Genital herpes is a common infection caused by a virus called Herpes Simplex Virus or HSV. Symptoms may not always be present, but can include an itching or tingling feeling around the infected area, an outbreak of painful blisters or sores which later form scabs and flu-like symptoms.
Genital herpes is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, in particular unprotected penetrative vaginal and anal sex. Using condoms reduces the risk of passing on the virus.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of genital herpes can appear anywhere from a week to a few years after being exposed to the virus.
Symptoms can include:
- flu-like symptoms such as aches and fever
- small blisters or sores, often around the penis or vagina, which can be painful, particularly when passing urine.
A test for the HSV virus is most conclusive if sores or blisters are present. Your doctor or nurse will test for HSV by taking a specimen from one of the sores or blisters and sending it to a laboratory for analysis. The test is not painful.
There is no cure for HSV or any treatment that will completely eliminate the virus from the body. If you have a particularly severe outbreak of genital herpes you may be given tablets which can help it to clear up faster, rest and maintaining a healthy lifestyle are also important.
Genital Herpes and HIV
Outbreaks of genital herpes can be more severe and last longer for those who are HIV positive. HIV viral loads can peak during outbreaks and increase transmission risk to partners of both HSV and HIV.
Condoms can reduce the risk of transmission.
There is strong evidence suggesting that taking HSV medications greatly reduces the risk of passing herpes on to partners. See your doctor for more information on available treatments