Genital herpes is caused by the two types of herpes simplex viruses, which are called HSV-1 and HSV-2. Genital herpes can cause pregnancy herpes under certain circumstances.
Both viruses result in sores on the oral area (cold sores) as well as sores on the genital area. HSV-1 gives rise to cold sores on the oral area more frequently, but is common for both virus types to result in genital sores.
How do I contract genital herpes?
HSV is transmitted via direct skin‑to‑skin contact and vaginal, anal, or oral sex. It can be passed on by individuals who have genital or oral herpes but do not present with sores during the time of contact.
How do I know I am infected with genital herpes?
Genital herpes symptoms can range from minor to severe.
• Tiny blister-like sores can grow in the genitals.
• Some individuals can feel generally unwell.
• Females could have a burning sensation in the vaginal area or observe a change in vaginal discharge.
• Males could have a burning sensation when they urinate and observe clear discharge.
• The initial outbreak is frequently the most excruciating. Sores could take several weeks to heal. Recurrences are frequently milder.
• Some individuals may present with mild or no symptoms at all and not even realize they are infected with genital herpes.
You have to consult a nurse or doctor to diagnose your infection. If sores are present, the doctor will take a swab and send it to the laboratory for testing.
What if I am pregnant?
Talk to your physician if you are pregnant (or plan to get pregnant) and diagnosed with herpes. Most women with herpes have normal vaginal deliveries. However, if you have a herpes outbreak during the delivery, you may require a C-section.
How is genital herpes treated?
Genital herpes does not have a cure, yet it can be treated using prescribed medication to help reduce symptoms and diminish recurring outbreaks.
What can I do when I have an outbreak?
Keep the infected area dry and clean. Make use of a clean towel and gently wipe the area dry right after bathing. If urination is painful, pour water over the genital area while urinating. Also, it helps to urinate in the tub or shower. Do not apply lotions or creams on the sores because it can cause them to increase or get irritated.
How can I prevent transmitting genital herpes to other people?
• Telling your partner(s) that you’re infected with genital herpes can lower the risk of passing on the virus.
• Do not have sexual contact (vaginal, anal, or oral) while the sores are occurring.
• Use dental dams and condoms between outbreaks to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. Condoms do not cover the entire skin that could be exposed to the infection during sex.
• The virus can be passed on even though you don’t present any symptoms. This is known as asymptomatic viral shedding.
• A doctor can prescribe daily medication if you have recurrent outbreaks. Taking daily medication and using dental dams and condoms could help lower the risks of transmitting genital herpes to a partner.