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What You Need to Know About Genital Herpes

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Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease or infection (STD or STI). An STD is defined as an infection that is transferred to another person through some type of sexual contact. It is also important to know that sexual contact is considered not only vaginal or anal penetration. It includes kissing, oral-genital contact and the use of sex toys like a vibrator.

Genital herpes or herpes is a viral infection that is passed on when contact is made with microscopic tears of the mucous-covered lining of the mouth, vagina or genital skin. The virus is manifested by an outbreak of redness and blisters.

Typically, the first outbreak is the most severe. Any following breakouts are usually mild and sporadic. Blisters may appear around the mouth (usually caused by herpes simplex virus 1 or HSV-1) and the anus (usually caused by the herpes simplex virus 2 or HSV-2). How often a person has outbreaks, particularly in women, may depend on stress, infection or medications.

Symptoms may include:

• Itching or burning feeling in the genital or anal area
• Flu-like symptoms, including fever
• Swollen glands
• Pain in the legs, buttocks, or genital area
• Vaginal discharge
• A feeling of pressure in the area below the stomach

Herpes is a very common STD -- over 50 million people are infected in the United States alone. Even though there are treatments to prevent the virus from growing, shorten the breakout period, decrease the pain and shorten the healing time for sores, there is no cure. Once the virus is in your system, it’s there for life. However, many have managed this condition rather successfully while faithfully adhering to a regimen laid out by their doctor.

In the meantime, when you have a flare up, besides taking your medication as directed, Womenhealth.gov suggests the following:

• Keep the infected area clean and dry.
• Try not to touch the sores.
• Wash hands after contact.
• Avoid sexual contact from the time you first notice symptoms until the sores have healed.

Some mothers wonder if herpes can affect their unborn child. The answer is yes.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.