I get cold sores. You know, the herpes simplex virus. My dad’s always gotten them, and my mom has a strain of it as well, but I didn’t get my first one until about 6 months ago. But what a fucking cold sore it was. It wouldn’t go away, even with Abreva, and I even got another, matching one, on the other side of my mouth. Eventually, I went to the doctor and he gave me a Valtrex prescription to help it go away faster and to take the next time I got one. But I haven’t had another one since.

However, I currently have an outbreak. And no, it’s not on my genitals. I don’t have that strain. So where is it? It’s in my eye. Yes, I have a herpes outbreak in my eye. And no, I didn’t get it from some dude’s bad aim, but I know that joke’s in there somewhere. My mom has only had the outbreaks in her eye, strangely. Never had a cold sore. So we knew what it was when I got it, I have medication and ointment for it, and it will go away (doctor confirmed it via picture mail; he’s a family friend). Really no big deal.
So what *is* a big deal? The big deal is the way that people respond when you tell them that it’s herpes. You have herpes in your eye?? EW. You are dirty or infected or contagious or have some gross STD. But no one says that when someone has a cold sore! And it’s the same thing! My doctor flat out told me that I probably got it from touching my cold sore and then touching my eye. But people are ignorant, as Eliot so nicely put it. Over 80% of the population has the herpes simplex virus. So why such a stigma? Really, it’s ridiculous.
My first thought upon seeing the photo at the top of this post on Flickr was, “Wow, she’s brave for posting that.” Brave? I mean, yes, she is, but why should it take guts or courage to post a picture of something that most of the population has gotten at one time in their life? Why such a stigma? And while the herpes on my eye does not photograph nearly as well (the use of my webcam and crappy bedroom lighting clearly play a role in this), I decided to follow her lead and post a photo. This is what herpes on your eye (a very mild outbreak) looks like (it’s on the right eye, inside corner).

Scary, I know. It’s more annoying that anything else, as I can feel the swelling and it’s sore when I blink it. I guess I’ll just have to avoid giving anyone butterfly kisses on their genitals for the next few days. Shame, really, since that’s one of my favorite things to do.
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  1. Eliot
    Posted August 12, 2009 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Er, you hyperlinked that chick's photo to my name.

    I used the word ignorance because I think that's why a lot of people react that way–they don't realize that herpes is so common and that the sexually transmitted strain isn't the only one out there. But then a lot of people who are ignorant act like douchebags because of said ignorance. *sigh*

    Anyway, I'm flattered that something I said triggered a post.

    Rock on, chica. :-)

  2. Britni TheVadgeWig
    Posted August 12, 2009 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    Fixed, dearie.

    And yes, it's ignorance. Herpes, even the genital strain, isn't that big of a deal. Yes, the outbreaks are painful and there's no cure, but it doesn't fuck with your fertility/ability to reproduce, and the longer you have it, the fewer outbreaks you get. Some people only get one ever. Some people get them once a year.

    And of the scheme of life, that's really not so bad.

  3. Lilly
    Posted August 12, 2009 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    Ugh! I'm sorry you have to deal with this on your eye no less!!! I know that that would drive me absolutely batshit insane.
    I hope it gets better soon!!

  4. Nelfy
    Posted August 13, 2009 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    I get cold sores all the time and I really hate them, but thank god was I lucky – my girlfriend doesn't mind and when I first met her in person and had one due to my nerves, she just asked what it was and then shrugged and said ok.

    A little known fact: there is a disease most people have during their childhood (tried to look it up but failed, sorry) that if you had that childhood disease, you can develop herpes at some point in your life, just like that.

    I just hate that I always get them when I'm especially nervous or excited, which often happens before event where a lot of pictures are being taken – weddings, birthday parties,… but yeah, the itching and the pain suck completely too!

  5. Amorous Rocker
    Posted August 13, 2009 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    Ick, that would suck! I hope it gets better soon.

    People are ignorant morons.

    My little sister gets cold sores often but she isn't gross or infected or any of that crap. She's not even sexually active. Yet anyway. She's got the cold sores for years now and she's only 18. I always feel bad for her because people see them and often think she got them on her mouth from putting her mouth on a place that was infected with another person. Ignorance.

