Herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in Singapore. There is currently no cure for herpes, so people who are infected have it forever.
However antiviral medications are available to treat sores, speed up the healing process, limit outbreaks and lower your chances of giving the virus to other people. And the good news is, outbreaks usually become less frequent over time, and even though herpes can sometimes be uncomfortable and painful, it’s not dangerous. People with herpes can have relationships, have sex and live totally normal lives.
In this article, we will discuss the:
- Types of herpes (oral & genital herpes);
- How do you get herpes;
- Symptoms of herpes;
- How to prevent herpes;
- Available treatments for herpes in Singapore.
What Is Oral & Genital Herpes?
- HSV-1: This type primarily causes oral herpes, characterized by cold sores or blisters inside of/around the mouth and on the face.
- HSV-2: This type primarily causes genital herpes, which involves sores that appear on or around your genitals, anus, buttocks, and inner thighs. Sores can also develop inside the vagina.
How Do You Get Herpes?
Herpes spreads through close contact with a person who has the infection. The virus can be found in the skin and saliva. If you have herpes simplex, you are most likely to pass the virus to another person when you have sores. But you can infect someone else even if you have no symptoms (also known as asymptomatic viral shedding).
People may transmit or contract HSV-1, or oral herpes, through
- Touching a person’s skin near the mouth.
- Sharing food utensils, lip balm or razors.
- If you receive oral sex from someone who has a cold sore, it may spread a herpes infection to your genitals.
People may transmit or contract HSV-2, or genital herpes, through
- Intercourse, including anal, vaginal-penile and vaginal-vaginal.
- Oral sex (giving or receiving) with someone who’s infected.
- Skin-to-skin contact without ejaculation.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother or gestational parent who has an active infection.
Symptoms Of Herpes
Most people infected with HSV may experience mild to no symptoms, leaving them in the dark about their infection, or even mistaking these signs as a skin condition instead. This is when transmission usually occurs as the individuals will dismiss the symptoms and leave the infection untreated while continuing to engage in sexual intercourse.
This is why it is useful to know the hallmarks of a herpes infection so that you can seek help as soon as possible. Here are some common signs that you can look out for:
- Cold sores around lips, mouth or tongue. They may look crusty or like fluid-filled blisters;
- Sores on their genitals, anal and surrounding areas;
- Tingling, itching or burning;
- Pain on urination;
- Flu-like symptoms (headache, fever, muscle aches); and
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area.
What Triggers A Herpes Outbreak?
Herpes infection is lifelong, and symptoms can recur over many years. A herpes outbreak may be triggered by:
- Surgery; or
- A suppressed immune system (due to chemotherapy, AIDS, transplant etc.)
While some people may only have one outbreak during their lifetime, others may have several recurrences a year. Recurrent episodes are usually shorter in duration (usually 1 week) and less severe/painful than the initial episode. Though the virus will always be present in the body, the number of outbreaks often decreases over the years.
How To Prevent Giving Or Getting Herpes
The best way to avoid herpes is by practising abstinence (not engaging in sexual intercourse) but most people have sex at some point in their lives. Here are some ways that can help lower the risk of giving or getting herpes:
- Always use protection like condoms and dental dams when having sex can lower your risk of giving or getting herpes.
- Taking antiviral medication every day (preventive treatment) inhibits the activity of the virus, thereby lowering the risk of infecting partners.
- Abstain from sexual activity when you feel a herpes outbreak coming or during a herpes outbreak, even with a condom. There may be sores on places the condom doesn’t cover (e.g. scrotum, butt cheeks, upper thighs, and labia).
- Abstain from sexual activity sex until your sores are totally gone, and the scabs heal and fall off.
- Avoid touching your sores and if you do, wash your hands with soap and water immediately.
- If you have a cold sore on your mouth, don’t kiss anyone — especially babies, children, or pregnant women.
- Always tell your sexual partners that you have herpes before you have sex, so you can work together to prevent it from spreading.
- Encourage your sexual partner(s) to be evaluated and treated for any STDs as well.
Treatment For Herpes In Singapore
There is currently no cure for herpes but prescription antiviral medication (Acyclovir) can be used to stop the spread of the herpes virus in the body. This helps to lessen symptoms, speed healing of your infection, limit outbreaks and lower your chances of giving the virus to other people
|Topical antivirals||Oral antivirals|
|– Temporarily relieve the pain and discomfort and may help the sores (if any) heal faster|
– Most effective when used at the start of an outbreak
|– If you have frequent or severe recurrence, a daily dose will help to prevent them (suppressive therapy)|
– If you have occasional outbreaks, start treatment when you feel one coming on (episodic therapy)
Where Can I Buy Antiviral Medication For Herpes In Singapore?
Topical and oral antiviral medications are only available with a prescription from a licensed doctor in Singapore.
With MOH-approved telemedicine providers like Siena, you can now get your herpes treatments discreetly, conveniently, and inexpensively, all from the comfort of your home! Connect with one of our doctors via an online video consultation and if prescribed, we deliver your treatment plan right to your door in discreet packaging at $0.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, Janurary). STD Facts – Genital Herpes. https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm
- HealthHub. (2020, November). Herpes: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment – Singapore. https://www.healthhub.sg/a-z/diseases-and-conditions/50/herpes
- Planned Parenthood. Herpes: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment – Singapore. https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/stds-hiv-safer-sex/herpes