What is genital herpes?
Genital Herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STDs), affecting about one in five adults.
There are two types of Genital Herpes:
Type 1 – generally causes sores on or near the mouth (cold sores).
Type 2 – usually causes sores on the genitals.
Once infected, a person becomes a carrier for life. There is no known cure.
How do I get genital herpes?
You can get herpes by direct contact with an infected person by:
- Kissing (mouth to mouth).
- Having unprotected sex (penis in vagina or anus).
- Having oral sex (from mouth to penis or vagina) without using a condom or barrier.
Note that condoms won’t give total protection against Genital Herpes as the virus can be on other parts of the genitals or on the skin around the genitals which isn’t protected by the condom.
Do I have genital herpes?
Some people develop symptoms of HSV a few days after coming into contact with the virus. After you’ve been infected, the virus remains dormant (inactive) for most of the time. However, certain triggers can re-activate the virus, causing the blisters to develop again.
Both men and women can have one or more of these symptoms, all of which are highly infectious (easily passed onto others):
Small fluid-filled blisters in the genital area (vaginal lips, vagina, cervix, head/shaft/foreskin of the penis, scrotum, buttocks, anus or thighs). These blisters burst and leave small sores that can be very painful.
- Itching or tingling sensation in the genital or anal area.
- Flu-like illness, backaches, headaches, swollen glands or fever.
- Sometimes, you might feel a tingling sensation in the genital or anal area before a herpes outbreak. Remember, herpes can still be spread to others even if you’re not showing any symptoms.
The first outbreak of herpes is usually the worst and takes 2-3 weeks to heal properly. After that, the outbreaks are usually milder; the sores are fewer, smaller, and less painful and they heal more quickly than the first outbreak.
The only way to know for sure if you or your partner has Genital Herpes or any STD is to get tested. A swab of the fluid from the sores – this test should be done with 48 hours after the sores appear.
How do you treat genital herpes?
There is no cure for herpes. You’ll get a prescription drug that will help to:
- Speed up the healing of the sores.
- Reduce the number of outbreaks.
- Reduce the chance of spreading it to others during and between outbreaks.
It’s important that you and your partner take care of yourselves during a herpes outbreak. The blisters and sores are very infectious and the virus can be passed onto others by direct contact.
How do I prevent Genital Herpes?
To protect yourself and others you should avoid:
- Kissing when you or your partner have cold sores around the mouth.
- Having oral sex when you or your partner have mouth or genital sores.
- Having any genital or anal contact, even with a condom, when you or your partner have genital sores.
- Sharing bath or face towels.
- Using saliva to wet contact lenses if you have sores around your mouth.