Talking to Your Doctor About Genital Herpes

  • He came in concerned about an itchy, burning rash on his penis. Silently, I could tell he thought it may be herpes. And I thought so too.

    When I told him that I too suspected herpes and that we needed to test him for the condition, he silently agreed. I told him about the test and about how we’d address the herpes if that is what he had.

    I knew he had questions, but I could also tell that he was so overwhelmed with the prospect of having the condition that he shut down. He was completely unable to regain his bearings and ask me all of the questions I knew were racing in his head. He left quickly despite my best efforts to engage him in conversation or offer support or information.
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    I can’t imagine what my patient must have gone through that first day and night after our appointment. He must have been terrified, angry, depressed, or even felt ashamed. My heart aches for him. And by tomorrow, he’ll have a million questions.

    If you’re concerned that you may have herpes and haven’t seen the doctor, this blog’s for you! I’m going to tell you how to prepare for that appointment.

    What we’ll ask:

    1. have you ever had a rash anywhere between your belly and mid-thigh? Describe what it looked like or felt like.

    2. Do you have such symptoms now and when did they appear?

    3. Have you ever had sex with someone you know has genital herpes?

    4. Do you use condoms each time you have sex?

    5. Have you had sex with a new partner within the last month?

    6. What parts of your genitals may have been exposed to the virus during sexual activity? (penis, vagina, buttocks, anus)

    These questions may seem embarrassing, but they’re important as we try to make the diagnosis and protect your health and the health of any sexual partners you’ve had. So answer them honestly.

    And, if you’re like many patients, you may become tongue-tied when you enter the doctor’s office. If so, here’s a list of questions you need to print out and ask.

    What You Should Ask:

    1. Should I be tested for other sexually transmitted diseases?

    2. What type of herpes infection do I have?

    3. How long have I been infected?

    4. Should I take medication now? If not, when should I start?

    5. How can I protect my sexual partner from contracting herpes?

    6. Should I tell my partner(s) to be tested? And if so, when?

    You may have other questions, like whether having herpes complicates the management of other medical conditions you may have or if it will keep you from having children. Ask. Let your doctor know what you’re concerned about.

    Remember the saying, the only dumb question is the one that isn’t asked.
Published On: January 12, 2007