Genital herpes is a sexulally transmitted infection (STI) that causes herpetic sores, which are painful blisters (fluid-filled bumps) that can break open and ooze fluid. Every third person carries the herpes virus, though most don’t know about it. If you get herpes in the genital area, it may first feel tender and itchy before you get small blisters. There is no cure, but antiviral medications can help ease symptoms and prevent future outbreaks.
Two types of herpes simplex virus cause genital herpes: HSV-1 (which usually causes cold sores) and HSV-2 (which usually causes genital herpes).
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 and then stay in the nerve cells of your pelvis. 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 bodily fluids, including:
- vaginal secretions
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.
Not everyone gets symptoms, but if you do,
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.
In both males and females:
- Blisters may appear in your mouth and on your lips, face, and anywhere else that came into contact with the infected areas.
- 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.
Prevention and protection
As with most sexually transmitted diseases, the risk of infection can be reduced significantly by the correct use of condoms and can be removed almost entirely by limiting sexual activities to a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected person.
It’s very important that you tell your doctor that you have genital herpes if you’re 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.
Because herpes is due to a virus, there is no specific treatment.
The following treatments can reduce the outbreaks, but can’t 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. If you have recurrent frequent outbreaks of herpes, your doctor may provide you with antiviral therapy for an extended period of time to prevent the virus from recurring.
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.
When to consult a doctor
Consult a doctor or sexual health clinic if you have:
- trouble with herpes in the genital area without having had it before
- problems with eyes
- permanent wounds
- herpes during pregnancy.
How APPOTEK can help
APPOTEK can help you with gential herpes. A nurse or doctor will make an individual assessment based on your symptoms, then may prescribe treatment or refer you for further examination. In cases of genital warts, a physical examination may be required.