What Is Genital Herpes?
Genital Herpes refers to a common sexually transmitted infection resulting from the herpes simplex virus. The primary way the virus spreads is through sexual contact. After the infection, the virus may stay dormant in the body and reactivates a few times in a year. There are two types of herpes simplex virus. HSV-1 causes cold sores which appear on the lips and mouth. HSV-2 is known to be the cause behind genital herpes. Though this is the case, it is possible to get genital herpes from someone with oral herpes. Medical research has found that it’s possible to have a herpes outbreak on other parts of the body such as the nipples, face, and hands.
Genital Herpes Overview
Genital herpes causes ulcers and sores. These can cause a certain degree of plain but they clear up in a period of two to three weeks. Even in cases where there are no sores or ulcers, the virus is still in the body and can cause outbreaks any time. People living with HIV and those with a suppressed immunity tend to experienced prolonged outbreaks and their blisters are more severe. There are chances for a pregnant woman to infect her child and this leads to what the medical world refers to as neonatal herpes. The virus might not pose a great risk to the mother but it can be dangerous to the baby. This is because it can lead to miscarriages, brain damage, and in some cases newborn deaths.
Is There A Cure For Herpes?
Most people living with herpes wonder whether there is a cure for herpes. Well, there is still no known cure for herpes. However, there are a number of things that can be done to reduce the discomfort and prevent the uncomfortable outbreaks. L
How Does Genital Herpes Spread?
A person with herpes is highly likely to spread the virus when they are in the outbreak phase. This is also the case immediately before and immediately after the outbreak. It is important to emphasize that the virus can still be spread even if there is no outbreak. This is the main reason why the virus spreads rapidly. Without the outbreak, some people living with genital herpes are not aware of their status.
The virus can enter a person’s body through moist skin found around the genital area, the anus, and the mouth. It can also pass through minor cuts on the body such as on the fingers or on the hands. It is possible to get genital herpes from:
- Having vaginal or anal sex with someone who is infected without protection such as a condom or a dental dam.
- Having oral sex with an infected person without protection.
- Having close genital contact. This simply means that the virus can spread from an infected person to an uninfected individual when there is close genital contact even if there is no penetration or ejaculation.
Even in cases where protection is used, the people involved should make sure that the condom or the dental dam covers all blisters. This eliminates any chances or virus spread. Pregnant women with herpes can pass the virus to their babies. For this reason, pregnant women need to get tested to protect the baby.
Preventing Infection and Spread of Genital Herpes
- Avoid sexual contact if you or your partner has an outbreak. Since there are sign that come before the outbreak, you can easily know when not to engage in sexual activities. You can wait until all the symptoms have disappeared before having sex again.
- Use new protection such as condoms and dental dams every time you have oral, vaginal or anal sex.
- Always remember that the protection you are using should cover all sores to prevent chance of infection.
- Cover all sex toys with a condom and make sure you clean them thoroughly after use.
- Always use a new dental dam when engaging in sexual activities such as fingering or oral sex.
- Always create time to discuss sexual health with your sexual partner. This can help in enabling safer sex and prevention of infection.
- Limit the number of sexual partners. Having multiple sexual partners increases the chances of genital herpes infection. You should make sure you use protection properly if you are having sex with multiple partners.
Keep in mind that condoms are the best way to protect yourself from sexually transmitted infection and also unplanned pregnancies. Remember that taking PreP will not protect you from pregnancy or genital herpes.
Genital Herpes Symptoms
When initially infected, most people will not show any symptoms. Some may experience the symptoms months or years after the infection. If the symptoms occur with the initial infection, they will develop over 4-7 days. The severity of the symptoms reduces from the first infection. This means that the first outbreak might be severe but will be less severe when they re-occur.
In the first outbreak, there might be flu-like symptoms such as muscle aches, fever, headaches and swollen lymph nodes in the groin area. Sores appear when the infection enters the body. It is possible to spread the infection when you touch the sore and rub a different part of the body including the eyes.
Sores can develop on, the anus, mouth, buttocks, thighs and urethra.
More about herpes symptoms
Genital Herpes Sores in Women
Genital herpes in women can cause sores on the external area of the genitals, in the vaginal area, and cervix.
Genital Herpes Sores in Men
Men with genital herpes will develop sores on the scrotum and on the penis.
Genital Herpes Recurrence
Though the virus is the same, genital herpes varies with individuals. The symptoms may recur for years in some with multiple outbreaks in a year. For others, the frequency is low in a year and for most, it reduces as they age. During a recurrence, just before an outbreak, there is tingling, burning or itching where the infection first entered the body. There might be pain in the lower back, legs and buttocks. During recurrences, the pain is reduced and the sores heal faster.
More about herpes outbreaks
When To See A Doctor
If you suspect you have herpes, or any other STI, it is important that you see a doctor right away.