What is genital herpes?
Genital herpes is a viral condition which causes blisters on the genitals. It is a common condition that can affect both men and women. This condition is contagious, and is transmitted through direct physical contact, often during sexual contact. The blisters are often stinging or painful, and people with this condition may also have a fever or swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin. Treatment involves anti-viral creams or taking anti-viral tablets. The symptoms of this condition tend to be recurring, especially when a person feels stressed or unwell.
Genital herpes is caused by the human herpes simplex virus (HSV). This virus is spread through skin contact. Genital herpes is mostly transmitted during sexual contact. People are usually infected during adolescence or in young adulthood, though infection at any age is possible. People who have other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are more likely to have genital herpes.
The typical symptoms of genital herpes are itching or pain in or on the genital areas, followed by small, fluid-filled blisters. These blisters develop into crusted sores. The symptoms may last for up to two weeks. The first time a person has an outbreak of genital herpes, the blisters may be very painful. Other symptoms include fever, feeling unwell, pain when passing urine, muscle aches, and swelling of the lymph nodes in the groin. These symptoms may reoccur from time to time, especially when unwell or at times of stress.
The diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms and the appearance of the blisters. Testing fluid from the blister for the herpes simplex virus can confirm the diagnosis.
In mild cases, where there are few blisters and the affected person is otherwise well, treatment may consist of anti-viral creams. Tablets are also available to help prevent or reduce the symptoms of an outbreak of the blisters. Severe or complicated cases need anti-viral medication intravenously (through a drip). Pregnant women with genital herpes should be checked regularly; babies born vaginally can catch the herpes virus from their mother, and this may put the baby at risk for serious complications.
Using condoms and lubricants during sexual intercourse helps to prevent catching the herpes virus. Avoiding sex while blisters are present may also help.
Other names for genital herpes
- Herpes genitalis
- Herpes simplex genitalis