  6. River Girl
    Posted August 13, 2009 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Hope that gets well soon, sorry that you have to put up with such an aggravation..

  7. Advizor
    Posted August 13, 2009 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    my wife gets these on her lips (mouth) every few months. Luckily she can feel them developing 2-3 days in advance, so we know not to kiss, NO oral, and we are very careful. We've been together for over 15 years and I still have never developed a problem, so it's very manageable.

    BUT, if you are pregnant and near your delivery date, PLEASE tell your doctor about ANY cold sore. A newborn is extremely susceptible to the herpes virus an any exposure can be devastating.

  8. alana
    Posted August 13, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    I don’t get why people are so freaked out about cold sores. I’ve never had a cold sore (though I have sun burned my lip and it hurt like a bitch) but who cares? Is that supposed to make me better in some way? Sheesh. If Ryan got them I would just do the same as Advizor, wait it out. Simple as that.

    I do have to admit Ryan and I tell each other we hope we get herpes of the eye. It kind of became a joke between us (like how he calls me smelly tramp and I threaten to wipe my butt on his pillow) after we heard it on a commercial. Now I feel a little bad. lol

  9. champagneandbenzedrine
    Posted August 13, 2009 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    I think the record goes that by the time they're 25 or something, 45% of people have some form of Herpes. By the time they're 60, it's up to, like 85%.

    It can be passed on by so many things – kissing, sharing a straw… Hell, at one hotel I worked at, one girl had a cold sore and a habit of nibbling the end of her pencil. By the end of the week, both other receptionists had cold sores too (and they'd never had them before) because they'd been nibbling the same pencils.

    So the stigma surrounding people who have cold sores is totally unfair. Yes, it's a form of Herpes – but so is chickenpox. Shingles. A whole host of shit. It's one of the most common viruses on the planet.

    My wife occasionally has a cold sore and we make an effort not to go down on each other during an outbreak, but we still kiss (well, not like MAKE OUT) during that time. I have been married to her for almost six years (sleeping with her for seven) and never had a cold sore.

    I wonder if that's because I was one of the last generation of kids to be routinely immunized against smallpox (which is, you guessed it, a form of herpes.)

    Either way, I definitely don't judge ANYBODY who has cold sores. I'm really sorry they make you feel self concious, but anybody who criticizes or judges people for having cold sores is probably an ignorant twat.

    Just want to second what Advizor said – around infants and newborns it pays to be careful. I read one VERY fucked up story of some poor orthodox Jewish kid who was circumcised in Brooklyn and the rabbi SUCKED the blood out of the wound (apparently that's why the hard core believers do)and gave the poor kid herpes. He died from it.

    Added proof of just what a fucked up thing circumcision is – BUT I DIGRESS.

    Thanks for having the guts to share this. As always, you're a fucking legend. :-)

  10. J
    Posted August 13, 2009 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    For me (only the lip kind), they pop-up when I haven't been getting enough sleep, eating right, exercising, etc. Probably because my immune system is suppressed.

    You may know this already.

  11. Sequoia Redd
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

    people's attitudes are extremely lame at times, even if you did have an STD thats not reason to be treated poorly either.

  12. Atomic Lola
    Posted August 17, 2009 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    I didn't realize the herpes virus still had such a stigma attached to it. I think anyone who still thinks that way is just plain uninformed in my experience and opinion.

    My dad had the herpes virus in his eye and it affected his retina. He is now blind in that eye. So be careful about getting that checked out when it flares up.

    He had previously had a form of the virus that caused him to have Encephalitis, which is a swelling of the brain. He lost his short term memory and it affected his speech and language.

    The herpes virus is serious, not something to joke about or take lightly. It is also not anyone's fault if they have it.

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  1. By Day 18, Part One: Safe Sex FAIL | Chronicles of A Cosmo Nut on September 30, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    [...] virus got it through sexual contact. My fabulous blog friend Britni wrote a great post about the stigma attached to those who get cold sores and other strains of the herpes simplex virus. This paranoia [...]

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