Dr. Amy answers questions about herpes, Page 3

Do you have any questions or concerns about how herpes will affect your life, love relationships, future, etc?
Receive advice from Dr. Amy Demner, a Board Certified Clincial Sexologist:

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Dear Dr. Amy:

I have been seeing a woman for the past year. Recently she informed me that she has herpes and has known this prior to our relationship of a year. She tells me she hasn't had an outbreak until recently and we have not been sexual during that time. I have not displayed any of the symptoms associated with the disease however I am concerned. I'm also very disturbed that it took a year to learn this rather valuable information when in no uncertain terms we openly discussed our past history and medical background. I have come to care about this person a great deal but this is something unforgiveable. And all because she was ashamed of what I might think of her. I'm not quite sure how to respond-until recently we were planning a life together and now I'm not quite sure of anything?

Signed, Confused

P.S. Here is a little poem you might want to share with others who may be going through similar circumstances.


My knees start to shake, when you're in sight My heart is filled with wonder, my heart with fright.
When will this feeling stop? When sis it start? How can I listen to my mind. Without breaking my heart?
I'm so confused. What should I do? I can't think of anything, except for you.
Should I ignore you? Or just give it time? I can't think straight, my heart controls my mind.

Dr. Amy Answers Question about
Herpes and Intimacy

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Confused,

You are describing a phenomena psychiatrist Carl Jung explains as: you can not think and feel with equal intensity at the same time. When you are in your hear-felt or feeling mode it is difficult to be rational, as visa versa. What might help is for you to verbally express your feelings, concerns, and confusion, as you did so wonderfully in your poem, directly to your lover. Encourage her to do the same. Try to discuss why it took her so long to tell you-listen to what she says without attacking her. Our past very often effects our ability to be truly intimate with another and she may not have had partners as understanding as you are before. Thanks for sharing your poem with the readers.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I am a 22 year old female and my 23 year old boyfriend has this disease. He told me from the very start, so I have visited this site before, but the reason I am writing this is because he likes to have threesomes, and the couple I know didn't know he had herpes. I asked him if he uses protection with them and he said he used to, but he doesn't always anymore. I was shocked and horrified to find this out, both for my sake and for theirs. He doesn't have sex when he is having an outbreak, but I still don't always trust it. Anyway, I told this couple today that he has it, is that right of me to do? I mean it is his life, but the lady is trying to get pregnant again and I thought it was a good idea for them to know. He doesn't know that I told them, and I made it clear to them that if they confronted him about to make sure he has no idea I am the one that told them. What should I do if he finds out I told them? Did I have the right to tell them in the first place?
Thank you, Danielle

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Danielle,

You are talking about issues of trust and communication and state you are horrified that your boyfriend did not inform his partners about having herpes. Your concerns about him possibly infecting a female who is trying to get pregnant as well as yourself are valid. Why did you not let your lover know of these concerns? You sound angry (understandably) at your boyfriend for being deceitful yet you have done the same by going behind his back.

I also wonder if his choice of partners outside of your relationship is mutually agreeable. I recommend you take a look at your own feelings and motives to help you decide just how important honesty and trust is in a relationship.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I don't know if I have herpes, but I'm scared straight. I went to my ob today for a routine IUD check that I just had put in. I had a "lesion" that my doctor took a swab of and am waiting the results.

I'm married, second marriage for both. Four years with my current husband and we have a 1 year old. I have been faithful (to both husbands) and I believe my current husband has been faithful as well. We are both so painfully busy, there would be no time! Anyway, my question is: is it possible to that I contracted it from my husband 10 years ago and just had a healthy enough outbreak to even notice it? I'm afraid my current husband may disbelieve a little and I'm sad. I don't know if he believes that I have been faithful. He hasn't said so-men don't tend to do that….but for example, I'm in the bedroom surfing the web before bed, and …. He fell asleep on the couch?

My ex-husband never clued me in, but my suspicions are that he was unfaithful. In fact, we had a "babysitter" that had herpes and was flirtatious with my ex.

I also just started tanning nude on some tanning beds and read that tanning can start it. Maybe someone before me had it and secreted and now I have it. I'm hoping mine is so small that I did not notice it 10 YEARS AGO! I'm mad at my ex, but would be particularly concerned if I contracted it at the tanning beds….scared for others.
Anxiously Awaiting your reply…..

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Anxiously Awaiting:

Your letter poses a multitude of questions well worth exploring.

1.There appears to be a question about fidelity and trust in your current marriage as evidenced my your spouse sleeping on the couch and your statement that you believe that he is faithful. If you are unable to discuss these concerns, a marriage counselor may be helpful.

2. The incubation period for herpes is generally 2-20 days but people have reported first outbreaks years after suspected contact, which may similar to your case.

3. The anger and betrayal you are feeling because your husband may have given you herpes is understandable. It is difficult, however, to know with certainty who is responsible and who is a carrier. Perhaps your current spouse is a carrier-he may want to get tested.

4. Tanning has been cited as a possible factor in outbreaks. I do not have any facts on tanning beds, so if any readers have contracted herpes this way, kindly write to me.

Dear Dr. Amy:

Hello Amy. I am a 16 year old male who has a good outlook on life but a nearly hopeless feeling now. About 2 months ago I had unprotected sex with a friend of mine. The next morning I noticed I had a rash, but I wasn't sure exactly what it was. After a few days the rash began to receed, but little yellowish/white sores appeared. Until about 2 weeks ago, I had absolutely NO idea what it was, but it persisted to stay with me. I saw the girl I believe gave it to me with her best friend (a good friend of mine), in a store her best friend told me the girl I slept with has herpes, but didn't sound to serious about it. I told two of my really good friends about it, they both said they have something similar, so I figured it was just a male adolescent thing. One of them is a virgin and the other has only slept with two girls who were also virgins. I am worried about what I should do, the infection doesn't seem to bother me except when it itches. If you could tell me what you think it may be or what you think I should do, that would be great. On a side note my whole life has been nothing but stress, especially the last few months, I have been having a lot of family problems. Thanks a lot.
Sincerely, Lost in LaLa Land

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Lost:

Contrary to your friends' diagnosis, rashes and little yellowish/white sores are not a "male adolescent thing". What is more typical of adolescence are the questions, emotions, and rollar coastering that you are experiencing as well as your trust in your friends views and opinions. It is admirable and sensible that you have sought out the advice of a professional.

