What Does Genital Herpes Look Like
While some people with genital herpes will never have any symptoms, other people can develop symptoms within a few weeks of being infected.
Often, before the lesions appear, patients describe a prodrome, characterized by a tingling or burning sensation in the area where the lesions will develop that can be noticed during urination, along with itching or discomfort in the genital area.
You can also have the following symptoms:
- Blisters on the mouth or lips
- Fever, headache or pain in the joints
- Trouble urinating
The symptoms of genital herpes often go away and come back as recurring outbreaks. For most people, the first outbreak is the worst, and can last from two to three weeks. Future flare-ups are often less severe and do not last as long. Still, some people shed the virus regularly. The following triggers can make outbreaks more likely to occur:
- Viral or bacterial infections
- Menstrual periods
Recurrent genital herpes is most common in the first year after the initial infection and decreases as time goes on.
In many cases, anti-herpes medicine can help patients. When a person experiences a prodrome and suspects a recurrence is going to happen, they begin taking anti-herpes medications that lessen symptoms and shorten the time of the outbreak.
What Are The Types Of Herpes Infections
Herpes is a very common type of viral infection. It is caused by the following types of viruses:
- Herpes simplex virus type 1 : It is generally responsible for causing cold sores or blisters around the mouth region.
- Herpes simplex virus type 2 : This type of virus usually leads to the formation of sores on the genital region.
- Herpes zoster: This virus causes shingles and chickenpox.
Genital Herpes Is Spread By Skin
The virus can be spread when someone with HSV has an episode or an outbreak characterised by having a sore, blister, ulcer or skin split . It can also be spread between episodes, when there is no sore, blister, ulcer or skin split present called asymptomatic viral shedding.
During viral shedding the virus is on the skin surface and can be spread through genital skin-to-skin contact, or from the mouth or face to genital skin during contact.
Also Check: How Does Someone Get Herpes Simplex Virus
Epidemiology And Risk Factors
HSV-1 infections are quite common and most often acquired during childhood.35 Among United States adults, almost 90% are exposed to HSV-1 by the time they are 50.6 Between 2005 and 2010, the percentage of HSV-1 seroprevalence in the US was 53.9, which is more than three times higher than the seroprevalence of HSV-2.7 HSV-1 prevalence among women is higher than for men .8
An inverse relationship exists between seroprevalence of HSV-1 infections and an individuals socioeconomic background.9 Lower socioeconomic populations have HSV-1 infections occurring early in life, before the age of 5. Also, HSV-1 infections are generally higher among immunocompromised individuals due to reduced systemic resistance.10
HSV-1 infections are often thought of as above the belt however, genital herpes may also be caused by HSV-1.11,12 The known risk factor for initial infection of HSV-1 is generally contact with infected saliva and oral lesion secretions from another already infected individual. The primary transmission mode is asymptomatic shedding of the virus, compared to lesion shedding. Risk factors for recurrent HSV-1 include trauma such as diffuse axonal injury, stress , reduced cellular immunity, fever, sunlight, and ultraviolet radiation exposure.4,5,11,13
Is Genital Herpes Caught From A Cold Sore
If a person with a cold sore on the mouth does oral sex he or she can give his/her partner cold sores on the genitals which is genital herpes. Also, cold sores on the face may be caught from someone with genital herpes through oral sex.
Only the face of a person with cold sores is infectious so they can have sex, but should not kiss or do oral sex when they have a cold sore. See the description of the two types.
You will find Herpes Simplex the Guide booklet useful too.
Don’t Miss: How To Live With Genital Herpes
How To Get Rid Of Herpes The Conventional Way
For most people with herpes, the virus typically represents nothing more than an inconvenience however, the real risk is for immuno-compromised patients who cant easily manage infections. In these patients, such as those with HIV/AIDS, herpes simplex infection is associated with increased morbidity and mortality.
As of 2017, there is not currently a herpes vaccine available to prevent HSV-1 or HSV-2.
Doctors sometimes prescribe medications to help keep the herpes virus suppressed or to speed up healing of cold sores by reducing bacteria that can cause infections. Some medications that are now used to control herpes include:
- Nucleoside analogues and antiviral medications
- Creams/ointment to help lower pain and inflammation near the site of sores
- Over-the-counter painkillers to reduce aches, tenderness or fever
However, its important to understand that even with early detection and prescription medications, either form of the herpes virus cannot be totally cured so transmission is always still possible. Medications for viruses dont always work long term and are not a cure-all.
Scalp Pain And Hair Loss
Shingles of the scalp can lead to PHN pain in the areas of the scalp where the rash was, and long after the skin has cleared. It can also cause hair loss from scratching or combing too hard during a shingles attack, leading to a condition called cicatricial alopecia or scarring alopecia.
Hair loss occurs when the shingles rash destroys hair follicle cells responsible for new hair growth. With these cells damaged, the hair loss is permanent.
