Is it possible to have herpes and not know it?
DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: I have been with my husband for 33 years, and for the past six I have been suspicious of him being unfaithful. I went to the doctor and tested negative for HIV, but I was positive for herpes 1 and herpes 2. My husband claims I could have had this since before we met and says that he is completely innocent. Do you think I could have had this for 30 years and not known it? It seems rather unrealistic to me. -- D.F.
ANSWER: Herpes viruses are a group of common viruses that share several traits, one of which is that they all stay dormant in the body and may cause recurrences in times of stress. Herpes simplex 1 causes an outbreak of cold sores: These often come out when people are ill or stressed. Herpes simplex 2 usually causes genital lesions. About 20 percent of adults in the U.S. are positive for HSV-2; many or even most of them don't know they have it. Once you acquire HSV-2, it stays in your body forever, and may (or may not) cause recurrent disease, which most commonly looks like a clear, fluid-filled blister. These are very infectious, but it is possible to transmit the virus even when there are no symptoms.
It is possible that you acquired the condition 30 or more years ago. The test isn't able to tell how long you've had it.
The booklet on herpes and genital warts explains these two common infections in detail. Readers can obtain a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue -- No. 1202, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6 Can. with the recipient's printed name and address. Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.
DEAR DRS. DONOHUE AND ROACH: I have high blood pressure and have been on medication for about 10 years. My blood pressure is under control, but my doctor sometimes tells me it's on the high side. I live in an area with very hard water, and I have a water softener that I constantly put bags of salt into. I drink eight glasses of water a day. Could this salt be affecting my blood pressure? A workman recommended a water purifier. With how much water I drink, should I consider this? If so, any recommendations? -- S.B.
ANSWER: This is a great question, and one I've never thought about. A little research showed me that hardness in water means high amounts of minerals, especially calcium and magnesium. A traditional water softener uses table salt to exchange sodium for the calcium and magnesium. The harder the water, the more sodium will be added. An average 8-ounce glass of softened water has about 70 milligrams of sodium, but very hard water can add 200 mg of sodium. Since we recommend no more than 2,400 mg of sodium a day, it's possible that you could be getting more than half of your daily recommended sodium from drinking water.
Some people with high blood pressure are very sensitive to salt. I usually recommend a trial of low sodium intake to see if it helps bring blood pressure down, and it seems that your blood pressure is sometimes borderline. You might try drinking no-sodium bottled water for a week to see if that brings down your blood pressure, but you should take your blood pressure every day before and after switching to see if it really makes a difference. If you decide to try removing salt from your home drinking water, the Pelican brand seems to be a well-regarded home water purifier.
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Drs. Donohue and Roach regret that they are unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may write the doctors or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475 or email ToYourGoodHealth@med.cornell.edu with medical questions. Readers also may order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com.
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