If this is your first herpes outbreak, it can take up to two to four weeks before your lesions heal fully. Many people find this first outbreak to be the longest and most painful.
Where your herpes manifests can also determine how long herpes will last. Lesions on your face generally take longer to heal than genital herpes.
How Long Do Recurrent Herpes Outbreaks Last?
If you have subsequent herpes outbreaks, those will often clear up in a week. They also won’t usually be as severe or painful as your first outbreak.
Disclaimer: Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you have medical questions or concerns regarding a herpes outbreak. This article is meant to be a basic guide regarding herpes outbreaks. Your doctor will know the best treatment options for your situation.
Now that we’ve established how long herpes outbreaks last, let’s get into how you can be aware of your symptoms and what your treatment options are.
What Is Herpes?
Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by two types of herpes simplex viruses: type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2).
HSV-1 is most commonly associated with oral herpes, where sores and lesions focus around the mouth. HSV-2 is associated with genital herpes, where the sores appear below the belt.
How Is Herpes Transmitted?
Oral herpes can be transmitted through kissing or sharing objects that have touched an infected person’s mouth, like a toothbrush or an eating utensil. Genital herpes is generally only transmittable during sexual intercourse. However, genital herpes can also be caused by oral herpes through oral sex. This is how HSV-1 can cause genital herpes symptoms.
Herpes is most easily transmittable during an outbreak when the sores are visible on the skin. However, that does not mean it is only contagious when sores are visible—herpes can be transmitted at any time.
What Causes an Outbreak?
Herpes can live in the body for months or even years after your initial infection without ever flaring up. There is no solid consensus as to what actually causes it to flare up. However, some believe the potential triggers of a recurrent herpes outbreak include:
- Physical trauma (surgery or injury)
- Physical exertion
- Cold exposure
- Intense sunlight exposure
- Weakened immune system due to another disorder (like diabetes or HIV)
- Hormonal changes (like menstrual cycles)
Signs and Symptoms of Genital Herpes
Since the herpes virus can remain undetected while dormant in your nervous system, you won’t experience any symptoms until you have an outbreak. When that happens, you may experience any of the following symptoms:
- Painful blisters and sores on the genitals, mouth, and buttocks
- Difficulty with or a burning sensation when peeing (if sores touch/block the urethra)
- Itching sensation around genitals
These symptoms are universal for genital herpes caused by both HSV-1 and HSV-2. But if you’ve been infected with the latter, you may experience additional flu-like symptoms:
- Swollen glands in the throat, arms, and pelvic area
Signs and Symptoms of Oral Herpes
Oral herpes is often less painful and severe than genital herpes. These symptoms usually manifest as cold sores around and inside the mouth.
Does Herpes Last a Lifetime?
Herpes is a lifelong disease. While herpes outbreaks will only last a few weeks out of the year, it is something that will recur throughout the rest of your life. As such, that also means you will always be contagious.
If you suffer from herpes, discuss ways you can prevent the virus from spreading to your partner(s) with your doctor.
There is currently no cure for herpes. While herpes outbreaks do go away on their own with time, certain medicines and other treatments can help curb the symptoms.
- Antiviral Treatment
Your doctor may put you on a brief antiviral treatment to ease the pain of your symptoms and keep them from worsening. Some common antiviral drugs used include Zovirax, Famvir, and Valtrex.
This treatment will usually only last a week or two. But, if your symptoms do not subside or worsen, your doctor may change your prescription or extend your treatment by a few days.
After your initial outbreak, you and your doctor may decide on one of two different strategies to keep herpes outbreaks at bay: intermittent and suppressive treatments.
- Intermittent: Your doctor will prescribe antiviral medicine to be taken whenever you experience another herpes outbreak—simply take the medicine whenever you first notice symptoms to keep them from getting worse. This strategy can limit your symptoms to only a few days with very mild symptoms.
- Suppressive: This treatment strategy has you take an antiviral medicine every day, rather than waiting for an outbreak to start. Suppressive treatment can keep you from having any outbreaks at all. You may opt for this strategy depending on how long your recurrent outbreaks last. There is no set length of time—your situation should be discussed with your doctor to determine if suppressive treatment is right for you.
- Home Treatments
You’ll probably see several creams and ointments advertised to treat herpes sores. We do not recommend using these methods, as they can actually do more harm than good—the cream may actually slow the healing process and make the lesions last longer.
The best thing you can do at home is to keep the affected areas as clean and dry as possible. This provides the optimal conditions for your body to heal the sores quickly.
Contact Viking Man’s Health Clinic for Further Questions
Herpes outbreaks will always be an inconvenience in your life. But there are things you can do to take back control—a herpes diagnosis is never the end.
If you have more questions about other common medical conditions, such as erectile dysfunction or hair loss, call Viking Man’s health clinic today. Our representatives will do their best to connect you with a physician who can help.