What Is Genital Herpes?
herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). This STD causes herpetic sores,
which are painful blisters (fluid-filled bumps) that can break open and ooze
fluid. About 16 percent of people between the ages of 14
and 49 have this STD.
Causes of Genital Herpes
Two types of viruses cause genital herpes: the herpes
simplex virus (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus (HSV-2), which belong to the
same family of viruses.
The viruses get into your body through your mucous
membranes. Your mucous membranes are the thin layers of tissue that line the
openings of your body. They can be found in your nose, mouth, and genitals. Once
the viruses are inside your body, they incorporate themselves into your cells.
Viruses tend to multiply or adapt to their environments very easily, which
makes treating them difficult.
HSV-1 or HSV-2 can be found in infected people’s body
- vaginal secretions
Recognizing the Symptoms of
The appearance of blisters is known as an
outbreak. Your first outbreak will appear as early as two days after you
contracted the virus, or as late as 30 days afterward.
General symptoms for males include blisters on the
penis, scrotum, or buttocks (near or around the anus).
General symptoms for females include blisters around
or near the vagina, anus, and buttocks.
General symptoms for both males and females include the
- Blisters may appear in your mouth
and on your lips, face, and anywhere else that came into contact with the
- The infected site often starts to
itch, or tingle, before the actual appearance of blisters.
- The blisters may become ulcerated
(open sores) and ooze fluid.
- A crust may appear over the sores
within a week of the outbreak.
- Your lymph glands may become
swollen. Lymph glands fight infection and inflammation in the body.
- You may have headaches, body
aches, and fever.
General symptoms for a baby born with herpes
(received through a vaginal delivery) may include ulcers on the face, body, and
genitals. Babies who are born with genital herpes can develop very severe
complications and experience:
- brain damage
It is very important that you tell your
doctor that you have genital herpes if you are pregnant. They will take precautions
to prevent the virus from being transmitted to your baby during delivery, with
one likely method being that your baby would be delivered via cesarean rather
than routine vaginal delivery.
Diagnosing Genital Herpes
Your doctor can typically diagnose a herpes
infection by a visual examination of the herpes sores. Although they are not
always necessary, your doctor may confirm their diagnosis through a laboratory
A blood test can diagnose herpes simplex
virus before you experience an outbreak. Make an appointment with your doctor
if you think you’ve been exposed to genital herpes, even if you aren’t
experiencing any symptoms yet.
How Can Genital Herpes Be
Treatment can reduce the outbreaks, but it
cannot cure you of the herpes simplex viruses.
Antiviral drugs may help speed up the healing
time of your sores and reduce pain. Medications may be taken at the first signs
of an outbreak (tingling, itching, and other symptoms) to reduce the symptoms.
Use mild cleansers when bathing or showering
in warm water. Keep the infected site clean and dry. Wear loose, cotton
clothing to keep the area comfortable.
What Should I Know if I Am
Pregnant and I Have Genital Herpes?
It is normal to be concerned about the health
of your baby when you have any type of STD. Genital herpes can be spread to
your baby if you have an active outbreak during a vaginal delivery. It is
important to tell your doctor you have genital herpes as soon as you know
Your doctor will discuss what to expect
before, during, and after you deliver your baby. They can prescribe
pregnancy-safe treatments to ensure a healthy delivery. They may also opt to
deliver your baby via cesarean.
Genital herpes can also cause pregnancy
complications like miscarriage or premature birth.
Long-Term Outlook for
You should practice safe sex and use condoms
every time you have sex with someone. This will help prevent genital herpes and
other STDs from spreading.
There is no cure for genital herpes, but the
condition can be managed with medication. The disease stays dormant within your
body until something triggers an outbreak. Outbreaks can happen when you become
stressed, sick, or tired. Your doctor will help you come up with a treatment
plan that will help you manage your outbreaks.