Herpes is probably one of the most — if not the most — common STDs around the world, and billions of people have some type of herpes. The most common types of herpes include oral and genital herpes, but did you know that it’s also possible to get anal herpes?
Let’s talk more about anal herpes, its symptoms, and treatment in this STDWatch.com article.
What is anal herpes?
Herpes is an infection caused by a type of virus called herpesvirus. There are two main types of herpes virus that commonly affect humans, called herpes simplex type 1 and herpes simplex type 2, or HSV-1 and HSV-2.
According to MedlinePlus, herpes type 1 commonly causes oral herpes — however, it has been found that the incidence of genital herpes caused by HSV-1 has significantly increased in recent decades.
Herpes type 2, on the other hand, is responsible for most cases of genital herpes, but it can also affect the mouth in some cases.
Herpes, whether it’s type 1 or 2, can be spread through oral-to-oral, genital, or oral-to-genital contact. Herpes doesn’t require penetration in order to be transmitted, which means that it can be contracted after kissing, rubbing, and sharing sex toys without cleaning them between partners.
Most cases of anal herpes are spread through having anal sex with someone who has genital herpes, although it’s also possible to get this STD if you receive oral-anal sex or “analingus” from a partner with oral herpes. It’s also possible for genital herpes to spread and become anal herpes, especially if you have any open sores or wounds around your anus — even if they’re very small.
Symptoms of anal herpes?
Many people never experience any symptoms of herpes, regardless of the location of the infection. However, these people can still spread the disease to their partners. According to a study published by journal Clinics in Colon and Rectal Surgery, the most common symptoms of anal or rectal herpes can include:
- Intense pain, or tingling, or burning sensations in the affected area
- Red bumps or white fluid-filled blisters
- These blisters will rupture and then form scabs
- Painful defecation
- Changes in your bowel movements
- Rectal bleeding
- Rectitis (inflammation of the rectum)
- Rectal discharge
- Rectal ulcers
- Temporary fecal incontinence
- Difficulty with urination
- Swollen inguinal or groin lymph nodes
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the symptoms of HSV-induced proctitis can be worse in patients who are also living with HIV.
When to see the doctor for anal herpes
Any signs of a rectal STD should be evaluated by a healthcare professional, especially because there are many STDs and other diseases that can produce symptoms similar to anal herpes. A misdiagnosis can lead to incorrect treatment, untreated disease, and eventually, complications.
Other STDs that can cause anal and rectal symptoms include:
- Candidiasis (yeast infection)
- Human papillomavirus (HPV)
If you think you may have anal herpes or another anorectal STD, it’s very important to get tested as soon as possible. You can make an appointment with your doctor, visit an urgent care facility or clinic that offers STD testing, or even order an at-home STD test. Some at-home STD testing providers offer multi-STD testing, which will allow you to rule out several common STDs at once.
Herpes can be diagnosed through different methods, but the most common method simply involves taking a swab of the fluid inside the blisters and analyzing this sample to determine the presence of HSV. A blood test can also be used to diagnose herpes.
Treatment for anal herpes
There’s no cure for herpes, and once you have the virus, it will stay in your body for the rest of your life. However, the acute phase of anal herpes — or any other type of herpes — will very likely subside on its own, according to a study published by the journal Diseases of the colon and rectum. You should keep in mind, however, that you could suffer outbreaks over the course of your life.
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, some of the triggers for herpes outbreaks include:
- High levels of stress
- Other viral or bacterial infections
- Menstrual periods
New herpes outbreaks are typically more common during the first year after the initial infection, and they tend to become less frequent over time.
There are also medications that can prevent outbreaks or reduce their severity and duration, such as acyclovir. Depending on your case, your doctor could prescribe daily antiviral medications to prevent new outbreaks, or they could tell you to only take them when you feel the prodromes of a new outbreak. A prodrome is an early, tell-tale sign that you’re going to develop a herpes outbreak, such as tingling or burning sensations. In severe cases of anal herpes, your doctor could also prescribe intravenous antiviral medication.
You can learn more about herpes by visiting these additional articles:
- Herpes - Everything you need to know
- Can you get herpes from kissing?
- Dating with herpes - dos and don’ts
- Is HPV herpes? Everything you need to know
- Herpes Simplex - medlineplus.gov
- Sexually Transmitted Proctitis - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Proctitis - my.clevelandclinic.org
- Anal infections caused by herpes simplex virus - pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
- Genital Herpes - hopkinsmedicine.org