Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). Genital herpes infection is common in the United States. At least 45 million people ages 12 and older have had genital HSV infection. HSV-1 can cause genital herpes, but it more commonly causes infections of the mouth and lips, better known as "fever blisters" or "cold sores." Most people infected with HSV-2 are not aware of their infection. However, if signs and symptoms occur during the first outbreak, they can be quite pronounced. Generally, a person can only get HSV-2 infection during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. The following will help you to treat herpes.
- Know if you are at risk. The following facts may help determine if you are at risk:
- You may be at risk if you who have had oral-genital or genital-genital contact with a person who has HSV-1 infection.
- You may be at risk if you who have had sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection.
- Genital HSV-2 infection is more common in women than in men.
- Know that there is no treatment that can cure herpes, but antiviral medicines can diminish and/or prevent outbreaks during the time a person is taking the medication. It’s also been suggested by several people living with herpes that minor adjustments to diet and lifestyle have been helpful in keeping herpes suppressed.
- Be aware that daily suppressive therapy for symptomatic herpes can reduce transmission to your partner(s).
- Understand that genital herpes very often causes psychological distress in people who know they are infected, regardless of severity of symptoms. Speak to your health care provider if you are infected and are having difficulties coping.
- Get tested. Doctors can diagnose genital herpes by:
- Visual inspection if the outbreak is typical.
- Taking a sample from the sore(s) and testing it in a laboratory.
- Diagnosing HSV infections between outbreaks by the use of a blood test, although the results are not always conclusive.
- Most individuals have minimal signs or no symptoms from HSV-1 or HSV-2 infection. When they do occur, look for the following:
- One or more blisters around the genitals or rectum
- Flu-like symptoms
- Swollen glands
- Sores in or around the mouth and lips (fever blisters, cold sores)
- Tender ulcers in the genital area that takes two to four weeks to heal
- The surest way to avoid STDs, including genital herpes, is to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected, or to abstain from sexual contact.
- Proper and consistent use of latex condoms can reduce the risk of genital herpes.
- People with herpes should abstain from sexual activity with uninfected partners when sores or other symptoms of herpes are present.
- People diagnosed with a first episode of genital herpes can expect to have several outbreaks within a year.
- Always advise your sex partner(s) if you are infected with herpes.
- It is important that women avoid contracting herpes during pregnancy. A newly acquired infection during late pregnancy poses a greater risk of transmission to the baby. Genital HSV can lead to potentially fatal infections in babies.
- Most people with HSV-2 infection never have sores, or they have very mild symptoms that go unrecognized.
- Herpes can make HIV-infected individuals more infectious, and can make people more susceptible to HIV infection.
- If an infected person does not have any symptoms, he or she can still infect his or her sex partner(s).