Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that infects both men and women alike. It can spread either by having vaginal, anal or oral sex, with a person affected by the same. This disease though not life threatening like other forms of STDs, has no cure and one has to live with its consequences for life.
Like most other STDs genital herpes spreads silently without showing any obvious symptoms of the same.
Genital herpes is caused by two types of viruses called herpes simplex type 1 and herpes simplex type 2. It is most common in people in the age group of 14 to 49, but can also be seen in older adults too.
With herpes infection, sores or blisters are usually seen on the genitals of the infected person. These sores are filled with fluids that carry the virus. If a healthy person comes in contact with these fluids, the disease can be transmitted. Remember even if the symptoms of the disease are not prominent i.e., the sores aren’t present yet in the infected person, it can still be transmitted to the other partner during a sexual intercourse.
One might not see any visible symptoms soon after being infected with the herpes virus. But as the infection grows and spreads it starts to show some mild symptoms.
- The initial symptoms could be ‘pimples’ or ‘zits’ appearing on the genital areas of the one infected with herpes. Sometimes such signs are even seen around the mouth area too. Many times people with herpes mistake these initial symptoms for a skin condition or an allergy.
- As the infection spreads the sores grow and start to appear more like blisters around the genitals, rectum and the mouth area. There can be one or more blisters at one spot at a time. If neglected and left untreated, the sores can break open and can cause pain. This outbreak is usually followed by flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches and swelling in the lymphatic glands. Usually the first attack of herpes is the worst and can take a toll on the person infected with it. These outbreaks can take upto several weeks to heal even with treatment.
- Once infected the virus stays in the body for the rest of their life despite treatment and care. In such a scenario one can face episodes of repeated outbreaks. However, the outbreaks after the first one are usually shorter in duration and less painful. Also the number of outbreaks tend to decrease over a period of years.
- Symptoms that can indicate a herpes infection other than sores or the outbreaks are smelly discharge, a burning sensation during urination and painful intercourse. Apart from this unusual vaginal bleeding between periods among women is also noticed.
The diagnosis of genital herpes can be done symptomatically. Sometimes the doctor might even take swabs from the open sores to check for the presence of the virus.
Read about tests and diagnosis for genital herpes infection
Sadly genital herpes has no cure. However, it can be managed efficiently with treatment. Regular medications can keep the symptoms in check and make it less likely to transmit the same to the partner during an intercourse.
In case of women who are pregnant and infected with herpes special pre-natal care is necessary. Sometimes the infection can also lead to a miscarriage or premature delivery. A herpes infection can spread from a mother to the child. Medications are given to a pregnant woman during the last trimester to prevent transmitting the disease to the baby. Usually a C-section is performed on a mother who is suffering from herpes to save the baby from getting infected while birthing.
To prevent getting an infection of genital herpes:
- Always practise safe sex. Use latex condoms during sexual intercourse and dental dams during oral sex.
- Avoid having sex with multiple partners and practise monogamy. This can save you from getting infected with any type of STD.
If the infection is already present:
- Talk to your partner about your health and the potential risks involved. Remember even if the signs of the disease are suppressed you can still pass the infection to your partner.
- Remember condoms and dams can only cover the sores that are present in the genital areas and the mouth. But the blisters can also appear elsewhere in the body. Coming in contact with the fluids of the sores in case of an outbreak can also contribute in transmitting the disease. Hence using condoms alone isn’t protection enough to limit the transmission of the disease.
- Maintain proper hygiene. Always wash hands thoroughly to prevent herpes from spreading to other parts of the body in case there are open sores.
- Herpes is not curable, always talk to your partner and keep your doctor in the loop to know how you can prevent the disease from coming in the way of good health and a happy sex life.
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