I just got herpes. Now what?
May 6, 2005 4:02 AM   Subscribe

I just got infected with herpes. Now what? What can I expect in the future? How often will I get blisters? What can I do to prevent outbreaks? Please share your experiences.

My penis was exposed to Herpes Simplex 1 five days ago. I just found out from the girl I got it from. I still have a horrible flu. My penis was itchy and covered with red spots, but no blisters. I thought it was a yeast infection at first, but it turns out that it isn't. It's still sort of uncomfortable and rather itchy. The red spots are barely visible and there are much fewer of them now. I see no blisters or potentially blistery looking things. No discharge and it doesn't hurt to urinate. No tingly feelings anywhere.

The girl says that it's Herpes Simplex 1. When she first got it five years ago (also her last outbreak) she had it tested by doctors and they said it was definitely type 1 and not 2.

What can I expect? Are there any steps I should take at this very moment? What changes can I expect in my life? How will I know I'm going to get a blister in the future? Is this going to stay on my penis or will I get it on my face as well?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (15 answers total)

Well, unlike your partner (who deserves a smack, IMO. Knowing you have this and exposing someone to it anyway is pretty damn low.), you'll need to deal with letting all future partners know about this in advance, and give them a graceful out should they not want to take the risk.

Get to a doctor ASAP. A lot of planned parenthood locations now offer male STD services if you don't have insurance. There are medications to manage the outbreaks. (I think Valtrex is the big one- it's on TV a lot)

It shouldn't spread by itself. If, say, you touch an area with an outbreak, and then touch your face, that may spread it. Check online, and, hate to say it, but, Livejournal. There are a ton of support groups for people out there.
posted by Kellydamnit at 5:57 AM on May 6, 2005

are you sure it's really herpes? why don't you get tested (blood)? luckily (and I mean it, that was luck) I don't have it but I've always been under the impression that you can only catch it if your partner is having an outbreak. maybe you got something else instead of herpes, less worrying. get tested, really. maybe it's not that bad.
posted by matteo at 6:43 AM on May 6, 2005

Dude, GO TO THE DOCTOR. Why are you asking for medical help on AskMe?
posted by mkultra at 7:10 AM on May 6, 2005

Unless I misunderstand something (recalling from HS health class, so do correct me if I'm wrong), the difference between herpes simplex 1 and 2 is that 1 is on your face and 2 is on your wang. Otherwise, they're the same thing; get simplex 1 on your wang and it's simplex 2.
Do get tested; sometimes private parts just get rashes that aren't STDs.
In the event that you do have herpes simplex 2, there's really not a whole lot you can do. Endeavoring not to be like the jerk who gave it to you (i.e. disclosing it before the sexing) should be a priority. On the bright side, it's not life-threatening and you don't have to worry about catching it anymore. There are some herpes-oriented dating sites on the internets; you might focus your dating scope on people who already have it for a while, while you get familiar with what it means for you.
posted by willpie at 7:19 AM on May 6, 2005

you don't have to worry about catching it anymore.

strangest. upside. ever.
posted by mkultra at 7:26 AM on May 6, 2005 [2 favorites]

These replies seem pretty unhelpful thus far. One thing you can do right away is visit Go Ask Alice.

You should also go to the doctor and make sure it's HSV I. He can give you Valtrex, which doesn't cure HSV, but could prevent a more severe outbreak.

In a way you are lucky. HSV I is most commonly transmitted to the mouth, and the virus doesn't 'take' well 'down there', away from its usual home. Chances are about 50/50 that you won't have another outbreak. If you do, the chances are they they won't occur as frequently or as severely as with HSV II.

You will have herpes for life. There is no cure. When a flareup is about to begin, you will first feel a tingling sensation in the affected area. Your glands may get swollen, but less so than they are now. Sores will appear a day or so later, and usually last for a few days. During this time, you are extremely contagious. Even when there are no sores, there is always a small chance that you could be shedding live, infective virus. About 70 per cent of HSV transmissions happen when there are no sores. The bottom line is that, when you're not having an outbreak, you're probably not going to infect someone. But you can never be sure, so you have to come to an understanding with your partner about the risks and what you want to do.

