symptoms.