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  • Talking to Your Doctor About Genital Herpes

    In addition to your physical health, Genital herpes can affect your mental health, as well. Concern about outbreaks or of spreading the disease to your partner or your baby may cause you to feel scared, anxious, stressed, and even depressed. Also, depending on how you contracted the disease, you may feel betrayed, angry, and alone.
    Speak with your doctor if you begin to experience these feelings, especially if they interfere with how you are living or enjoying your life. In addition to your primary care doctor, you may need counseling. Support from a mental health professional can help you deal with your emotions so that you can move on and live your life to the fullest. Visit the American Social Health Association’s website to find local, free, and confidential support groups for people concerned about herpes.
    Although there is no cure for genital herpes, it can be managed so that it is less severe and so that outbreaks do not last as long. If you have genital herpes, you can learn to manage the condition and live your life.

    General Tips for Gathering Information

    Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:
    • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
    • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don’t forget them.
    • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification if necessary.
    • Do not be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.

    Specific Questions to Ask Your Doctor

    About Genital Herpes
    • What causes genital herpes?
    • How did I get infected?
    • What are the symptoms of a genital herpes outbreak?
    • Typically, how long will the outbreaks last?
    • What type of herpes simplex virus am I infected with?
    • How common is genital herpes?
    • How is genital herpes different than cold sores?
    • Are there any serious complications of genital herpes that I should be aware of?
    About Your Risk of Developing Genital Herpes
    • Based on my medical history, lifestyle, and family background, am I at risk for genital herpes?
    • How can I decrease my risk of contracting genital herpes?
    • How do I know if my partner has genital herpes? What physical signs or symptoms should I be looking for?
    About Treatment Options
    • What type of medicine should I take to reduce the symptoms?
    • What medicine can I take to prevent outbreaks from occurring?
      • What are the benefits, side effects, and risks of the medicines?
      • Will these medicines interact with other medicines, over-the-counter products, or dietary or herbal supplements I am already taking for other conditions?
    • How often is medicine taken?
    • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that will help me?
    • Are you aware of any ongoing research about genital herpes?
      • Is there any progress in research to find a cure or to prevent genital herpes entirely?
      • How can I stay aware of the news about what is happening in genital herpes research?
    • Where can I find a support group about genital herpes?
    • Do you recommend any additional counseling?
    About Lifestyle Changes
    • Is there anything else I can do to minimize any discomfort I may experience?
    • How do I tell my partner that I have genital herpes?
    • Do I have to tell my family about genital herpes?
    • How can I protect my partner?
    • Should my partner come in for a test and treatment?
    • Can I still have sex?
    • How will having genital herpes affect my relationship with my partner?
    • Are there any dietary changes I should make?
    • Will exercise affect genital herpes?
    About Your Outlook
    • How often will I have an outbreak?
    • How can I become pregnant if I have genital herpes? How can I get my partner pregnant if I have genital herpes?
    • Can I take medicine if I am pregnant? How can I protect my baby?
    • Where can I get more information about genital herpes?


    Genital herpes—CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm. Updated February 11, 2013. Accessed February 25, 2013.

    Drake S, Taylor S, Brown D, Pillay D. Improving the care of patients with genital herpes. BMJ. 2000;321:619-623.

    Herpes: Questions to ask your doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/herpes/questions-to-ask-your-doctor.html. Updated December 2010. Accessed February 26, 2013.

    Talking to your HCP: 10 questions to ask. American Sexual Health Association website. Available at: http://www.ashastd.org/sexual%5Fhealth/10-questions-to-ask-your-healthcare-provider.html. Accessed February 26, 2013.

    Tips for talking to your doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/healthcare-management/working-with-your-doctor/tips-for-talking-to-your-doctor.html. Updated November 2010. Accessed February 26, 2013.

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