The sores won't spread around unless you touch the infected area and then rub your eyes or touch your mouth. Be careful using towels when you come out of the shower. Just-used towels are one of the most common means of self-infection.

Don't worry. Things could be worse. After you get over the initial shock, you'll be fine. Soon it will turn into nothing more than an inconvenience. The flu-like symptoms are terrible, but you only get that the first time. Remember, you will have to be open and talk about the potential risks with any future partners. This will always be awkward, but you've got to do it. Condoms help block transmission, but are not a guarantee. Hang in there, go to the doctor, and you'll be fine.
posted by nyterrant at 7:31 AM on May 6, 2005

willpie, HSV 1 and HSV 2 are two different forms of the same virus and although HSV 1 is most commonly the cause of oral lesions, it can also cause genital outbreaks as well.

Anonymous, here is some good information.

It's a good idea to get a blood test right now to determine if in fact you do have HSV antibodies. The murky area in this testing, however, is that a lot of people already have HSV 1 antibodies in their bloodstream...have you ever had a cold sore on your mouth, anonymous? If so, you'll turn up positive for HSV 1 antibodies. It doesn't mean that the spots on your penis are herpes sores. Which is why you need to get to the doctor RIGHT AWAY so that he can take a look at these spots and perhaps make a visual diagnosis.

If it is HSV 1, and not HSV 2, that you're infected with (and this is if it's HSV at all--it could be any number of other things, and moreover, unless you haven't had sex with anyone other than your current gf in years, she may not even be the culprit), then you're a bit more fortunate. HSV 1 is comparatively mild, and outbreaks are very rare. HSV 2 is more pernicious, but you can control the outbreaks with Valtrex, if you choose to, and also diet/exercise/stress management.

I don't know how old you are, anonymous, but the older you get, the more people you'll meet with HSV. I'm not saying that you shouldn't tell your partner(s), and it certainly doesn't excuse risky behavior, but you will find that by the time you hit 30 (if you haven't already), you'll know a lot of folks with HSV--I think the stat is 1 in 5 people. And you'll find that it's not a big deal. If someone cares for you enough to be intimate with you, they'll be willing to take the risk.
posted by veronica sawyer at 7:36 AM on May 6, 2005

Just to piggyback on what nyterrant is saying about self-infection, be VERY CAREFUL not to touch your face with the same towel you use to dry yourself off with. And don't touch your face after touching your penis without washing your hands. Because if you think genital herpes is bad, ocular herpes is much, much worse.
posted by veronica sawyer at 7:53 AM on May 6, 2005

If I can ask a related question...

My impression from online info is that about 80% of adults have herpes 1, and many of those who have it don't know they do because the symptoms are generally mild or nonexistant. Also, most people get herpes 1 when they are kids, and once you have it it's hard to get it in a new area (i.e. if it's on your mouth it won't migrate to eyes or genitals). Also, pretty much any cold sore is herpes 1. So how much of this is true and how much is misinformation? Thanks!

Also, can you get the initial fever more than once if your body is ultra run down, or does that REALLY only happen the first time?
posted by lorrer at 9:11 AM on May 6, 2005

My impression from online info is that about 80% of adults have herpes 1, and many of those who have it don't know they do because the symptoms are generally mild or nonexistant.

From my reading of it, about 80 per cent of people express HSV antibodies once they reach adult age. That doesn't mean they have the recurrent form, just that their body has been exposed to the disease and has developed resistance.

I don't know about the fever recurring, but I would expect it's about as rare as getting chicken pox twice or having a relapse of mono.
posted by nyterrant at 9:27 AM on May 6, 2005

I don't have any insights into frequency of outbreaks, etc, but I feel compelled to say: Get to a doctor immediately. Even if you're sure you know what it is (and if I were you, I certainly wouldn't be trusting this girl to tell you everything), you need professional advice and a full exam/round of STD tests.
posted by Specklet at 9:43 AM on May 6, 2005

My impression from online info is that about 80% of adults have herpes 1, and many of those who have it don't know they do because the symptoms are generally mild or nonexistant. Also, most people get herpes 1 when they are kids, and once you have it it's hard to get it in a new area (i.e. if it's on your mouth it won't migrate to eyes or genitals). Also, pretty much any cold sore is herpes 1. So how much of this is true and how much is misinformation?