If you have an infection, you need to see a physician-that is the only accurate way of finding out what your symptoms mean. Your friend who casually noted that the girl you slept with had herpes may lead you to believe that herpes is not serious. At present, herpes is an incurable disease that can be spread through sexual contact. While sex is a wonderful and enjoyable experience to share with a caring partner, it also carries a lot of responsibility. One of them is to be aware of safe sex practices and to use them to protect yourself and your partner.

You mention that right now you are under a lot of stress. You can eliminate the stress of wondering what is wrong by seeing your doctor. I know it is difficult right now to maintain your positive outlook: taking care of your body is a step in getting you back on track.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I am a 30-yr old female who has just met a wonderful new guy. I got genital herpes from a not-so-wonderful guy a year and 1/2 ago. I have just recently told my new boyfriend about my herpes, and he was very caring and supportive. The first thing I'd like to do here is tell all those who fear "the discussion" that it's a lot easier than you think. Your partner cares about you, not the virus. Don't be afraid to talk about it!!

With that said, I have a question regarding safe-sex practices. While we were discussing herpes, my boyfriend asked me whether or not he would still be able to perform oral sex on me. We haven't becomesexually active yet, because we both want to be as informed as we possibly can at the outset. My doctor told me that she has married patients that have unprotected sex without any transmissions, but she never mentioned anything about oral sex. Could you please enlighten us?
Thanks ever so much, Seeker of Truth

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Seeker of Truth,

Thanks for your words of encouragement. It is very helpful for other readers to know that people with herpes have continued to maintain satisfying relationships. In response to your question: unprotected genital or oral sex at the site of a known herpes infection always runs a risk. Even when leisons are not present, viral shedding can occur which can spread the disease to a partner. This does not mean that everyone who has unprotected sex will get herpes but THERE IS ALWAYS A RISK.

To play it safe with oral sex, females can cover their genitals with a dental dam. This is a small latex sheet (actually used in dentistry) that allows for sensation while protecting your partner from direct contact.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I am 34 years old and I am expecting our first child around 22nd July (currently 32 weeks pregnant). I have suffered from genital herpes for about 12 years. I am on the tail end of an outbreak now - the second one during this pregnancy. I have been given the option of a C-section at 37 weeks to avoid infecting the baby but my doctor is also happy to keep an eye on me and deliver the baby vaginally if no lesions are present. I am an ex-midwife so I have some medical knowledge. I just don't know what to do and I would never forgive myself if the baby contracted neonatal herpes. Do you have any advice. I would appreciate another opinion.

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Lyn,

My advice is to make a decision based on factual information regarding childbirth and herpes, your personal medical knowledge and experience, a trusted and competent physician's advice, your partner's input, and your knowledge of yourself and ability to live with your decision. If you take all these precautions and act in a responsible fashion (not purely emotional) you have done all that is humanly possible. Other people can advise you, but you will have to live with the outcome.

Due to the nature of biology, our offspring are susceptible to our genetics, personality, and heritage whether it is positive or negative. We can't blame ourselves for our biology nor control every outcome that is the nature of our birth and life experiences. We can only do our best to provide the healthiest physical and emotional environment and example for our children. Having a family has risks, but you will hopefully discover that the rewards and richness of your new family member will bring joy and enhancement to you and your family's lives.

Dear Dr. Amy:

Wow, I thought I would never find information on this subject, but at any rate I'm gald I did. Question- can you have herpes in side the mouth, on your tongue? I'm sure this sounds strange, but I quess if you have to get it, it has to been somewhere real strange. Thanks for the info, and for being here.
Need to know,

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Robot,

Yes, it is possible to have oral herpes which can be located on your lips, tongue, mouth, or throat. Warm, moist mucus areas are places where the herpes virus is attracted. That's why genitals, anus, and eyes can also be host sites. I recommend that you see a physician to determine an accurate diagnosis and treatment for the problem you are experiencing.

I'm glad to hear you found this site to be helpful in obtaining information and suppport.

Would you date someone with herpes?

Dear Dr. Amy:

Hello, I have a question. Well I was asked the question would I date someone with herpes. I said no. They said I was wrong. Well me being a health science major and taking sex ed classes and epidimeology classes I know that you can catch herpes between outbreaks and if there are no symptoms. So tell me am I wrong for this.

Dr. Amy's Response:

Dear Poster who said "no" to dating someone with herpes,

I am assuming the "they" you are referring to are classmates or peers. You are the only one in charge of your body. The decisions and choices you make in how to care for your body are soley up to you. People often make choices based on peer pressure, and regret these choices later. Many people do choose to knowingly have sex with someone who has herpes. As long as you are aware of the risks it is up to each individual to make their own choice. Of cource, using precaution and protection is your best defense against STDs. You must do what you believe is a decision that you can live with.

