Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), it’s probably best known for causing sores and blisters.
KidsHealth.org has written that genital herpes is caused by the virus, herpes simplex (HSV). There are two different types that cause genital herpes: HSV-1 and HSV-2. Most forms of genital herpes are HSV-2.
ACOG said that the sores appear in the site where the virus entered the body. It passes through that break in the skin during anal, oral or vaginal sex and enters the membranes of the penis, vagina, urinary opening, cervix or anus.
Once inside the body, it infects healthy cells. When the body's defense system begins to fight back, this causes swelling, sores and blisters.
Besides the sex organs, genital herpes can affect the tongue, mouth, eyes, gums, lips, fingers, and other body parts, said ACOG. Herpes can be passed from a cold sore around the mouth to a partner's genital area or vice versa.
Most individuals have no or only minimal signs or symptoms from genital herpes. WomensHealth.gov lists the early symptoms to include itching or burning in the genital or anal area; flu-like symptoms, including fever; swollen glands; pain in the legs, buttocks, or genital area; vaginal discharge; and a feeling of pressure in the area below the stomach. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) added that others may include decreased appetite and painful urination.
ACOG went on to say symptoms usually appear about 2 to 10 days after the herpes virus enters the body and may last two to four weeks. During this time, the lesions break open and “weep.” Over a short period, the sores become crusted and heal without leaving scars.
The bad news, said KidsHealth.org, is after the sores and blisters disappear, the herpes virus hasn’t actually gone away. It’s just in hiding and can reactivate itself. WomensHealth.gov said yhat the next outbreak is almost always less severe and shorter than the first.
Women who are pregnant during their first outbreak are more likely to pass the virus onto the baby. WomensHealth.gov said that babies born with herpes may be premature, suffer from brain damage, severe rashes or eye problems.
Right now there’s no cure for genital herpes but the CDC said that antiviral medications can shorten and prevent outbreaks.
The guaranteed way to prevent genital herpes is to practice abstinence. NIH added that being in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with someone who’s been tested and never infected also reduces the chances of infection. The proper and constant use of latex condoms is another way to lessen the risk of genital herpes.
Genital Herpes. NCBI.NLM.NIH.gov by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine. Web 30 Nov 2011.
Genital Herpes – CDC Fact Sheet. CDC.gov by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web 30 Nov 2011.
Genital Herpes Fact Sheet. WomensHealth.gov by the Office on Women's Health in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Web 30 Nov 2011.
Genital Herpes. KidsHealth.org by the Nemours Foundation. Web 30 Nov 2011.
Genital Herpes. ACOG.org by American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Web 30 Nov 2011.
Reviewed January 10, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith