by Safer D

Talking to Your Doctor About Genital Herpes

You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with genital herpes. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.
In addition to your physical health, a diagnosis of genital herpes can affect your mental health and quality of life. You may feel scared, anxious, stressed, or depressed. Talk to your doctor if you experience these feelings, especially if they interfere with how you are living or enjoying 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 serious is genital herpes?
  • How is genital herpes different than having 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
  • Is there a way to cure genital herpes?
  • What medications are available to help me?
  • How long do I have to take medications?
  • What are the benefits/side effects of these medications?
  • Will these medications interact with other medications, over-the-counter products, or dietary or herbal supplements I am already taking for other conditions?
  • How often do I have to take them?
  • Will I have to take medication forever?
  • Are there any alternative or complementary therapies that will help me?
  • Where can I get information on any new treatments or research?
  • How can counseling or a support group help me if there is no cure?
About Lifestyle Changes
  • Just how risky is my lifestyle?
  • How do I tell my partner that I have genital herpes?
  • How do I know if I'm using a condom properly?
  • How can I protect my partner?
  • Should my partner come in for a test and treatment?
  • Is abstinence the only way I can protect myself?
  • How will having genital herpes affect my relationship with my future partners?
  • Are there any dietary changes I should make?
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 the same medications if I am or become pregnant? How can I protect my baby?
  • Where can I get more information about genital herpes and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
  • How often should I get tested for STDs or have check-ups?

References

Beauman JG. Genital herpes: A review. Am Fam Physician. 2005;72(8):1527-1534.

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

Genital herpes—CDC fact sheet. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes-detailed.htm. Updated February 13, 2013. Accessed October 16, 2014.

Herpes: Questions to ask your doctor. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: hhttp://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/herpes/questions-to-ask-your-doctor.html. Updated March 2014. Accessed October 16, 2014.

Herpes genitalis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated September 8, 2014. Accessed October 16, 2014.

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 May 2014. Accessed October 16, 2014.

Workowski KA, Berman S, et al. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: David Horn, MD
  • Review Date: 05/2014
  • Update Date: 10/16/2014

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