Other herpes questions

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  1. Does herpes mean I have a greater risk of cervical cancer?

    There is no greater risk of cervical cancer if you have genital herpes. It was thought for a time that herpes simplex infections could be one of the causes of cervical cancer. Further research has shown that this is not so.

  2. Can I give blood now I have herpes?

    Yes, you can be a blood donor. The virus is not found in blood.

  3. Is herpes simplex ever serious?

    Genital herpes can cause severe discomfort and a flu-like illness.

    • In rare cases cases there may be urinary retention during a first outbreak and a catheter may be needed but this does not mean that it is considered to be medically serious.
    • You may read about viral meningitis caused by herpes. Viral meningitis is very different from the dangerous bacterial meningitis. Most cases of viral meningitis are mild and clear quickly.
    • Some people with weakened immune systems or on certain medications may have many outbreaks. They can take prescribed antiviral medication to prevent them.
    • People with widespread eczema (or some other skin conditions) can have a more severe infection if the infection covers a large area of skin.

    Although genital herpes is not serious, facial herpes simplex can sometimes have serious complications – see links below.

    Rare complications of facial cold sores are:

    • Bell’s palsy is a temporary partial paralysis of one side of the face that usually gets better in a few weeks. It can happen when the nerve in the face is affected by cold sores. This causes loss of taste, drooping features and unresponsive facial muscles – typically in only one side of the face. Bell’s palsy usually resolves in a few weeks though it can last longer. www.bellspalsy.org.uk can give you more information.
    • Very rarely, a facial infection can reactivate inside the eye. This is called ophthalmic herpes simplex or herpes keratitis, dentritis or uveititis. It should be referred to a specialist eye doctor: if left untreated it may damage sight. The RNIB has more information.
    • Extremely rarely, a facial infection can reactivate in the brain. This is called encephalitis; if untreated, it may leave damage. www.encephalitis.info is a specialist charity for people with encephalitis.
    • An even rarer complication is an allergic reaction to the herpes simplex virus called erythema multiforme or Stevens-Johnson syndrome. It is so rare that many doctors never see it. It is more likely with a facial infection – unlikely with a genital infection. Symptoms are blisters over a wide area (trunk, face, arms, etc.). Patients may need treatment in hospital. These extra symptoms are not infectious as this is an allergic reaction – there is no virus in the blisters that arise from the allergy.
  4. Where can I get answers to my other questions?

    We run a helpline answered by trained volunteers who have herpes simplex themselves. Phone 0845 123 2305 with a pen and paper handy to jot down the times when the next volunteer is available (it tends to be weekday afternoons and evenings). You can come and talk informally and personally to the patient representative for the medical Herpes Simplex Virus Panel, at the London meetings open to all – see events page.

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