Think you have herpes? What you MUST ask your doctor
I was trekking in Nepal when I had my first symptoms of a herpes outbreak. I was 23 years old and taking a trip around the world. Little did I know that his trip would change me forever, in ways that I could have never imagined. At first, I thought it was just an irritation from hiking for days on end, but once the burning set in and the little blisters appeared, I knew better. How could this be, I thought? Why me?
I had been intimate with someone just days before and I vaguely remember him having a fever blister from the high altitude sunshine. My mind raced as the burning and itching intensified. I knew I had to get to a doctor as soon as I could, get to some “real” medical treatment in Katmandu.
Long story, cut very, very short…my worst nightmare came true. Within days I was diagnosed with genital herpes from a doctor at a clinic in Katmandu. My diagnosis was based on visual inspection, which, back then, was how it was done. You can read more about my journey in my new book, “Live, Love and Thrive with Herpes: A Holistic Guide for Women.”
Times have changed since the early 90’s and testing for genital herpes is so much more advanced. Now they have blood tests and culture tests which can determine whether or not you have herpes and which strain of the herpes virus you carry (HSV-1 and/or HSV-2). If you are reading this right now and are freaking out that you too might have genital herpes, my first piece of advice for you is to take a deep breath and know that you are not alone! If it is genital herpes, we know that at least 1 in 4 women in the U.S. have genital herpes. That’s 1 in 4! That statistic is higher than the rate of invasive breast cancer, 1 in 8, and no one is talking about this!
Herpes is often referred to as the Great Masquerader because it can look like so many different things. This is difficult for the patient and doctor alike. Genital herpes could be mistaken for a bug bite, allergic reaction, urinary tract infection, yeast infection etc. So, just because you think you might have genital herpes, you may or may not. If you have itching, burning, tingling, painful urination, or fluid filled blisters then I encourage you to go to your doctor or nearest STD clinic to get tested.
The reason you want to do this right away is that once the body starts to heal from an outbreak, the chances of you getting an accurate diagnosis decreases with time. Our immune system is constantly working to kill off any foreign invaders and this includes the herpes virus. So, if you wait to long, the immune system might have already killed off the majority of the herpes virus at the surface of the skin. While the virus might be killed off at the surface of the skin, it remains dormant in the spinal chord, indefinitely.
I know that going to a doctor for something like this might be very embarrassing, but it doesn’t need to be. If you are too embarrassed to go to your primary care doctor, consider going to an STD clinic. These people are truly experts at diagnosing herpes! Here is a bullet list of things you should know and require.
1. The most important thing to do is to go get tested right away. Don’t wait!
2. The doctor or nurse will want to see the affected area and this might include an internal exam (the outbreak might also be on the vaginal walls or on the cervix)
3. Require your doctor to perform a culture ( a culture is when they rub the area with a q -tip like tool and collect a sample). Do NOT rely on visual inspection because it might be incorrect.
4. Request a type specific test of your culture. The reason you want a type specific test is that it will let you know if you have either HSV-1 or HSV-2. This becomes important for compatibility with future partners and possible prognosis.
5. If your test comes back negative, wait at least 2-3 months to get your blood tested. If this is truly your first exposure, then it can take some time for the antibodies to show up in your blood.
If you ARE diagnosed with herpes, the women of Pink Tent are here to support you on our women’s only private forum. We are a group of Women Supporting Women with Herpes. The forum is the perfect place to ask questions, get support and get inspired.
Live. Love. Thrive.