Genital herpes simplex virus is found in almost everyone in the world (HSV). HSV doesn’t always cause symptoms, but you should get tested for genital herpes if you have symptoms like itching, swelling, or painful blisters.Thank you for reading this post, don't forget to subscribe!
How do you get genital herpes?
Genital herpes is an infection that is spread by sexual contact (STI). It makes painful blisters (bumps filled with fluid) called herpetic sores that can break open and leak fluid.
Why people get genital herpes?
Herpes in the genital area is caused by two types of the herpes simplex virus (HSV):
- HSV-1: This kind usually causes cold sores, but it can also cause genital herpes.
- HSV-2: This kind usually causes genital herpes, but it can also cause cold sores.
In 2016, about 3.7 billion people under 50 years old had HSV-1, according to the World Health Organization. In the same year, about 491 million people between the ages of 15 and 49 had HSV-2.
The viruses get into the body through cuts or sores on the skin or through mucus membranes. The thin layers of tissue that line your body’s openings are called mucous membranes. You can find them in your nose, mouth, and private parts.
Once the viruses get into the body, they become part of the cells. Viruses can easily multiply or change to fit their surroundings, which makes it hard to treat them.
HSV-1 or HSV-2 can be found in body fluids such as saliva, blood, and urine.
- vaginal secretions
Getting to know the signs of genital herpes
An outbreak is a group of blisters that appear all at once. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that on average, a first outbreak will happen 4 days after a person gets the virus (CDC). But it can take anywhere from 2 days to 12 days or more to show up.
Blisters on the penis, scrotum, or buttocks are the most common signs of a penis (near or around the anus)
Blisters around or near the vagina, anus, or both are common signs of a vagina, buttocks.
The following are common signs that anyone could have:
- Blisters can form in the mouth, on the lips, on the face, and anywhere else the infected area touched.
- The area that has the disease usually starts to itch or tingle before the blisters show up.
- The blisters could open up into sores that leak fluid.
After about a week, a crust may form over the sores, and the lymph glands may swell. Lymph glands protect the body from infection and inflammation.
The virus may cause
- body aches,
- and fever.
A baby born with herpes (HSV) from a vaginal delivery may have ulcers on the face, body, and genitals as well as other symptoms.
When a baby is born with genital herpes, it can lead to very serious problems, such as blindness, brain damage, or even death.
It is very important to let a doctor know if you have genital herpes or get HSV while you are pregnant.
They will take steps to make sure that the virus doesn’t get to the baby before it is born. If there are herpes blisters along the birth canal, the medical team may decide to do a cesarean instead of a normal vaginal delivery.
Herpes in the mouth and cold sores
Oral herpes is a virus that can cause cold sores (HSV-1).
Cold sores are sores near the mouth or lips that look like blisters. They can happen in other places on the face as well. Most of the time, they last for at least two weeks. Cold sores can come back because there is no cure for herpes.
How often does herpes happen?
A lot of people have genital herpes.
Genital herpes is most often caused by HSV-2, but HSV-1 can also cause the infection.
Based on the most recent numbers from the WHO, it was thought that 491.5 million people had an HSV-2 infection in 2016. This is more than 10% of the world’s population between the ages of 15 and 49.
The WHO also thinks that 3.7 billion people had an HSV-1 infection in the same year. This is about two-thirds of the world’s population under 50 years old.
When to go to the doctor if you have genital herpes
The CDC advises against testing for genital herpes unless you have symptoms.
But if you have signs of genital herpes, you should see a doctor right away. They can figure out what’s wrong and talk about how to treat the infection.
If you suspect HSV exposure or want a comprehensive STI check and testing, make an appointment with a doctor.
If you can’t make an in-person appointment, you could also use a test kit at home. But it’s important to keep in mind that a test done in person by a doctor might be more accurate.
Diagnosing genital herpes
Most of the time, a doctor can tell if someone has herpes just by looking at the sores. Even though tests aren’t always necessary, a doctor may use them to confirm their diagnosis.
Before an outbreak, HSV can be found in the blood. But you don’t always need to be tested for HSV-1 or HSV-2 if you haven’t been exposed to the virus and don’t have any symptoms.
How do you treat genital herpes?
Herpes simplex viruses can’t be cured, but treatment can lessen the number of outbreaks.
Antiviral drugs might help sores heal faster and feel less painful. At the first signs of a flare-up (tingling, itching, and other symptoms), you can take medicine to help ease the symptoms.