True. About 80% of adults in the US have HSV-1, which is typically oral herpes, although one can get HSV-1 on the genitals, too. The majority of people with HSV-1 do NOT know they have it, and never have symptoms. The *majority*. Most folks do get it as children from someone with oral herpes kissing them ont he face or lips.

If you're infected, you might have one outbreak in a lifetime, have dozens in your life, or never have any at all. It completely varies person to person.

ALL cold sores are caused by herpes. You can self-innoculate with herpes (i.e. touch a blister then your eyes), so handwashing and being vigilant is important.

I'd just like to throw in a defense of the person anonymous thinks he got herpes from (if it even IS herpes, and I have to stress as others did to GO GET TESTED) - even if she knew she had it and didn't disclose it to anonymous, the only 100% certain way he wouldn't be exposed would be not to have sex at all. Condoms only prevent transmission so much - if the base of his penis (uncovered by condom) touched her vagina where it was infected, it could transmit. Sores don't need to be present to infect.

www.ashastd.org is an EXCELLENT website all about herpes (American Social Health Association)
posted by tristeza at 9:53 AM on May 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

Go to a doctor and get it checked out; this sounds nothing like my first herpes outbreak. Granted, mine was oral and yours is genital, but still...I got HUGE sores around my mouth, that started out flat and honey-colored and quickly bubbled up, becoming whitish pustules filled with a clear liquid. This eventually turned yellowish and hard (although that may have partially been from secondary infections), crusted, and I was able to pull it away in small chunks.

Now that I have assured myself of none of you ever, ever finding me attractive... ;) You've got to figure out how to tell your future lovers, assuming this is herpes. I've found telling followed by a very quick, concise explanation of my contraction, treatment, and the effects helps a lot. Humor helps. Being relaxed and talking as though it isn't a big deal also helps - because, well, it sort of isn't. It sucks a lot, believe me, but you're not gonna die from it, it's not too painful, and the symptoms are treatable.

Which brings me to....treatment options. Your doctor will probably give you Valtrex which you can either take continuously (if you have more than 6 outbreaks a year, I believe) or only when you start to get a sore. If you can't afford the Valtrex, there are some OTC sort-of remedies. I take Lysine-L right now (I don't have scrip insurance) and that usually clears sores up in a day or two. A friend of mine has also had success with Creatine Monohydrate.

But..yeah. Definitely go to a Dr. and get tested for sure.
posted by kalimac at 10:32 AM on May 6, 2005

You need to go to a doctor. That doesn't sound like herpes.

Herpes causes ulcers. Painful, open sores. Not red spots.

Tristeza is spot on.

Just to add: cold sores (around your lips) are herpes sores. Canker sores (inside your mouth) are not usually. We're not exactly sure what causes those (it may be viral or bacterial).

Herpes 1 is usually oral, but can be genital; herpes 2 is usually genital, but can be oral.

What's the difference between love and herpes? Herpes lasts forever. Just like chickenpox, the herpesviruses stay in your body forever, living in your spinal nerves, usually dormant. Shingles is the chickenpox virus that has decided to come out and erupt on your skin.

Acyclovir, an antiviral drug, can help prevent outbreaks or treat them if they're bad.

For general knowledge: most herpes infections are spread when the person is asymptomatic. That means when they don't have any ulcers. So again, re-emphasizing Tristeza's point: if you don't want to be at risk for herpes 1 or 2, no more sex or kissing.
posted by gramcracker at 1:10 PM on May 6, 2005

Never had the genital kind so can't help there but I get the occasional outbreak on my top lip when I get stressed out or run down. I've had cases of it since I was a kid and it's always in the same spot. Think my aunt gave it to me - damn her!

Go to the doctor tho! You'll only get confirmation if it is herpes or another STD by doing so and obviously advise on the correct treatment etc. Please, please, please make sure that you let your future partners know if it is an STD. It may be awkward broaching the subject initially but just think of that awkwardness multiplied a million times if you have to tell them afterwards that you think you have passed it on. Good luck!
posted by floanna at 5:17 PM on May 6, 2005

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