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6 Common Misconceptions About Herpes

Herpes can be a frightening diagnosis to many. Your worries may only heighten once you look up symptoms of herpes and how it can manifest on the body. You shouldn’t self-diagnose, of course, but if you’re worried about a possible diagnosis of herpes, you should understand it better.

Herpes, formally known as the herpes simplex virus (HSV), is divided into two types: HSV-1 and HSV-2. The former is transmitted through saliva and causes oral herpes and, in some cases, genital herpes. Meanwhile, HSV-2 is transmitted through sexual contact and causes genital herpes.

However, herpes isn’t as straightforward as you may think. You may have heard some common misconceptions about herpes, and it’s best that you have accurate information at all times.

1. Cold Sores Are Always Herpes

One of the most common symptoms of herpes is cold sores. Thus, it’s understandable if you’re worried about being herpes-positive if you wake up to discover a cold sore on your face. However, cold sores can be caused by other skin diseases like eczema. They may look similar to the untrained eye, but it’s important to understand that there’s a difference between herpes and eczema.

Cold sores are also called oral herpes, and the two terms are used interchangeably. They usually come along with burning, tingling, and may ooze liquid. If you suspect that you may have oral herpes, you must see a doctor immediately.

2. Herpes Will Always Exhibit Symptoms

Cold sores are only one of the symptoms of herpes. Other symptoms include genital or anal sores, swollen lymph nodes, and pain while urinating. However, it’s possible to be herpes-positive while being asymptomatic. In cases like these, the carrier may only find out years after initial exposure to the virus.

3. Only Those Sexually Active Can Get Herpes

People diagnosed with herpes may experience a stigma, which is why we must debunk the myth that only those who are sexually active can contract the virus. While HSV-2 is classified as an STD, the term ‘herpes’ is often used loosely without much context regarding the possible type.

As we’ve mentioned, there are two types of herpes, one of which causes genital herpes (HSV-2). HSV-1, meanwhile, is primarily transmitted through saliva. This can be through kissing, sharing the same utensils, or touching a carrier’s skin near the mouth.

HSV-1 is usually acquired in childhood, especially since children have weaker immune systems than adults. While rare, HSV-2 can be transmitted in childbirth, causing neonatal herpes.

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4. Herpes Is Rare

Herpes is a prevalent infection regardless of where you are in the world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 3.7 billion people worldwide have HSV-1 while an estimated 491 million have HSV-2.

Due to its prevalence, herpes treatment is often accessible. In extremely rare cases, herpes can affect the central nervous system, causing complications such as meningitis or encephalitis. Thus, if you or someone you know is exhibiting possible symptoms of herpes, you must see a doctor immediately.

5. Herpes Is Curable

It’s common to assume that herpes is curable, especially given the advances in modern medicine. However, the unfortunate reality is that herpes currently has no cure and is a lifelong condition. No vaccinations have been invented to protect the general population against herpes either.

This sounds bleak, but fortunately, treatments exist to manage herpes and avoid outbreaks. A doctor may prescribe you antiviral cream and pain relievers for oral herpes. Meanwhile, those with genital herpes usually take daily antiviral oral medications.

If you ever come across supplements, remedies, or products claiming to cure herpes, it’s best to stay away. These products are most likely not properly regulated. And remember, if a cure for herpes has been found, you’ll hear it on the news.

After reading this, you may be confused about the difference between a cure and treatment. A cure is meant to eliminate the disease from your body, whereas treatment can only manage a disease or infection. Other manageable but incurable diseases include diabetes, asthma, and epilepsy.

6. It’s Hard To Live With Herpes

Except for complications in the nervous system, people with herpes often live a good and normal life without too much negative impact on their quality of life. While taking daily medications may be initially inconvenient, this easily becomes a routine for many.


Herpes is a common infection that has just as many misconceptions about it. However, with the proper treatment, it’s completely manageable and may even decrease the risk of transmission to others. Should you end up with a herpes-positive diagnosis, know that it’s not a hopeless case or something to be ashamed of. While it has no cure at present, the mortality rate remains low and doesn’t affect the quality of life of most who have it.

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