Dear Dr. Amy:

My husband and I have been completely monogamous for the 13 years that we have been together. Neither of us has herpes. We recently decided that it would be fun to live a common fantasy: involving another woman in our sex life. We met a possible candidate. We have not tried anything yet, and we've been getting to know each other. Last week, she called and told us that she couldn't go out because she had a cold sore. Now we are afraid of persuing this relationship. She assures us that once the cold sore "dries up", that it is no longer contagious. Also, what if she gave one of us oral sex? Could we catch it? My husband and I both feel like we should just dissolve this relationship. Any suggestions on how we could let her down gently? She is STILL a nice person...and, she does have to live with herpes, a bummer.
Curious Couple

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Curious Couple,

The element of risk and fantasy can add excitement and variety to a couple's sexual relationship. The risk of "getting caught" and "doing something wrong" can heighten sexual arousal. However, taking a medical risk is not a sexual turn on and can lead to transmission of STDs. Sex is fun as long as it does not cause physical or psychological injury and is agreeable to all involved.

You have described your relationship as being exclusively with one another for the past 13 years. Keep in mind that new partners may have had multiple partners which increases the risk of STDs. You are not only sleeping with that one person, but all the partners they have had.

Yes, you can transmit oral herpes to the genitals. You and your spouse need to decide how you want to tell your friend of your decisions to terminate the relationship. She may be unaware of the ways herpes can be transmitted. Letting her know your concerns may help her incorporate safer sex practices into her life. It may also help to prevent another person from contracting a STD due to lack of knowledge.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I went to the gynecologist today for what I thought was a recurrence of genital warts, which I first was treated for in 1992, and then once again in 1996. Well, when I informed the doctor that I experience a little pain and discomfort, he told me that warts don't hurt. Also, he said my symptoms (small inflammation/pain around the anus) that went away in 5 days were consistent with herpes. I thought he was crazy, but after reading all day today on herpes (hopeless academic, I suppose!) I wonder if it is really a recurrence of herpes, and I never was properly diagnosed with a primary outbreak. My boyfriend and I broke up last week, I have not been eating properly as a result, and I have been tanning nude in a tanning bed. Could these actions trigger a recurrence? And, maybe I'm imagining it now, but after seeing the doctor this morning, I feel as if my vaginal area is swollen and sore, and the glands around my groin are swollen. I think I probably answered my own question, huh?
Please advise, Jennifer

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Jennifer,

Yes, you did answer your question. You have listed the following symptoms and triggers that may be related to herpes: 1. Pain and discomfort in genitals. 2. Inflamation and pain around anus. 3. Swollen glands in genital area. 4. Physical examination results of possible herpes. 5. Possisble misdiagnosis of genital warts. 6. Poor eating habits. 7. Sun exposure. 8. Stress related to break up with boyfriend.

As you have realized, you need to get further testing. Other readers can benefit from your method of analytically reporting symptoms. The gathering of accurate information was also instrumental in your ability to think clearly. It shows you know how to take care of yourself.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I'm a 29 year old athletically active female. I had my first outbreak of herpes 2 at Christmas-time 1996. I was DEVASTATED. I found out later that my new husband had an affair a few months prior to my first breakout. I had a really awful first breakout. It took my doctor 3 visits to diagnose it and by that time I had a full-fledged major breakout I read somehwere that if a person is treated with oral acyclovir during the first breakout that future breakouts and symptoms may be reduced. The problem is that I have frequent occurances...probably one per month. (I used to have them even more frequently). The breakouts are far less severe than they used to be. I take a combo of lysiene and acyclovir when I notice symptoms. My question is: Is it normal to have so many breakouts? I have been tested negative for HIV (I didn't have any CLUE what my husband may have gotten into) I've also had blood tests done to rule out other problems. At the onset of an outbreak, some of my joints become irritable and I get achy and just feel kind of crappy for a few days. The only way to relieve it is by taking an over the counter flu remedy. Can I expect these symptoms to lessen over time? It appears to be getting somewhat better...but slowly. Is there anything I can do? (I already got the divorce!)

By the way, just as a message for anyone reading this, it's not that horrifying to tell someone. I've told a very few friends and family members and all have been very supportive. I think pursuing a love relationship has to start with being yourself and being true friends with someone...if it's meant to be, the herpes won't matter. Have faith in yourself.

Dr. Amy's Response:

Thank you for sharing your experience and words of encouragement with other readers.You have stated some important and helpful information. First of all, early detection and treatment is the first step in gaining some control over the physical and emotional effects of having herpes. Your decision to be tested for HIV as well as other diseases was very wise. It is always a possibility that herpes alone is not responsible for all the symptoms. Without a thorough diagnosis, other problems can go undetected.

It is difficult to note what is "normal" for individuals with herpes because the type and severity of symptoms can vary greatly. Other females have noted that breakouts tend to occur around their periods. Since you describe monthly outbreaks, you may want to chart to see if your hormonal cycle relates to you herpes cycle.

I'm glad to hear that you are feeling better. Stress may very well be a factor. It sounds as though your marriage was a source of stress and it probably is not a mere coincidence that your stress level was reduced following your divorce. You may want to make an effort to incorporate some relaxation into your routine. While exercise is a great stress reducer and boosts the immune system, relaxation is equally beneficial. Take some quiet, peaceful time for yourself. Nature walks, soothing music, down time, yoga, are but a few suggestions.

Dear Dr. Amy:

Hi Dr. Amy. I am 17 and I've just found out (it's been about 1 or 2 months) that I have herpes. One of my first symptoms of herpes was thick discharge. I was just wondering if I am always going to have a heavy and thick discharge? I thought I would only have the discharge when it flares up or something like that but I find that everytime I go to the bathroom there is a large amount of discharge in my underwear. It appears to be dry on my underwear but when I took it it flakes up. And also there is a hideous odor that comes along with it. How can I get rid of it? It really bothers me because when I go to get intimate (and yes it's protected) with my mate there is this strong odor coming from me and I don't even want to know what he is thinking. He already knows that I have it and he has it too, but I don't want him to have to smell me and see thick white stuff in my underwear. Is it something that I will have to talk to my doctor about? Can she give me something for it? I just wanted to ask you first to see if it was normal or not. Thank you very much.

