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Genital Herpes

Type of Infection: Virual (From a virus)

Incubation Period
:
2 to 12 days.

Symptoms: (The symptoms of herpes are often most severe during the first outbreak). Initial symptoms of HSV-2 include these uncomfortable symptoms: tingling, itching, and pain in the genital area, followed by eruption of painful, bubbly blisters, (lesions), then finally scabs that dry up and go away. The blisters often appear in groups, or clusters. Some people only get one blister sometimes. The lesions usually rupture on or about the 5th day to form wet ulcers that are terribly painful to touch, they will cause painful urination, pain in the lymph nodes in the groin, and terrible pain in area of the blisters.

In women, blister can appear on the vulva, around or in the vagina, or anywhere in the genital area. Involvement of the cervix occurs about 80% of the time during the first outbreak, but you can't see your cervix yourself, your health care provider can.

In men, the infection can cause lesions on the penis, on the penis shaft, on the glans penis (head) and scrotum, and sometimes in the urethra. Some people infected with genital herpes will have no symptoms at all, however, they can still transmit the virus.

You do not have to have symptoms to be contagious!

Initial symptoms and recurrent outbreak symptoms may include:

  • painful blisters on the genitals of both sexes, thighs, or buttocks
  • tingling, and itching
  • fever occurs most often with the first outbreak of blisters
  • flu-like symptoms (headache, muscle ache, fever, chills, fatigue)
  • painful urination
  • painful sex
  • tender, enlarged lymph nodes in the groin

Treatment: Genital herpes can not be cured. The virus will stay in your body forever, but it will remain dormant most of the time, if you are lucky. There is a treatment for it that your health care provider can prescribe. Acyclovir, an anti-viral drug, can relieve the symptoms faster than they would without the drug. Acyclovir, Valtrex, or famciclovir (Famvir) will also shorten the amount time you are contagiousness and help you have fewer and shorter outbreaks in the future. Ask your health care provider about this drug if you have genital herpes it works very well for many people.

Left Untreated: The outbreaks will become more severe and occur more often. These outbreaks are usually more noticeable within the first year following the first episode.

If a woman has herpes during pregnancy, she can pass the disease to her baby during delivery. A pregnant woman with a history of herpes must tell her obstetrician. If you have an outbreak at the time of delivery, a cesarean section is usually performed instead of a vaginal birth and will usually prevent any complications to the child.

Genital Herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus II (HSV-2). The CDC estimates that approximately 1 million people are infected each year with genital herpes or HSV-2 in the U.S.A. alone. The infection is transmitted during sexual intercourse or by other intimate contact with the genitals, mouth, or rectal area. Once you're infected, the virus remains in your body for the rest of your life. Usually it’s in an inactive state, which means it is not causing symptoms.

Outbreaks can occur from physical or emotional stress, intercourse without enough lubrication, menstruation, or the stress of an illness.

Remember, you can infect other people even when you don't have any blisters or you can be infected even if you don't see any blisters on someone else. Herpes can be diagnosed from a smear taken from a lesion by a health care provider. Diagnosis is often based on symptoms alone. Herpes will not be tested for or detected by a routine pap smear.

There is a blood test that can show if a person has been infected at any time in their life with HSV. There are also newer blood tests that can tell whether a person has been infected with HSV-I and/or HSV-II. If you want to be tested, ask your health care provider about this test.


Prevention: Ask and talk! Ask your partner(s) if they have had herpes because herpes may be spread from areas not protected by condoms; for example, the groin, thigh, and abdomen. Abstain from sexual intercourse. Use condoms every time you have intercourse, condoms and spermicide used properly will protect you from HSV-2.

Avoid oral-genital and oral-anal sex with someone who has cold sores on the mouth, or if you have cold sores. Cold sores are caused by HSV-I and can infect the genitals.

Use a CONDOM every time you have sexual intercourse, or anal sex. Use a dental dam or condom for oral sex. Even when using condoms you may still spread genital herpes from your body, or you can still get herpes from someone else. Ask them if they think they might have genital herpes before you have intimate contact with that person!

There is a blood test that can show if a person has been infected at any time in their life with HSV. There are also newer blood tests that can tell whether a person has been infected with HSV-I and/or HSV-II. If you want to be tested, ask your health care provider about this test.


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