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Genital herpes: A cold sore in your mouth may be a symptom of this sexually transmitted disease

A herpes outbreak usually lasts 21 days without treatment. @Shutterstock

Genital herpes is widespread throughout the world and is almost exclusively transmitted via risky sexual practices. Read on to know more.

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, characterized by painful blisters (fluid-filled bumps) that can break open and ooze fluid. This is an incurable condition caused by the herpes simplex virus type 2. This is widespread throughout the world and is almost exclusively transmitted via risky sexual practices. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 491 million (13 per cent) people between the ages of 15 to 49 years worldwide were living with the infection in 2016. This premier organization also says that more women are infected with this virus than men.

A study at the University of Texas says that this virus can be present on the genitalia even in the absence of any signs or symptoms of an outbreak. This phenomenon is called asymptomatic viral shedding and is well documented as the source of at least 80 per cent of the cases of genital herpes transmission.

Symptoms of genital herpes

More often than not, genital herpes infections come with no symptoms. Or the symptoms may be so mild that many infected people are not even aware that they have the infection. But sometimes, symptoms of this condition may appear as soon as 2 days after exposure to the virus or it may show up after a many as 30 days. If you are a man, you will experience blisters on the penis, scrotum, or buttocks. For a woman, blisters are seen around or near the vagina, anus and buttocks. Other than this, there are a few other symptoms that are common to both men and women.

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  • You may get blisters in your mouth and on your lips and face too. This happens in case of oral sex.
  • You will experience itching and tingling at the infected site before the appearance of blisters.
  • Blisters become ulcerated and ooze fluid.
  • Sometimes, you may notice a crust over the sores within a week of the outbreak.
  • You may also experience swollen lymph glands.
  • Many people also complain of headaches, body aches, and fever during outbreaks and after exposure.

This is a serious disease. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness, brain damage and even death.

Transmission of this disease

This is a sexually transmitted disease. You get it via contact with genital surfaces, skin, sores or fluids of an infected person. Though rare, it can also be transmitted from a mother to her child during normal delivery. This is called neonatal herpes.

Treatment options

This is an incurable condition. But some anti-viral medications may help reduce the severity and frequency of symptoms.

Prevention tips

Abstinence is the best way to prevent the spread of this disease. If you are infected, avoid sex during the outbreak of sores as it is most infectious then. But remember that this disease can also be transmitted when no symptoms are felt or visible. Always use a condom when having sex and avoid multiple partners. Some expert say that male circumcision can provide men life-long partial protection against this infection. But more research is needed on this subject.

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