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Shante,

Having a slight vaginal discharge is not uncommon for females particularly around the middle of their menstrual cycle. However, what you are describing sounds more like an infection due to the odor and density of the discharge. This may or not be related to herpes and may require a different medication. Yes, you need to go to your doctor so that she can analyze the disharge and prescribe proper treatment.

Dear Dr. Amy:

My question is about a child who has a rash that appears on his legs, arms, chest, and back. He had the chicken pox when he was 4 months old. He is plagued with allergies, and I am pretty sure his immune system is very weak. He has asthma and is constantly being treated with steroids. The unfortunate part of this is that he is only 4 years old. His rash began on his thigh, below the right buttock. It appears as small circles that heal and form "deep" scabs. It is somewhat difficult to describe, but they have a definite pattern. What makes me think that it has something to do with herpes is, that when the scab first appeared, his younger brother contracted the chicken pox. The doctor was very evasive (like he didn't know what it was) and prescribed Zovirax. However, it seems like the rash has just spread all over his body. I just wondered if you have encountered anything like this, and if you can tell if this is the herpes virus affecting his whole body? Also, is this contagious to everyone who comes in contact with him?
Worried Mom

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Worried Mom,

It sounds like you need to find a pediatric specialist who is knowledgable in infectious disease, virual infection, and/or immune systems. Your pediatrician may not have the expertise to manage this particular problem as it is quite specific. Try calling the American Medical Association at (312) 464-5000 or at www.ama-assn.org/ or The Center for Disease Control at (800) 232-1311 for a local referral.

Dear Dr. Amy:

Hi. I have lived with herpes since I was 17, I am now 21. It seems that over the years I have gotten more depressed about this, I cry all the time and have given up hope, I feel like I am all alone. Sure they say that 1 in 5 have this disease but who are those 1 in 5? I feel very alone. I guess it has gotten worse over the past four months because I have met someone, who is really nice to me, and wants to marry me. One night we were talking about what we fear and he told me he feared getting AIDS, or cancer, or something like that. This just made me cry because I feel that I am his biggest fear because this is pretty close. I'm also afraid that if I have sex I might give it to him. See, I got this disease from my first boyfriend, and then he left me. This other guy comes along, and was very persistant, so we went out. I told him that I had herpes, and we tried to be careful but he still got it. I'm afraid of this happening because I have an outbreak every month. I stayed with this guy for over 2 years, because I felt obligated to, but he was emotionally abusive, and later became physically abusive to me, so when he broke up with me it was a blessing. It has been over a year now and he still semi-stalks me, but I guess I deserve this so I haven't done anything about it. What I am really afraid of is being rejected, being alone, yet of getting too close. I guess it would help if I had someone to talk to about this, who also has it, but the closest support group is 4 hours away. I guess I would just like to end it all, so I wouldn't have to go through this any more. I pray to God to take my life. Is there any hope out there?????

Dr. Amy's Response:

Yes, there is hope. You have described some signs of depression- excessive crying, feeling hopeless, and low self-esteem. The good news is that depression is treatable and responds well to psychotherapy and/or medication. I recommend that you begin by having an evaluation by a psychiatrist who can recommend a course of treatment. This is the first thing you need to do to get started.

You obviously are in a lot of emotional pain and feel like you don't have any options or control over your life. No one deserves to be in an abusive relationship or to be stalked. You can get legal protection-check into that. This is probably hard for you to believe right now because when you are feeling depressed it's difficult to imagine things getting better. Accepting help from others is hard to do but you have made the first step by writing to me.

While a support group would be beneficial, as you mentioned, the distance does not make that possible. You may find another type of support group that is local that addresses issues that you are dealing with such as relationships. Contact your local mental health center for this information or look in the newspaper for lisitngs of support groups. You might want to consider individual therapy as well to help work through your low feelings and to provide you with guidance and support in your current relationship. There are also suicide hotlines that are often listed in the front of your telephone book that have counselors available 24 hours a day. You can also contact the National Herpes Hotline at (919) 361-8488 and this website's chat room for more information and interpersonal support. You have spent 5 years suffering alone-you've taken a positive step by reaching out-keep going!

Dear Dr. Amy:

I noticed my symptoms about 3 months after I was married. Is it possible that I had the virus prior to that and the symptoms just got worse? It had been over 15 months since I had a partner other than my wife. Could I have gotten it then and only now be seeing symptoms?

I have not had it diagnosed by a doctor but am sure that's what it is. It's been 5 years and I have several outbreaks a year. I have not told my wife about it. I just avoid intimacy during that time.

I hate to think that I brought this into our marriage. But, I can live with it if it came from my wife. I guess it's a blame thing. I don't want to be the one responsible for it. What do you think?

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Ashamed,

I think you may want to consider shifting your thinking from blame to responsibility. Whoever is at "fault" for bringing herpes into the marriage does not change the fact that you are knowingly exposing your partner to the virus, even when your symptoms aren't active. The process of viral shedding can occur in between outbreaks and you can be contagious without showing symptoms.

The answer to your other question is "yes", it is possible to show symptoms some time after exposure. You may also want to medically confirm a diagnosis since you are assuming you have herpes. You may have herpes, another STD, or a combination.

Even if you are not responsible for bringing herpes into the marriage, you certainly need to be responsible for having an open discussion with your partner about herpes. Your viewpoint of who is to blame concerns me. In a marriage, what effects one person can impact the other. Regardless of who is at fault, this is both of your problems. Let both of you be the solution.

