Genital herpes is a very common sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes simplex virus, HSV. Sexual contact is the primary mode through which the virus spreads. This means that it can be transmitted through oral, vaginal, or oral sex. After the initial infection, the virus will remain dormant in the body and can reactivate numerous times a year.
The virus usually stays quiescent in your nervous system. Common triggers such as compromised immune system, UV light, insomnia, stress, menses, friction in the genital area caused by clothing, being unwell, can cause the virus to flare up, resulting in the manifestation of recurrent symptoms.
Genital herpes can be caused by both HSV types 1 and 2. Years ago, genital herpes used to be associated with HSV type 2 whereas HSV type 1 was associated with oral herpes. However, in recent years, the type of HSV no longer determines the location of the lesion.
So, how do I know if I might be having genital herpes?
The appearance of blisters is referred to as an outbreak. Your initial outbreak will appear as early as three days after you contracted the virus, or as late as one month afterward. However, there is a possibility that the virus might remain inactive and only manifesting as an outbreak months to years later.
Common symptoms for both males and females include:
- Small sores and blisters that are red and painful on the genitals, inner thigh region as well as anus.
- Tingling, burning sensation over the affected area.
- Painful urination.
- Your lymph glands may become swollen.
- You may experience body aches, fever, and headaches.
These symptoms may not appear for weeks, months, or even years after your exposure to the virus.
So, what can I expect from my doctor during the consultation?
Your doctor will first want to know about your history based on your symptoms as well as sexual activity. He will then proceed to examine your sores or blisters. And depending on the lesion, your doctor may decide to carry out some laboratory investigations to further evaluate your condition.
What are the available treatment options for genital herpes?
First and foremost, it is worth mentioning that there is no cure for genital herpes. But, medical treatment may be offered to minimize the severity as well as the duration of your infection. In this regard, anti-viral drugs may be administered to reduce the number of days that the ulcers or blisters can last.
Unfortunately, the virus may remain active in their system for life, and the symptoms will occasionally appear when their immune system is down.
If you experience more than six outbreaks annually, and it is seriously interfering with the quality of your life, kindly talk to your doctor to recommend longer-term antiviral drugs to help suppress the virus.
So, what can I do if I’m suffering from genital herpes?
Even though there is no cure for this particular viral infection, there are a couple of things that you can do to help you live a normal life. These may include:
- Washing your hands thoroughly both before and after contact with the affected area.
- Abstaining from any form of sexual behavior until your lesions subside.
- Keeping the affected area clean always, to prevent the blisters from getting infected.
- Stop wearing tight and non-airy cloths over the infected area.
- Consider the use of numbing creams such as Vaseline or lidocaine gel to minimize the severity of pain in the affected area.
- Stop picking or touching the affected area.
Coping with genital herpes as well as other medical conditions such as pregnancy:
Expectant mothers who are having genital herpes should inform their obstetrician who may recommend the most appropriate treatment. If you were not aware, there is a high chance that pregnant mothers can transmit their unborn babies with the virus, resulting in a condition referred to as neonatal herpes, which can be fatal.
In case your outbreak occurs when you are just about to deliver, your obstetrician may carry out a cesarean surgery to reduce the risks of transmission to your child.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Is there a cure for genital herpes?
As we previously explained, currently, there is no cure for genital herpes. However, Antiviral medication can help shorten your outbreak, especially if you begin taking them immediately your symptoms occur. There is an option to take themedication daily, reducing your risk of transmitting the disease to your sex partner.
Can one succumb to herpes?
Even though both types of herpes can be overly unpleasant, they aren’t very life-threatening. Simply put, you won’t die from genital herpes or cold sores. However, though it is not lethal, the herpes simplex virus can potentially result in serious complications among patients living with HIV.
How can I quickly get rid of herpes sore?
Anti-viral medicines can potentially reduce the number of days your blisters or ulcers persist. Topical creams such as Vaseline can also be used to reduce the risk of secondary infection.
What should I do if I have herpes?
Your first line of defense against herpes should be to visit your hdoctorto assess your condition and offer the right treatment.
What’s more, you need to inform your sexual partners about your status as well as the risks involved. You will also need to use protection (condoms) each time you have sex to lower your risk of infecting other people, even though this won’t completely reduce this risk. It is also important to note that having ulcers, sores or any other herpes symptom increases your risk of spreading the diseases.
Is Herpes simplex more prevalent among men than in women?
According to the US CDC, both types of HSV infections are more common among women than in men. It is believed that the reason behind this scenario is that it is relatively easier to spread the disease from men to females.
What tests are used to detect genital herpes?
Your doctor may either draw your blood or carry out a swab test to extract the fluid from the blisters or ulcers. The swab test detects the presence of the DNA of the virus in the ulcers or blisters.
What will I need to do before I have the test?
There aren’t any major preparations needed before the test. However, you should NOT apply any powder or cream to the affected area a day before the test.
Is the test painful?
Bearing in mind that herpetic ulcers and blisters can be extremely painful, the process of obtaining the sample will likely cause discomfort in most patients.
Apart from genital herpes, what are other common types of sexually transmitted diseases?
The two most common sexually transmitted diseases are gonorrhea and chlamydia. However, there are many other STDs, including HIV, HPV, syphilis, hepatitis, trichomoniasis, chlamydia, among others.
Genital herpes is certainly a distressing disease. And what makes it even scarier is that it is not curable! However, you should know that herpes is just another disease. And if you are currently suffering from it, you don’t have to panic. You should only act fast and inform your doctor who may recommend the right treatment option to help alleviate your symptoms.
- Sauerbrei A. (2016). Optimal management of genital herpes: current perspectives. Infection and drug resistance, 9, 129–141. https://doi.org/10.2147/IDR.S96164
- Chen, L. K., Arai, H., Chen, L. Y., Chou, M. Y., Djauzi, S., Dong, B., Kojima, T., Kwon, K. T., Leong, H. N., Leung, E. M., Liang, C. K., Liu, X., Mathai, D., Pan, J. Y., Peng, L. N., Poblete, E. R., Poi, P. J., Reid, S., Tantawichien, T., & Won, C. W. (2017). Looking back to move forward: a twenty-year audit of herpes zoster in Asia-Pacific. BMC infectious diseases, 17(1), 213. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12879-017-2198-y
- Khadr, L., Harfouche, M., Omori, R., Schwarzer, G., Chemaitelly, H., & Abu-Raddad, L. J. (2019). The Epidemiology of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 in Asia: Systematic Review, Meta-analyses, and Meta-regressions. Clinical infectious diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, 68(5), 757–772. https://doi.org/10.1093/cid/ciy562
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