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Potential Herpes Triggers

Keep these lesser known triggers in mind. Some may cause genital herpes to flare up, others not.

  • Factors during sex. Some people find that the friction of sexual intercourse irritates the skin and brings on symptoms. Using a water-based lubricant can help reduce irritation. Don't use one that contains the spermicide nonoxynol-9, however. Nonoxynol-9 can irritate mucous membranes, such as the lining of the vagina. Oil-based lubricants are a no-no, too. They weaken latex, making condoms more likely to break. Even if the friction of intercourse seems to be a trigger for symptoms, it probably won't cause a flare-up every time.
  • Colds and sunlight. The common cold and sunlight seem to trigger outbreaks of oral herpes (cold sores), but no proof exists that they trigger genital herpes outbreaks.
  • Hormones. Hormonal changes, like those that occur in the menstrual cycle, can affect genital herpes outbreaks. No one knows why yet.
  • Surgery, weak immune system. Trauma to the body, such as having surgery, may make herpes symptoms appear. Having a weakened immune system does, too. People whose immune systems are weakened by HIV or chemotherapy, for example, tend to have outbreaks more often than people with normal immune functioning do.

Remember that triggers may not be the same for everyone, and doctors are not certain how much lifestyle has to with outbreaks of herpes symptoms. If you think one triggers your symptoms, ask your doctor what you should do about it.

Recommended Related to Genital Herpes

What to Do if Your Partner Has Genital Herpes

A partner who has genital herpes needs support and acceptance. It took a lot of courage for your partner to tell you, and it means he or she cares about your well-being and values your trust. "No good deed goes unpunished" is often a harsh fact of life. But don't let it be that way in the relationship. Of course, your feelings and concerns matter, too. If you're uncomfortable with the idea of having sex with your partner again, or becoming sexually intimate for the first time, you're entitled to...

Read the What to Do if Your Partner Has Genital Herpes article > >

For more guidance about relieving emotional stress, see How To Tell Your Partner or What to Do if Your Partner Has Herpes.

You may also find reassurance by clicking on Re-Entering the Dating Scene and Sex and Herpes.

For more information and help understanding words you may hear about genital herpes, see Resources and the Glossary.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Debbie Bridges, MD on August 06, 2012
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