Dear Dr. Amy:

Just today my best friend (who is only 13) told me that she has herpes. She didn't get it from having sex with someone else who has herpes. She is a virgin, After she skipped her period, she told her mom. The doctor told her she got herpes because her blood clots fast and bacteria grew. I didn't know what to say at all. She is really embarassed about it. Her family and I are the only ones who know about it. Before she told me she said that I might see her differently. I told myself I would never see her different, but I do. I mean, I don't think of her as gross or revolting, I just see her differently. I have a few questions. One, is this normal for young women? Two, should I talk to her about it? Three, I feel so sorry for her, but I don't know how to tell her. How do I do that? I thank you for your time and consideration.

Dr. Amy's Response:
Herpes is caused by a viral infection and spread through contact with the virus. People of all ages can get herpes. Genital herpes is more common in individuals who are sexually active but that is not the only way to contract the disease. It can be very mysterious because the way someone is exposed is not always clear.

The fact that your friend confided in you shows how much she trusts you and needs someone to talk to. You and your friend might find reading about the subject to be helpful in understanding herpes. This is something you can do together. Pay particular attention to advice on safe sex practices.

It is all right to tell your friend you feel sorry for her. It sounds like she really needs to find someone she can also be honest and open with, and if you open that door, I'm sure she will welcome your friendship. Talk to her the same way you did before she had herpes. Try to realize she is exactly the same person, but is now going through a difficult time. She really needs a friend like you right now.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I am a 21 yr old male. I became curious about men and decided to have an experience. My problem is that I wasn't really smart-or knowledgable enoughy to ask if he was wearing a condom (I'm not normally in that situation...). Turned out he wasn't. I felt "sore" down there a day or so after...I thought that was normal I guess...well it's like three weeks later and now I'm really sore-can't go to the bathroom without serious discomfort and I have to resort to a shower rather than toilet paper. The is TERRIBLY uncomfortable and scary...I don't know if it's herpes or not?? Today I saw a little blood on the paper after using the restroom...I'm really scared and embarassed-I don't want anyone to know what I did...What should I do?? Please help.
Scared-Popular Undergrad

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Scared-Popular Undergrad,

Genital herpes can occur in the genital and anal area. Unprotected sex is ranked as a high risk activity for STDs and AIDS. You may be experiencing discomfort due to the infrequency of the sexual activity. Only a medical exam can provide you with a diagnosis. The only thing you and I can do is guess.

I can understand your feeling scared and embarassed. Try to put that aside and seek medical attention. Try to find a clinic or physician whose practice is familiar with the college-age population. This may help your comfort level.

After you see a doctor, if you are still feeling emotionally upset, seek individual or group counseling. Talking to others can be extremely helpful. Being curious about sex is human nature. Being wise about sex is human sense.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I knew when I married my (soon to be ex) husband that he had genital herpes, and as far as I know, I have managed not to contract it from him, although we have often had unprotected sex.

What concerns me is that I have heard women can have the disease without ever knowing it. Since we are getting divorced, the question has come up for me about what I will do when I'm in another intimate relationship.

Is there any way to test for herpes when one is asymptomatic?

If not, should I operate on the assumption that if I've never had symptoms, I was lucky enough not to catch it? Or will I have to tell every partner I ever have in the future that I MAY have been exposed to the virus, just in case they don't want to take any chances with me?

I've always put thoughts of the possibility that I could have it and not know it out of my mind, but now that we're divorcing, the issue is far more pressing for me.

Dr. Amy's Response:

One way of testing for herpes in through a sample of an open, active lesion obtained by swabbing the infected area. You do not have active symptoms but question if you are a carrier because you've had sexual contact with a partner who has herpes. You are correct that people can be carriers without showing symptoms. How often are people surprised that they have contracted herpes from "a clean looking person".

There is a blood test called Western Blot that can distinguish if you have the antibodies for HSV-1, HSV-2, or both. This test is not readily available and you may need to contact a university (University of Washington), research hospital, or call 888-ADVICE8 for more information.

Good luck with your new love relationships. Remember that herpes is one of many STDs out there. Be safe, use protection.
Dear Dr. Amy:

I am truly terrified and concerned. In three months I will be having my first child. I have been having herpes for almost 5 years.I very seldom have an outbreak. I have never told my ob/gyn nor my husband about the disease. I am scheduled for c-section. Does this eliminate my child from contacting the disease. If not, how do I mention this to my doctor. More importantly, how can I tell my husband. I am so very tired of keeping this secret. From what I have read Zovirax can't be taken during pregnancy. Is there anything that I should be taking, and what are the chances of having a healthy child? Truly Terrified Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Truly Terrified,

Congratulations on your pregnancy. You are entering into one of life's most incredible experiences. Keeping the secret of herpes, as you noted, is adding tremendous fears and concerns for you right now. These emotions are taking away from the joy and pleasure of the birth of your child. It is draining you emotionally. The sharing of your secret about herpes will be difficult, but it also will free you emotionally and cognitively to focus on the positive aspects of childbirth.

You and your husband will be facing many additional decisions and problems together as you enter into parenthood. Keeping information from one another does not allow you the benefit of having two adults to make decisions and choices which is a major function of being a parent. This is a joint venture, a union, a partnership.

It is essential that you tell your doctor about your history of herpes. He/she can answer the specific medical questions you have asked. You are certainly not the only patient who has herpes. You might also want to elicit your physician's help in breaking the news to your husband. Discuss this with your doctor.

I have received many letters from mothers who have herpes and have delivered healthy children. Your doctor needs to be informed so that you and your baby can receive the medical attention that is necessary. I hope the best for you, your husband, and your baby as you embark on building your family.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I, like many others, am in a very awkward position.Due to a rape when I was 25 I contracted herpes.I am recently divorced after 19 years. During that time my Ex and I had unprotected sex only and he was never infected. I also would rarely (knock wood) have outbreaks and haven't had any since before my oldest son was born (Over 16 years). I have probably been a worst case scenario for what NOT to do with diet and stress levels and still had no real problem. To be honest, I completely forgot I had it.

