Talking to Your Doctor About Genital Herpes
Generally, genital herpes will not cause any other major health problems if you are, by and large, a healthy person.
However, genital herpes can affect you in ways other than physical health. Concern about outbreaks or of spreading the disease to your partner or your baby may cause you to feel scared, anxious, stressed, and even depressed. Also, depending on how you contracted the disease, you may feel betrayed, angry, and alone.
Speak with your doctor if you begin to experience these feelings, especially if they begin to interfere with how you are living or enjoying your life. In addition to your primary care doctor, you may need some counseling. Support from a mental health professional can help you deal with your emotions so that you can move on and live your life to the fullest. Visit the American Social Health Association’s website to find local, free, and confidential support groups for people concerned about herpes.
Although there is no cure for genital herpes, it can be managed so that it is less severe and so that outbreaks don’t last as long. If you have genital herpes, you can get on with your life and your personal relationships. You just have to be more mindful and careful of your actions.
Keep in mind that if your immune system doesn’t work properly or if you are pregnant, it is especially important that you discuss treatment and prevention options with your doctor. If your immune system doesn’t work properly, genital herpes may last longer than usual or the symptoms you experience may be more severe. If you are pregnant, there is a chance that you can spread genital herpes to your baby. Speak with your doctor about how to prevent spreading genital herpes to your baby.
General Tips for Gathering Information
Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:
- Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
- Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don’t forget them.
- Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification if necessary.
- Don’t be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.
Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor
About Genital Herpes
- What causes genital herpes?
- How did I get infected?
- What are the symptoms of a genital herpes outbreak?
- Typically, how long will the outbreaks last?
- What type of herpes simplex virus am I infected with?
- How common is genital herpes?
- How is genital herpes different than regular cold sores?
- Are there any serious complications of genital herpes that I should be aware of?
About Your Risk of Developing Genital Herpes
- Based on my medical history, lifestyle, and family background, am I at risk for genital herpes?
- How can I decrease my risk of contracting genital herpes?
- How do I know if my partner has genital herpes? What physical signs or symptoms should I be looking for?
- How do I recognize a genital herpes outbreak?
- How should I prevent catching genital herpes?
- How can I reduce the risk to my partner?
About Treatment Options
- What type of medicine should I take to reduce the symptoms?
- Can genital herpes be cured?
What medicine can I take to prevent outbreaks from occurring?
- What are the benefits, side effects, and risks of the medications?
- Will these medications interact with other medications, over-the-counter products, or dietary or herbal supplements I am already taking for other conditions?
- How often is medicine taken or applied?
- Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that will help me?
Are you aware of any ongoing research about genital herpes?
- Is there any progress in research to find a cure or to prevent genital herpes entirely?
- How can I stay abreast of the news about what’s happening in genital herpes research?
- Where can I find a support group about genital herpes?
- Do you recommend any additional counseling?
About Lifestyle Changes
- Is there anything else I can do to minimize any discomfort I may experience?
- How do I tell my partner that I have genital herpes?
- Do I have to tell my family about genital herpes?
- How can I protect my partner?
- Should my partner come in for a test and treatment?
- Can I still have sex?
- How will having genital herpes affect my relationship with my partner?
- Are there any dietary changes I should make?
- Will exercise affect genital herpes?
About Your Outlook
- How often will I have an outbreak?
- How can I become pregnant if I have genital herpes? How can I get my partner pregnant if I have genital herpes?
- Can I take medication if I am pregnant? How can I protect my baby?
- Where can I get more information about genital herpes?
Drake S, Taylor S, Brown D, Pillay D. Improving the care of patients with genital herpes. BMJ. 2000;321:619-623.
Genital herpes. National Women’s Health Information Center website. Available at: http://www.4woman.gov/faq/stdherpe.htm . Accessed: July 21, 2005.
Herpes: get the facts. American Social Health Association website. Available at: http://www.ashastd.org/hrc/educate.html . Accessed July 18, 2005.
Talking to your doctor about genital herpes. International Herpes Alliance website. Available at: http://www.herpesalliance.org/resources_07.htm . Accessed July 25, 2005.
Last reviewed September 2010 by ]]>Lawrence Frisch, MD, MPH]]>
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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