Genital herpes, which comes from the herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2), is transmitted through sex with an infected partner. While herpes is very common (1 in 6 Americans age 14-49 have HSV-2), herpes cases caused by HSV-2 can cause painful blisters on the genitals as well as the mouth, throat and thighs. Herpes has no cure, but several recent treatments have become available that can reduce the frequency and intensity of herpes outbreaks.

Learn more about herpes, the difference between HSV-2 and other strains, as well as how herpes can be managed long-term by checking out some of the most frequently asked questions about herpes.

What does it mean to have herpes?

Herpes is a common virus that causes sores to appear on the genitals and/or mouth. Herpes is a very common infection, impacting as many as 1 in 6 Americans and is caused by two related viruses, herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2.

What are the first signs of herpes?

The majority of people infected with herpes are unaware, but for those who do show symptoms, the first signs are painful blisters that pop up on the lips, mouth, throat, inner thigh, vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, buttocks or anus. These blisters often break and turn into sores, which can be uncomfortable.

What causes herpes?

Herpes is caused by one of two viruses, herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 usually causes oral herpes, or sores around the lips or mouth, while HSV-2 is more closely connected to infections in the genital area spread during sex.

How do you make herpes go away faster?

There is no cure for either type of herpes (HSV-1 or HSV-2), but medications and at-home treatments can help alleviate outbreaks. Regular medications can help make outbreaks less common, but if you are in the midst of an outbreak, some home remedies can be beneficial, including warm baths, soft, loose-fitting clothing, ice packs and over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin.

Is hsv1 an STD?

While herpes simplex virus type 1 can be spread through sexual contact, that strain of the virus is most closely connected to oral herpes, or sores around the mouth, lips and throat.

Can you live a normal life with herpes?

Herpes is not curable, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t live a long, happy, normal life. Millions of people (maybe even billions) around the world have herpes, and it’s possible to continue having a satisfying sex life even after you’re diagnosed. It’s important to find out your status and to have regular visits with your doctor to ensure your herpes is under control. You also must be proactive about ensuring you are not passing herpes along to your sexual partners.

Is having herpes bad?

Herpes is a common, easily communicable sexually transmitted disease, but it’s not a fatal one. Most people who have herpes don’t show symptoms of it, and for those who do have obvious signs, medication can help shorten or reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and many home remedies can help alleviate the discomfort associated with outbreaks of herpes blisters and sores. Still, there is no cure for herpes, so it’s important to get tested if you are at risk and to engage in safer sex.

Can someone with herpes have a normal relationship?

Yes, but having herpes will most likely complicate your sex life. It’s important to ensure that you do not pass along your disease, which can mean having difficult conversations with people because every person that you have sex with will need to know that you have herpes. They may choose not to have sex with you once they find out, but that’s OK. You should be open and honest about your status and make it a priority to engage in safer-sex practices, such as not having sex while you are undergoing an outbreak.

Do most people have herpes?

Yes, when you include the number of people who have oral herpes, or herpes simplex virus type 1 HSV-1), often referred to as cold sores. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, as many as two-thirds of people in the world under age 50 have HSV-1, or cold sores. Even setting aside those who have oral herpes, it’s estimated that 1 in 6 American adults has herpes HSV-2, which is sexually transmitted.

How long does it take for HSV 2 to show up?

Most people with herpes simplex virus type 2 either show no symptoms or have mild symptoms that are mistaken for something else. According to the CDC, the average incubation period is 4 days (between 2 and 12 days is typical). A first outbreak typically consists of blisters that burst and leave painful sores that last as long as a month after the initial infection. First outbreaks also commonly include fever, aches and headaches.

Is HSV 2 contagious?

Herpes simplex virus type 2 is easily spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person. It’s not necessary to swap bodily fluids or even have sex, as HSV-2 is passed to an uninfected person when an open area of the skin or mucous membrane (like in the mouth) comes in contact with the infected areas of a person with HSV-2. While HSV-2 can be passed during oral sex, it’s more frequently transmitted during vaginal or anal sex.

Can you get hsv2 from giving oral?

Yes, it’s possible to contract HSV-2 by giving oral sex to a person who is infected with it, if the person you’re performing oral on has HSV-2 in their genital area and the virus comes into contact with the mucous membranes within your mouth.

Can HSV 2 cause cold sores?

HSV-2, or herpes simplex virus type 2, is most closely associated with genital herpes, though both types of the virus (HSV-2 or HSV-1) can cause sores either in the facial area or on the genitals. Both versions can cause blisters and sores in either area of the body, though generally, HSV-1 thrives more in the facial area and HSV-2 more in the genital area.

Can you have HSV 2 and never have an outbreak?

Yes; in fact, many people who have HSV-2 never have a single outbreak or never experience an outbreak after their initial outbreak. This is one reason why herpes is so common; people are unaware of their infections and unknowingly spread the disease to their sexual partners.

Can HSV 2 antibodies go away?

Yes, it’s not uncommon for the herpes antibodies that were detected in your blood test to have changing levels over time. In fact, many people who have infrequent or no outbreaks often see their HSV-2 antibodies disappear over time. But that does not mean they no longer have herpes.

Is herpes a virus?

Yes, herpes is caused by a pair of viruses, herpes simplex virus type 1 and herpes simplex virus type 2. Generally, HSV-1 causes oral herpes, often called cold sores, while HSV-2 is usually spread through sex and infects the genital area.

How do I know if I have herpes?

The only way to know if you have herpes is to get a blood test, such as one that checks for the IgG antibodies the body makes after exposure to herpes simplex virus 2, or HSV-2, which causes genital herpes.

Is oral herpes curable?

No, neither strain of herpes, HSV-1, which causes oral herpes, or HSV-2, which causes genital herpes, is curable, though treatments are available that can reduce the frequency of outbreaks.

How long does throat herpes last?

Herpes is not a curable condition, so any part of the body that’s been infected with a herpes simplex virus will remain infected. However, medications are available that can reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and other home remedies for lessening the intensity of outbreaks can make herpes, including throat herpes, more tolerable.

How do you treat a herpes outbreak?

In addition to taking any medication your doctor prescribes to help lessen the frequency and severity of herpes outbreaks, many at-home treatments can alleviate the discomfort associated with outbreaks of herpes. Depending on the location and severity of your sores, taking a hot bath or applying a cold compress to the area can reduce pain, and wearing loose-fitting, breathable clothing can make the infected area more comfortable.

What causes herpes to recur?

Every person’s body is different, but for those who have genital herpes (HSV-2), some activities are frequently reported as triggers for outbreaks, including friction from sex, hormonal changes (such as during the menstrual cycle) or undergoing surgery.

Can herpes go away forever?

No, unfortunately, it’s not possible for herpes to be cured. But many people with herpes, including those with HSV-2 (genital herpes), rarely have outbreaks, and several medications are available that can reduce the frequency and intensity of outbreaks.

Why is herpes not curable?

Multiple pharmaceutical companies over the years have undertaken research aimed at developing a herpes vaccine, but the nature of the virus has proven too challenging for a successful vaccination to be developed. Many researchers point to the often-dormant nature of the virus as well as its presence in humans going back centuries as possible reasons why no vaccine has been developed.

Does soap and water kill herpes?

Yes, but don’t rely on that as a preventive for herpes. Washing your hands (or other body parts) with soap and water immediately after coming into contact with a sore or area infected with herpes can help prevent the spread of the virus, but this is not a reliable method for preventing the spread of the virus.