Asymptomatic and Living with Herpes
What does asymptomatic mean and how does this relate to living with herpes?
Let me assume that you are either reading this because you just found out you have herpes but have never gotten an outbreak. Or you've had one outbreak and haven't had any more outbreaks in years. The unique thing about the herpes virus is it has the ability to go dormant in our system, thus making the person living with herpes asymptomatic.
According to Oxford's dictionary the definition of asymptomatic is, "(of a condition or a person) producing or showing no symptoms." So what this means for someone living with herpes is, they have herpes but don't have any symptoms. They don't get outbreaks, they don't have tingles, they don't get itchy, they don't have any sensation or clue that they have herpes.
Personally, I think this is great news and I know there are a lot of jealous people out there who are wishing they could be asymptomatic as well. However, I've heard from people who are asymptomatic and have never had a herpes outbreak who are concerned because they don't know where their outbreaks are. I can understand that can be frustrating because then you don't know where you are contagious and don't know how to proceed with a disclosure and protecting your partners.
Anyway, so what does it mean for asymptomatic people? Well, in a nutshell it means that they have herpes, they don't get outbreaks and yes, they can still transmit herpes. This last part is usually what confuses everyone. If you don't get outbreaks then how is it you can transmit it? There are people out there who are still under the belief that you can only transmit herpes if you have an active outbreak with blisters and lesions. Well, this is completely false. Transmission can still occur without an outbreak and from asymptomatic people.
Planned Parenthood states that, "About 75 percent of asymptomatic shedding events only last for a day, while viral shedding lasts longer when accompanied by symptoms." Also, according to WebMD, "Asymptomatic-infected people shed herpes virus only about half as often as do people who have herpes symptoms." So what does all this mean is that the herpes virus replicates without warnings and is silent. Meaning that you don't experience symptoms but you do produce copies of the virus, which you can potentially transmit. Source.
This right here is why so many people have herpes and why it keeps getting unknowingly transmitted. The majority of the population living with herpes does not know that they have herpes because they are asymptomatic. Asymptomatic people can still transmit the virus and thus we have a new person infected.
So what dose this mean for you if you are asymptomatic. Well firstly, that's awesome that you don't experience the painful blisters. It means that having the disclosure talk is still going to be equally as important. It means that if you want to protect your partner using a condom, antivirals and including lysine in your diet are going to be helpful in preventing transmission to your partners.
If herpes is new to you and you are looking for more information and are wanting to educate yourself we have a Herpes Toolkit that goes over everything you need to know when it comes to living with herpes. It has videos and the topics range from herpes 101, to natural treatments, to learning how to have the disclosure talks and so on.