My problem now is I have finally met someone that I want to spend the rest of my life with. He lives out of the country and plans to move here to be with me. Our relationship is one built on complete honesty and I intend to tell him when the time is right...and absolutely before we become intimate....BUT I'm concerned more about the stigma of having herpes than actually having it. How can I assure him that I'm not a leper? What kind of information can I give him. I'm afraid that I'll lose him, (like you said, I'm more than having Herpes and it wasn't my fault, just as it isn't the fault of any other person that has it...but) The area I develop it would make him vulnerable even if he used a condom, so "protected sex" is a moot point in this case. As I said, I haven't really experienced an outbreak (would certainly tell him if I did)in forever and even before then very rarely. At most 1x per year. One of my questions is: Are there such things as very mild cases or can a person end up in permanent remission (ie: beat it like you would get over a flu?)I must admit I hadn't thought about it much since being married and I wasn't really intending to become involved with anyone. This has hit be out of the blue and when I "remembered" it, it was like, "Oh, s***".

Dr. Amy's Response:

If you have been honest and genuine in this relationship, your partner is well aware that you are not a leper. Since you state that he is making plans to move to the States, it sounds like things are getting pretty serious. You may have already begun to discuss personal and difficult topics. How did that go?

Look for some books and information from the internet regarding herpes. Check the accuracy and timeliness of the sources for the materials. Statistics without research studies cited can be misleading. Give him this information when you tell him. This will give your partner a chance to review the facts at his own pace. Share your own feelings as well. This is a particuarly sensitive topic for you in view of how you contracted herpes. There is no guarantee that he will be accepting. However, your ability as a couple to handle difficult topics may be an indicator for how you will problem solve in the future.

The medical questions you asked need to be answered by a medical doctor who is knowledgable about herpes. Herpes is a virus that is currently incurable. There is tremendous variety in the way people experience the symptoms. Remember, herpes is not the only STD and the use of a condom is still recommended for safe sex.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I know you've been asked this a million times, but how do you tell a potential partner that you have herpes? I've not had any kind of physical contact and declined date offers since I realized I had herpes. I just don't know how to tell someone or I don's get myself into situations. For the first time in so long I actually kissed a man about a month ago and I couldn't go any further. I don't want what happened to me happen to anyone else because I know how it feels.

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Sexless,

As you have mentioned, your feelings about having herpes and concern about others' reactions has caused you to try to avoid situations of a romantic nature. People with herpes often are fearful of relationships for precisely the reason you have stated-how to tell a potential partner. The sharing of information about yourself with a friend or lover increases as your trust grows. When you first meet someone, the first thing you tell them about yourself is not going to be negative information such as, "I can be moody at times". The sharing of more personal aspects about yourself increases as you develop more trust in your relationship. Telling your partner you have herpes is the sharing of personal, sensitive information, thus timing is very important.

You might want to try to reframe your view of having herpes before you tell your partner. Instead of assuming that this news will end your relationship, to understand that there are millions of individuals who have herpes. Many of these people are actively involved in satisfying relationships and/or marriages. Try to view the total picture of yourself. You are much more than your herpes. Think about the positive and unique qualities that make you an interesting partner.

Since the holding of the secret about herpes is causing you to withdraw sexually, you might want to address this topic soon. Your partner will sense your holding back and may misinterpret this as rejection of him. Try to present the news in terms of what you still can do (you can even do this in a sexy manner). Be sure to express your feelings about having herpes so that your partner is aware that this is a sensitive issue for you. Because this is the first time telling someone, it will be difficult. Be prepared for either a positive or negative response. Most importantly, try to realize that being sexual with someone does carry emotional and physical responsibilities. Sharing about yourself will bring you closer (to the right person). I'm glad to hear that you are ready to start dating-it will get easier.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I am a 19 year old male, and am not sure if I have herpes or not. I have never had sex, or really gone out with a girl. I have not had oral sex or anything. Yet, I have these bumps on the shaft of my penis which can be squeezed and a puss (totally like a pimple) comes out. I don't recall ever having symptoms like burning urination or itching or anything. The only thing I do is ocassionally masturbate. Can this be a factor for Herpes, or could these bumps be another medical problem that is treatable? I have had these things for a number of years, and am scared to go to the doctor. Please help.

Dr. Amy's Response:

Herpes is caused by a viral infection, either Herpes Simplex Type 1 (HSV1) or Herpes Simplex Type 2 (HSV2). Masturbation does not cause herpes unless you have herpes on your hand or already have the virus. It is not friction, but direct contact with herpes that causes the transmission from one area or one person to another. Friction can trigger an outbreak if the virus is already present.

I understand how scared you must be if this has been going on for several years. I suggest you find a physician who you feel comfortable with so you can discuss your concerns and get an accurate diagnosis. Be sure to ask your questions regarding masturbation. You might also want to use a lubricant, such as Astroglide, to reduce the friction when you masturbate.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I met a terrific man 10 weeks ago. I'm in my mid 30s and he's in his early 40s. We are both divorced. Although we've only known each other 10 weeks, we've talked about a lot of important topics, are very attracted to each other, and both agree that our relationship has the potential for a very good long term relationship. We haven't gone much farther than first base--mostly due to him keeping the pace slow--although we've discussed the mutual desire to go further. Last weekend, he told me that he has genital herpes (got it from his ex-wife). He's had it for 20 years, has approximately 2 outbreaks per year, and believes it to be Type 2, although it was never officially diagnosed. I am scared, panicy, and unsure if I should stay in this relationship. I care for him very much and love him dearly (I know 10 weeks is a very short time, but I do love him and I don't normally give my heart away that easily). Since everything was going so well, this came as a great shock! to me. I'm very scared of catching it, plus don't want to be stuck with it if we should break up (or divorce or be widowed). I also worry about how my anxiety would affect any intimate relations we might have. I have been sick at heart these last few days because I love him and don't want to lose him. I've done some internet research and have read that condoms are recommended at all times to prevent catching the virus through asymptomatic shedding. Also, I'm unclear on the risks involved in performing oral sex on him. A full, satisfying sex life is very important to him and I know he doesn't look forward to a lifetime of condoms (I don't blame him.) I feel like I'm faced with the choice of breaking up or eventually contracting the virus, and I don't want either choice. I know that there must be other couples with this dilemma. How do they manage? What are their solutions? A fulfilling sex life is important to both him and me, and I'm afraid we'd always feel restricted. Please! help!
Signed, Heartsick

