Genital Herpes

Herps, virus volcanoes, crotch craters, love warts

Most people infected with herpes are not aware of their infection. However, if signs and symptoms occur during the first outbreak, they can be very obvious and can occur within two weeks after the virus is transmitted. When signs do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters or sores on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break, leaving painful sores that may take two to four weeks to heal the first time they occur.

Other signs and symptoms may include a second crop of sores, and flu-like symptoms, including fever and swollen glands. However, most individuals with herpes infection never have sores, or they have very mild signs that they do not even notice or that they mistake for insect bites or another skin condition.

People diagnosed with a first episode of genital herpes can expect to have several outbreaks within a year. Over time these outbreaks usually decrease to a few per year. It is possible that a person becomes aware of the "first episode" years after the infection is acquired.

For women and men, any genital symptoms such as an unusual sore, discharge with odor, burning during urination could mean an STD infection. An additional symptom of possible infection for women is bleeding between menstrual cycles. If any of these symptoms appear, you should stop having sex and consult a health care provider immediately.

Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. About one out of six people 14 to 49 years of age have genital herpes infection.

Genital herpes infection is more common in women (approximately one out of five women 14 to 49 years of age) than in men (about one out of nine men 14 to 49 years of age).

Transmission from an infected male to his female partner is more likely than from an infected female to her male partner.

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. Most individuals have no or only minimal signs or symptoms from HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection. When signs do occur, they typically appear as blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break, leaving painful sores that may take two to four weeks. Typically, another outbreak can appear weeks or months after the first, but it almost always is less severe and shorter than the first outbreak. Although the infection can stay in the body indefinitely, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years.

HSV-1 can cause genital herpes, but it more commonly causes infections of the mouth and lips, so-called “fever blisters.” HSV-1 infection of the genitals can be caused by oral-genital or genital-genital contact with a person who has HSV-1 infection. Genital HSV-1, “fever blister”, outbreaks recur less often than genital HSV-2 outbreaks.

Any sexually active person can be infected with herpes. If you have other STDs, your risk for herpes increases. The more partners you have, the greater the risk. The more partners your partner has had ... you know! The higher the risk!

The surest way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including genital herpes, is to abstain from sexual contact, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected.

Herpes transmission can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered. Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of genital herpes.

Avoiding alcohol and drug use may also help prevent transmission of genital herpes because these activities may lead to risky sexual behavior. It is important that sex partners talk to each other about their HIV status and history of other STDs so that preventive action can be taken.

People with herpes should abstain from sexual activity with uninfected partners when sores or other symptoms of herpes are present. It is important to know that even if a person does not have any symptoms he or she can still infect sex partners. Partners of infected persons should be advised that they may become infected and they should use condoms to reduce the risk. They can also be tested to determine if they are infected with HSV. Health care providers can diagnose genital herpes by visual inspection during an outbreak and by taking a sample from the sore(s) and testing it in a laboratory. HSV infections can be diagnosed between outbreaks by the use of a blood test.

There is no treatment that can cure herpes, but antiviral medications can shorten and prevent outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication. In addition, daily suppressive therapy for symptomatic herpes can reduce transmission to partners.


Last Updated On December, 18, 2010