Also Check: Can Herpes Be Tested For Without An Outbreak
What Kind Of Doctors Treat Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is treated by primary care providers including internal medicine and family medicine specialists, as well as pediatricians for adolescents. For women, gynecologists are often the treating physicians. In certain circumstances, other specialists may be consulted, including urologists and infectious disease specialists.
How Do I Know If I Have Genital Herpes
Most people with genital herpes have no symptoms or have very mild symptoms. Mild symptoms may go unnoticed or be mistaken for other skin conditions like a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people do not know they have a herpes infection.
Herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. This is known as having an outbreak. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take a week or more to heal. Flu-like symptoms also may occur during the first outbreak.
People who experience an initial outbreak of herpes can have repeated outbreaks, especially if they have HSV-2. However, repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although genital herpes is a lifelong infection, the number of outbreaks may decrease over time.
Ask a healthcare provider to examine you if:
- You notice any symptoms or
- Your partner has an STD or symptoms of an STD.
STD symptoms can include an unusual sore, a smelly genital discharge, burning when peeing, or bleeding between periods .
Read Also: Can You Get Tested Herpes Without Outbreak
Symptoms Of Genital Herpes
Many people who have genital herpes may not be aware they have the infection, because they may not have any symptoms.
The first episode of herpes can cause considerable pain and distress. Symptoms of the first episode may include:
- flu-like symptoms such as feeling unwell, headaches and pains in the back and legs, with or without enlarged glands in the groin
- small blisters around the genitals these break open to form shallow, painful ulcers, which scab over and heal after one to two weeks
- small cracks in the skin with or without an itch or tingling
- redness or a distinct rash
- some people also have considerable pain and swelling in the genital area, and hence may have additional pain and difficulty passing urine.
Clinical Trials For Herpes Vaccines Ongoing
While there have been some promising trials of herpes vaccines, to date, no human trials have shown high enough efficacy to bring a herpes vaccine to market.
People who have recurrent herpes may use the same medications that are recommended for symptomatic outbreaks when characteristic tingling and pain develops. In these situations, the medication course is started immediately to stave off or reduce the severity of an episode.
Suppressive therapy, involving the daily use of antiviral to prevent an outbreak reoccurrence, can reduce ones symptoms and the amount of viral shedding. This can be quite helpful, particularly in combination with reliable condom use.
If you are an adult, the symptoms of herpes are usually pretty manageable and only rarely cause complications. However, herpes can be very dangerous if it is transmitted to a growing baby during pregnancy.
If you have genital herpes and are pregnant, or if you are sexually involved with someone who is pregnant or planning to get pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider about managing the risks.
Don’t Miss: Can Herpes Be Tested Through Urine
What Happens At A Sexual Health Clinic
The doctor or nurse at the sexual health clinic will:
- ask about your symptoms and your sexual partners
- use a small cotton bud to take some fluid from 1 of your blisters or sores for testing
The test cannot:
- be done if you do not have visible blisters or sores
- tell you how long you have had herpes or who you got it from
Symptoms might not appear for weeks or even years after you’re infected with the herpes virus.
Can Genital Herpes Be Treated
Your physician can prescribe different medications to help reduce your symptoms and speed up the healing of an outbreak. These medicines work best when you start them soon after an outbreak occurs.
To reduce pain during an outbreak:
- Sit in warm water in a portable bath or bathtub for about 20 minutes. Avoid bubble baths.
- Keep your genital area clean and dry, and avoid tight clothes.
- Take over-the-counter medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Avoid aspirin.
Let your physician know if you are worried about your genital herpes. He or she can recommend a support group to help you cope with the virus.
Read Also: Is There Any Treatment For Herpes
Preventing The Spread Of Herpes
Even when you do not have sores, you can pass the virus to someone during sexual or other close contact. To protect others:
- Let any sexual partner know that you have herpes before having sex. Allow them to decide what to do.
- Use latex or polyurethane condoms, and avoid sex during symptomatic outbreaks.
- Do not kiss or have oral sex when you have a sore on the lips or inside the mouth.
- Do not share your towels, toothbrush, or lipstick. Make sure dishes and utensils you use are washed well with detergent before others use them.
- Wash your hands well with soap and water after touching a sore.
- Consider using daily antiviral medicine to limit viral shedding and reduce the risk of passing the virus to your partner.
- You may also want to consider getting your partner tested even if they have never had an outbreak. If you both have the herpes virus, there is no risk for transmission.
Im Pregnant How Could Genital Herpes Affect My Baby
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, prenatal care visits are very important. Some research suggest that a genital herpes infection may lead to miscarriage or make it more likely to deliver your baby too early. You can pass herpes to your unborn child before birth, but it more commonly passes during delivery. This can lead to a deadly infection in your baby . It is important that you avoid getting genital herpes during pregnancy. Tell your healthcare provider if you have ever had a genital herpes diagnosis or symptoms. Also tell them about any possible exposure to genital herpes.