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Heartsick,

You are very lucky to be in a relationship such as yours--there's attraction, potential for longevity, honesty, and communication. If you decide to continue in this relationship, your ability to work things out together, in a mutually satisfying manner, will be challenged over and over again. The way you handle this situation could set the stage for managing future dilemmas.

The emotions you express - "shock, scared, panicky, unsure" - often accompany unexpected news. These feelings can make it difficult to think with a clear head. Give yourself some time to adjust and stabilize your thoughts before making major decisions. As in any type of intimacy, sexual intimacy has risks involved. The use of condoms is always recommended to prevent the spread of STDs - but there are no guarantees. The fact remains that you can contract herpes through oral sex and that currently, the virus is incurable (but managable). Gather reliable information about herpes and continue to educated yourself.

In regards to your anxiety about having sexual restrictions; try to expand your thinking beyond SEX=GENITALS. It sounds like you are already doing this by keeping a slow pace. You may have even discovered some unexplored erogenous zones!

Let me know the outcome. You may be able to help other couples, and there are many, in your same situation.

Amy answers questions about Symptoms

Dear Dr. Amy:

I am a male with a problem with simular symptoms but they are also different. On my inner thigh about 3-4 inches down my leg, I have a spot about 3 inches round that itches the hell out of me. Sometimes it doesn't bother me. There are no blisters, and not gland swelling. I was told that it could be what they call jock itch. Do you have any suggestions? Please contact me,

(or this letter)

Lately, I've noticed this really weird discharge.It started out as what appeared to be normal. Then it started having a weird color. It appears brown sometimes and at other times pale yellow. I have had unprotected sex. I assumed my partner was in a monogamous relationship. I could be wrong. There is also an itching sensation and sometimes the itch feels more like a burning sensation. I may have contracted an STD. What do you believe it may be?
Sincerely, Concerned Teen

(or this letter)

About a year ago I noticed white blisters on my penis. I wouldn't call them open sores. They seem to be on back or one area of my penis. It does not itch or hurt. Could this be herpes?

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Concerned Teen, Firetamer, and Doug,

I have received many letters from people, like yourselves, describing symptoms, requesting pictures of herpes, and asking for opinions on described symptoms. If anyone has a reason to believe they have herpes, or another STD, GO TO YOUR DOCTOR. If you see or feel anything that is out of the ordinary, get it checked out.

Not knowing if you are a carrier of a disease not only puts you at risk, but also your partners. In addition, the concern about possibly infecting your lover can be a real prohibitor in sexual enjoyment-worry and pleasure don't go together. It is better to know what you are dealing with than to walk around guessing and wondering about what might be wrong.

If you are diagnosed with herpes there are ways to improve your immune system through diet, exercise, stress reduction. This includes decreasing negative thoughts. Put your energy into taking care of yourself. The first step is getting the proper medical attention. Then, if necessary, gather accurate resources and fill your brain with information rather than self-defeating thoughts. There are also support groups to help take care of your emotional needs.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I do have the herpes 1 virus, and boy does it mess with me emotionally. My nerves go hay wire. At times I can't do anything right, and I know there is no drug at this time, but I was wondering if you could suggest a diet and vitamin supplement for me. I do believe the occurances come some time every 2 to three months, and I know it has to do with my diet. I would also like to know what to stay away from all together, as far as food goes, hahahaha. I take good care of my self but your extra knowledge would be helpful as well. I was looking at the on-line food chat an was some what confused by it. Does it mean that high in lysine is better and low in arginine? If thats the case, it seems that I will gain 100 lbs :-) cause everything high in lysine is so fattening, margarines, cheeses, these things can't be good for you in other ways. As far as vitamins are they good to take? How about herbs? It's kind of like battling every one at once,if you know what I mean. So thats the end ....thank you for your time and hope to hear from you real, real soon.
Me, distresst

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Me, distresst,

My first recommendation is that you concentrate on reducing stress related thoughts about having herpes. Instead of worrying and asking yourself, "Why me?", try to reassure yourself that you are not alone. Remember, it is estimated that 1 in 4 people are diagnosed with herpes. This will take practice as you have developed a habit of thinking negatively about herpes. Focus on the positive aspects of your life. Compliment yourself for taking care of yourself. This may be a good place to start as stress is known to be a factor in outbreaks due to the detrimental effects of anxiety on one's body and mind.

Other stress reducers include incorporating aerobic exercise as well as relaxation into your daily routine. Active exercise such as running, spinning, blading, help to reduce and release tension. The addition of relaxation is often overlooked. Yoga, meditation, walks outside, listening to music are just a few ways to help refocus your mind which in turn helps to relax your body.

In regards to diet, look for foods that are high in lysine and low in arginine. This does not mean you have to gain weight. An excellent source of this combination is found in fresh, whole fruits and vegetables. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods can also be helpful-not just for herpes, but overall well-being. You may want to consult with a nutritionist for a personalized diet. Ask about the use of herbs and essential oils. Some find these to be helpful in boosting the immune system.

