What are genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a STD (sexually transmitted disease) that is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). If infected, you can develop sores on your genitals, rectum, buttocks or thighs.

Genital herpes can be transferred to another person even when there are no symptoms of the disease. After infection, genital herpes can remain dormant for many months and before another outbreak.

Cold Sore (Fever Blister) Genital Warts

Causes of genital herpes

Herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 (HSV-1 or HSV-2) can cause genital herpes. HSV-2 more commonly causes genital herpes.

Herpes simplex viruses can be found in saliva, semen and vaginal secretions and transferred via oral, anal or vaginal sex.

Risk factors for genital herpes

  • Gender — women are more likely to develop genital herpes than men
  • Multiple sexual partners — people who have multiple sexual partners are at higher risk of developing genital herpes.

Symptoms of genital herpes

Some people who have genital herpes do not have any signs or symptoms. These individuals can still pass the infection onto their sexual partners.

When symptoms do appear, they typically appear as small blisters that break open and produce painful, open sores that eventually scab over. Some people experience headaches, body aches fever, swollen lymph nodes and other flu-like symptoms during an outbreak. The blisters associated with an outbreak typically heal within a few weeks.

Diagnosis of genital herpes

Your primary care doctor can diagnose genital herpes during a physical exam. When appropriate, he or she may order laboratory or blood tests to confirm the diagnosis and predict future outbreak.

Treatment for genital herpes

There is not a cure for genital herpes. Treatment is focused on relieving the symptoms associated with the condition. 

Treatment includes:

Antiviral medications 
Your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications such as Zovirax or Valtrex that can help speed up the healing process and reduce symptoms. Your physician may recommend taking the medication only during outbreaks or may recommend taking it daily to prevent future outbreaks.

Home care therapy 
For symptom relief, keep the infected site clean, wear loose clothing and use mild cleansers in warm water when showering.

Find a primary care doctor nearby

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