If you have genital herpes, you may need to take anti-herpes medicine towards the end of your pregnancy. This medicine may reduce your risk of having signs or symptoms of genital herpes when you deliver. At the time of delivery, your healthcare provider should carefully examine you for herpes sores. If you have signs or symptoms of genital herpes at delivery, a C-section is likely to occur.
Don’t Miss: How Bad Is Having Herpes
Questions To Ask Your Doctor
- What is the best treatment for me?
- Are there any side effects to my treatment?
- Is it safe to have unprotected sex if I dont have any sores?
- Can I give myself genital herpes if I also have oral herpes?
- Can I give someone else herpes even if Im not having an outbreak?
- What is the best way to prevent herpes outbreaks?
- Can I live a normal life with herpes?
- Am I at risk of developing any other diseases?
- Are there any support groups in my area?
- If I give my baby herpes, what is the treatment?
What Should I Know If I Am Pregnant And I Have Genital Herpes
Its normal to be concerned about the health of your baby when you have any type of STI. Genital herpes can be transmitted to your baby if you have an active outbreak during a vaginal delivery.
Its important to tell your doctor that you have genital herpes as soon as you know youre pregnant.
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.
Read Also: Will I Know If I Have Herpes
How Can I Prevent Genital Herpes
If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting genital herpes:
- Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who does not have herpes.
- Using condoms the right way every time you have sex.
Be aware that not all herpes sores occur in areas that a condom can cover. Also, the skin can release the virus from areas that do not have a visible herpes sore. For these reasons, condoms may not fully protect you from getting herpes.
If your sex partner has/have genital herpes, you can lower your risk of getting it if:
- Your partner takes an anti-herpes medicine every day. This is something your partner should discuss with his or her healthcare provider.
Recurrent Episodes Of Genital Herpes
Recurrences are usually less painful and shorter in duration than the first episode of genital herpes. Over time, episodes usually become less frequent and may eventually stop altogether. Infections caused by HSV1 are less likely to recur in the genital area than infections caused by HSV2.
Recurrences may be triggered by:
Also Check: How Do Herpes Antivirals Work
Recommended Reading: How Do You Know If You Herpes
What You Need To Know
- Herpes simplex virus , also known as genital herpes, is most likely to be spread when an infected person is having an outbreak, but it can also be transmitted without any symptoms being present.
- Medications can help reduce your symptoms, speed up the healing of an outbreak and make you less contagious.
- If you know you have genital herpes before becoming pregnant, your physician will monitor your condition throughout your pregnancy. If you have an active outbreak at the time of delivery, cesarean section may be recommended.
Dont Have Sex With A Partner Who Has Sores On Their Genitals
If you know your partner has genital herpes, always abstain from sex when symptoms are present. Or, if you see a sore on someones genitals, dont have sex with that person until youre sure they dont have genital herpes. Remember, not everyone with genital herpes has symptoms, and herpes sores can be very hard to spot.
Read Also: How To Get Rid Of Herpes Discharge
You May Like: How Do You Know If You Have Herpes Outbreak
There Are 2 Herpes Simplex Viruses That Can Cause Infection
- One causes most genital herpes.
- The other virus can also cause genital herpes but more often causes blisters of the mouth and lips.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that about 1 out of 6 people ages 14 to 49have genital herpes.
Women are more easily infected with herpes than men.
Why You Should Go To A Sexual Health Clinic
You can see a GP, but theyll probably refer you to a sexual health clinic if they think you might have genital herpes.
Sexual health clinics treat problems with the genitals and urine system.
Many sexual health clinics offer a walk-in service, where you do not need an appointment.
Theyll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.
Recommended Reading: Where Does Herpes Come From
Don’t Miss: What Are The Symptoms Of Having Herpes
Can I Treat Herpes Simplex At Home
Avoiding known triggers, such as illness or stress, can help reduce how often you have herpes outbreaks.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-1 ?
- Over-the-counter creams such as L-lysine, benzocaine or docosanol .
- Applying ice to blisters or sores.
How can I ease my symptoms during an outbreak of HSV-2 ?
- Apply an ice pack to your genitals. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth or apply it over your underwear.
- Keep your genitals dry. Wear cotton or other nonsynthetic underpants and avoid tight-fitting clothes. Moist sores take longer to heal.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.
- Topical 1% or 2% lidocaine may be used as a topical analgesic.
Why Genital Herpes Comes Back
Genital herpes is caused by a virus called herpes simplex. Once you have the virus, it stays in your body.
It will not spread in your body to cause blisters elsewhere. It stays in a nearby nerve and causes blisters in the same area.
If you can, avoid things that trigger your symptoms.
Triggers can include:
- surgery on your genital area
- a weakened immune system for example, from having chemotherapy for cancer
Don’t Miss: How To Avoid Herpes Flare Ups