You may also find that talking to others about your concerns and feelings is a great stress reducer. Look for local support groups. If none are available, an individual counselor is always an option.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I went to the doctor about 6 weeks ago where he told me he didn't know what I had. He told me it looked like Herpes 1 but he didn't understand how I could have it on my genitals. The area was freshly shaven when my fiance (who had a cold sore) gave me oral sex. So, he told me it may be possible that I had contacted it under the circumstances. I insisted he take a swab test, so he did.

The test came back, and it ended up that it was herpes 1, so it is possible to contact it through oral sex. (If you have open pores and your partner has a cold sore.)

My question is: will this type of herpes reoccur? I had to get rid of it with an antibiotic topical cream and a cortisone cream. It was terrible!!!

I just want to know if it will reoccur. I would really appreciate it.
Signed, Worried and confused

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear worried and confused,

Herpes 1 is more common in the mouth but it also can be located in the genitals, as you have discovered. Like Herpes 2, it can reoccur. Proper diet, sleep, exercise, and relaxation can help reduce the reoccurances and also promote overall well-being. People with herpes report having very satisfying sex lives. It is often the initial shock of the diagnosis and the stigma of the disease that leaves one "worried and confused". The more you educate yourself and deal with your feelings, the better your chances of reducing stress, another cause for outbreaks.

Your insistence that your doctor take a swab test was a responsible move on your part. We can all learn from one another and now your doctor will also be better informed.

Thanks for sharing your experience.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I have been seriously involved with a man for almost a year now. I have hidden the fact that I have herpes from him. I take acyclovir daily, try to watch my diet, and I exercise. I haven't had an outbreak in about a year. The point has come in our relationship that we are thinking of moving in together.

I know I have made the mistake of not being honest with him regarding my affiliation with herpes. But how do I approach the subject? Do I admit that I have been dishonest this whole time? What should I do? I am absolutely sure that I must speak about this with him, but I feel like such an ass for being so deceitful. The whole time I have been with him, I have been so uncomfortable when sexual relations are brought into play.

I have a feeling I will lose him. I don't really want to give him up.

Dr. Amy's Response:

Your questions and concerns address why many people fear telling a partner that they will lose the relationship. Sometimes individuals decide to tell depending upon if the relationship is serious or casual. HERPES DOES NOT DISTINGUISH BETWEEN LOVE AND LUST.

I agree with you that you must speak with your lover. Timing is very important. Choose a time and place where you can have uninterrupted time when you tell him. This is certainly not a topic to bring-up in the heat of a moment as you need to deal with his and your reaction.

Let him know honestly why you did not tell him sooner. Claim your feelings of guilt about being deceitful. If you lie about how long you have had herpes, you will still be carrying a secret. This can continue to create guilt and distance in your relationship. As you also mentioned, keeping this secret has created discomfort for you sexually.

In addition to expressing your feelings, it may also be helpful to have some information about herpes available so that his medically related questions can be answered.

There is no guarantee as to how your lover will respond. The fact that you have been together for a while and plan on living together indicated there is a foundation for your relationship. Build it on trust. It will last longer.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I am a young male, and I am not sure if I have herpes or not. I have itchy bumps in my genitial area, resembling pimples, sort of. I am very worried about what it might be and if you could help me with this, I would be very grateful. It is causing me great trauma.
Young male

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Young Male,

Your question is similar to others I have received. The only way to know if these symptoms are herpes is to go to your doctor for a test. The "pimples" can be swabbed or scraped for use in a laboratory test to determine if this is herpes or another infection. An active sore can provide the most accurate test results, so this is the time to go for your test. Not knowing what is wrong can cause more trauma due to speculating and worrying. Let me know how it goes.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I have a problem. I discovered a sore about a year ago and have gone to my obgyn to discover that based on tests taken the virus does not show. I know I have it due to the symptoms. I find myself very depressed and extremely worried. This is my second marriage and finally found my true soul mate. We have been together for 5 years and married 9 months. I am 35 yrs of age and have been wanting a baby for a LONG TIME. We are trying now and I want to tell my husband but I'm so afraid of him not loving me or thinking I am some type of whore. I'm sure I got this from my ex-husband. Any thought on what to do? Do I tell him?
Scared and confused

Dr. Amy's Response:
Dear Scared and confused,

First of all, you may want to get another test since it has been one year since your last test to confirm a diagnosis. Also, have you been taking precautions such as condom use with your partner to reduce chances of infecting him?

Keeping a secret, such as possibly having herpes, is bound to make you depressed, worried and not as close to your spouse. If he is truely your soul mate, he may already sense there's something troubling you. If you are ready to have a baby together, you both need to know how herpes (if you do have it) will affect child birth. Try finding an obgyn that you feel comfortable with in helping you with the concerns of pregnancy and symptoms you are experiencing.

Dear Dr. Amy:

I am a 24 year old female. I have recently started seeing someone and I have never had to tell a person that I have Herpes. I am very scared. I can barely even say the word. I don't know how to tell him. I have absolutely no intenetions or never would have sex without telling him. I even find myself pulling away because of this. I don't know when and how to tell him. I would like to know if you have any suggestions on this difficult and embarrassing issue.
Thank you.

Dr. Amy's Response:
You are not alone. Many people feel embarrassed and scared about telling their partner or anyone about having herpes. Sometimes, practicing how and what you would say helps you to feel more comfortable. Try saying the words out loud to yourself or maybe a close friend.

As your relationship develops, your level of sharing intimate details about yourselves will also increase, making exchange of information more natural. It sounds like you will need to discuss this soon, because your partner may misinterpret your "pulling away" as an indication that you don't like him.

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