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Author Topic: HSV-1 question
she_who_questions
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I have a concern about mild, occasional itching and irritation on one side of my vulva. It began in the summer and has happening been on and off since then. I didn't notice anything until after I had casual sex with someone, but the inflammation has been so subtle that it might have even occurred before that. I've never had any lesions per se.

I went into Planned Parenthood and was diagnosed with a yeast infection. However, I had suspected asymptomatic or mild genital herpes and insisted on getting a blood test for that. Knowing that genital herpes can be caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2, I wanted to be tested for both. But the clinician said that oral HSV-1 infection was extremely common and could throw off the results. She basically convinced me to just get the HSV-2 test. She also said: 1) my vulva area did not have any sores or unusual skin, 2) the timeline of the itching didn't match with herpes, 3) the blood test wouldn't specify the site of infection. She said she was pretty sure that the issue wasn't herpes.

Anyway, the HSV-2 test came back negative, which was a relief. In the meantime, I started using all unscented products and treated internally and externally for the yeast infection. The itching went away for a while but has cropped up again recently (even more mild than before).

I'm really not sure how to proceed. Do you think I should see a different gynecologist or go to a dermatologist? I'm terrified to have sex or touch myself because I'm worried about herpes. I feel kind of like I'm shunning that whole aspect of my life. But even an HSV-1 blood test won't differentiate between oral and genital herpes. Any advice?

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Robin Lee
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Hi she_who_questions,

The most accurate test for herpes is a swab taken from an open sore. It doesn't sound like you have sores; am I understanding that correctly?


If you continue to experience irritation, you could go to a healthcare provider or clinic and have them examine you at the time you're experiencing the irritation. That's really the only sound way you'd get a diagnosis, if indeed that is what is going on here. Did the provider you spoke with educate you on what herpes sores usually look like?

I think it's helpful to remember that genitals will itch sometimes, for no reason at all, just like any other part of our body.

Can you perhaps say why you're very convinced that what you're experiencing is herpes?

Also, for some solid, accurate information on herpes, take a look here:



The STI Files: Herpes

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Robin

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she_who_questions
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Okay, I'm worried because I don't really know what else could be causing the itching. Both of the clinicians I've seen have said that there were no signs of lesions. I've been treated for a mild yeast infection, internally and externally, to no avail. I went back to Planned Parenthood and the gyno took a swab of the itchy area. She didn't see any signs of yeast but prescribed me Lotrisone (a steroidal anti-fungal cream). I guess she wanted to calm the area down that way. She also recommended that I try unscented or hypoallergenic body products, which I did. After those changes, the itching went away for several weeks but reappeared around Thanksgiving.

I guess I'm freaked out because 1) the symptoms are recurrent, 2) mild or "asymptomatic" herpes can manifest as redness/irritation/itching, 3)herpes is often misdiagnosed as a yeast infection or jock itch. Also, the other thing that bothers me is that my casual sex partner used to make joking comments about herpes. I also realize that I'm experiencing a level of paranoia here...it's kind of my personality. I just want some scientific way to know what is causing the itching but no doctors seem able to give me that. Also, I've been to the doc several times and it's always so frickin' expensive...I'm just really frustrated and freaked.

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Robin Lee
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Was the swab that was taken tested for anything else besides yeast? I'm imagining so, particularly if you shared your concerns about STIs with the doctor and were clear and honest about your sexual history. Did you get the results from that swab?

As I said above, the genitals can be itchy and irritated just like any other part of the body, and while, as with any other part of the body, there can be reasons for that itching and irritation, sometimes there's no discernible reason.

Did the doctor talk with you about not only switching to hypoallergenic body care products but also using nonscented laundry detergent, and wearing loose fitting clothes and breathable (cotton) underwear?

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Robin

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she_who_questions
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I think she took the swab with a q-tip or something and looked at it under a microscope. It wasn't something that was sent away. I don't know if the gyno checked it for anything else. She told me that generally, with herpes lesions, one gets a swab from an open sore but that I didn't have anything resembling that.

She also conducted a pap smear and tested for chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, etc. And she did the HSV-2 blood test. All were negative.

She did explain to me the importance of loose-fitting clothing, unscented laundry detergent, etc. I've been attempting to adhere to that advice.

I'm just freaked because I never noticed any recurrent itching before this summer, when I was involved with a guy once (casually). I guess there are other factors that could be at play... communal laundry machines, stress, body products, heat. But I'm looking for some kind of distinct resolution to this. Just not sure if it's possible. For example, I want to be able to tell any future partners with certainty that I'm clean--in their interest mainly.

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Robin Lee
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You can, with all honesty, tell any future partners that you've had a negative STI screening.

We ask that people not use the word "clean" when talking about STI status, either here or elsewhere; it's not accurate--there's nothing dirty about STIs--and it's disrespectful to folks who do have STIs. Realistically, STIs are like any other illness, not any better or worse, not dirty or clean, moral or immoral, or anything else.

You'll also want to be using safer sex practices with future partners, which will protect them as well as you. If it would help, we can go over safer sex practices here if you have any questions or uncertainties.


If there were no open sores to test, and you've never had any open sores, it's really not likely (though of course none of us can say for sure) that you've contracted HSV-I on your genitals, and even if you have, it wouldn't be possible to determine this through a test unless you had an open sore. Herpes, of both strains, is also primarily transmitted when there is an open sore, or just before one comes up.
I'm hearing here a lot of concern, concern that you're pinning on something that isn't likely, and just isn't something that you're able to get answers about anyway.

Can I chec in with you about how you're feeling about the sexual encounter you had this past summer?

[ 12-15-2013, 08:39 AM: Message edited by: Robin Lee ]

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Robin

Posts: 6066 | From: Washington DC suburbs | Registered: Dec 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
she_who_questions
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The one encounter over the summer is not something I'm proud of, honestly. We practiced safer sex, using a condom. However, it was in a communal environment and he became involved with a several other girls soon after me. I felt kind of insecure after he lost interest but I've been able to move past that for the most part.

I realized afterward that I'm not a casual sex kind of person. While intellectually I think it's fine, I'm not able to emotionally deal with those types of situations. Indeed, I got really paranoid about pregnancy over the summer too. I knew that those concerns were mostly unfounded but I took EC anyway to give myself some peace of mind.

I had almost moved past the situation until this itching business became noticeable, off and on. While I know that I can be a bit of a hypochondriac when I'm feeling vulnerable, this encounter happened months ago. I just want an answer regarding the itching. I want to be able to have sex with a future long term partner without having to worry about skin touching skin. Although I understand the importance of safer sex practices, I would like to be able to relax a little with my husband (should I find someone).

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Robin Lee
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All any of us can ever do is do our best to ensure our own health and well-being. You've done everything you can to get the answers that are available.

Just to double-check: when the itching came back, did you get checked out to see if the yeast infection had been successfully treated?

It sounds like you're still feeling pretty vulnerable related to this sexual encounter.

What do you feel like you need in order to take good care of your mental and physical self, and accept that you've done everything you can to get answers?

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Robin

Posts: 6066 | From: Washington DC suburbs | Registered: Dec 2011  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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