If there have been outbreaks, a doctor may also give you medicine to make it less likely that there will be more.
When you take a warm bath or shower, use mild soaps. Make sure the area is clean and dry. Wear loose clothes made of cotton to keep the area from getting too hot.
How people get genital herpes
HSV is spread through sexual contact, such as vaginal sex, anal sex, or any other activity that involves touching the genitalia.
Oral sex can cause a person to get an HSV infection. Herpes that starts in the mouth can spread to the genital and anal areas and vice versa.
HSV is communicaing through skin-to-skin contact, sperm, saliva, and vaginal fluids.
The chances of getting genital herpes
In some situations, like having vaginal, oral, or anal sex with someone who has genital herpes, the risk of getting HSV goes up.
- Not using condoms or other barrier methods when having sex.
- Having a weakened immune system because of another STI or illness.
Preventing genital herpes
If a person is sexually active, they can lower their risk of getting HSV by:
- Using barrier methods, like condoms, every time they have sex.
- Not having sex with someone who is showing signs of having herpes. But it’s important to know that HSV can be passed from one person to another even if there are no symptoms.
- Talking to sexual partners about whether or not they have STIs.
What to do if a test for genital herpes is positive
If a test shows that a person has genital herpes, they should talk to a doctor. Even though there is no cure for herpes, antiviral drugs can help treat it. Antiviral drugs can help make recurring outbreaks less severe (both cold sores and genital warts).
A weak immune system could cause frequent, severe outbreaks that keep coming back.If there are many breakouts, a doctor may suspect an immune system issue.
If you have genital herpes, it’s fine to have sex, but you should avoid it if you have an outbreak. Use barrier methods like condoms and dental dams during all sexual activity to make it less likely that you will give HSV to your partner.
What happens if you don’t treat genital herpes?
Herpes in the genital area doesn’t always need to be treating. Genital warts can be painful, though. Antiviral treatments can lessen the symptoms of outbreaks and make them less severe.
Rarely, herpes can lead to other problems. Most of the time, though, it doesn’t get worse.
If I’m pregnant and have genital herpes, what should I know?
When you have any kind of STI, it’s normal to worry about your baby’s health. If you have an active outbreak of HSV when you give birth vaginally, your baby could get it.
As soon as you find out you’re pregnant, you should tell your doctor that you have genital herpes.
Your doctor will talk to you about what to expect before, during, and after giving birth. They can give safe treatments for pregnant women to make sure the baby is born healthy. They may also choose to do a cesarean section instead.
Genital herpes in the long term
When you have sexual contact with someone, it’s important to use condoms or another barrier method every time. It will make it harder to get HSV and other STIs and make it harder for them to spread.
There is no cure for genital herpes right now, but scientists are working on making one or a vaccine.
Drugs can fix it.
The disease stays dormant in the body until something sets it off. Stress, illness, and fatigue trigger breakouts.
A doctor can help come up with a plan for how to treat outbreaks.
Questions that are often asked
Here are some answers to questions that people often have if they have signs of genital herpes or a positive test result for the virus.
What does a herpes sore look like?
At first, herpes sores look like small bumps filled with pus, like pimples or blisters. When these sores break open, they can leak liquid that hardens into a crust. It can look like one sore or a group of sores.
Herpes sores can happen on the skin around the mouth (cold sores) or on the genitalia or anus.
What are the first signs that a woman has genital herpes?
Itchy or tingling skin precedes lesions in women with genital herpes. This can happen close to the genitalia or anus.
Women could also have flu-like symptoms like fever and tiredness. An HSV infection can also cause headaches, body aches, and lymph nodes to swell up.
Keep in mind, though, that it is possible to have HSV-2 without any symptoms.
How does herpes start to show up?
The infection causes genital herpes lesions a few days later. The CDC says that the first outbreak usually happens 4 days after a person gets the virus (although it can take as little as 2 days, or as much as 12 days or more).
At first, the wounds will look like small, wet bumps or blisters. After a few days, the bumps start to leak fluid. The wounds get crusty before they heal.
Is it possible to cure the herpes virus that causes genital herpes?
When a person has an outbreak of herpes, from when the sores first appear until they are completely healthy, they are more likely to pass on HSV. But HSV can be pass on to a partner even when the virus is not active (between outbreaks).
Use a barrier method like a condom or a dental dam during all sexual activity to lower your risk of getting HSV from a partner.