Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. This means it spreads from person to person during vaginal, anal, or oral sexual contact. It is cause by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). Once a person gets genital herpes, it stays in the body for life. In some people, symptoms come and go.
In the United States, 1 out of 4 women are infected with HSV-2. In 2004, 18,991 men and women attended STD clinics (also called genitourinary medicine clinics) in United Kingdom with first attack genital herpes. Once a person gets genital herpes, it stays in the body for life. In some people, symptoms come and go. When symptoms appear, it is called a "herpes outbreak."
Herpes is spread by direct contact with an infected person. For example, if you have genital herpes and have sexual intercourse, you can give your partner genital herpes. However, in many people the infection causes no recognized signs or symptoms and can still be spread to a sexual partner.
It can be spread from one part of the body to another, such as from the genitals to the fingers, to the eyes or other parts of the body. Herpes can also be spread from a mother to her baby when she gives birth.
Those with symptoms may experience a tingling sensation or itching in the genital area within two to twenty days of having sex with an infected person. A cluster of blisters may appear, which can burst, leaving painful sores often lasting two to three weeks. They also can occur inside the vagina and on the cervix in women, or in the urinary passage of women and men. Small red bumps appear first, develop into small blisters, and then become itchy, painful sores that might develop a crust and will heal without leaving a scar.
Symptoms may include:
- painful, fluid-filled blisters
- tingling, itching, burning or soreness in the affected area
- enlarged and painful lymph glands
- pain on passing urine
- a flu-like illness
- women may have an abnormal vaginal discharge
There is no cure for genital herpes; your health care provider might prescribe an antiviral medicine to treat your symptoms and to help prevent future outbreaks. Accurate diagnosis of genital herpes is made most easily and correctly at the time of an active herpes infection, preferably the initial symptomatic infection. For diagnose it is most of the doctor taking a medical history, performing a physical examination and taking a swab to detect presence of the virus.
Long-term drug therapy (suppressive treatment) may be helpful for individuals who suffer frequent recurrent outbreaks. Suppressive treatment will reduce outbreaks by 85 percent and reduces viral shedding by more than 90 percent.
Medication that is taken by mouth, or in severe cases intravenously, is more effective. It is important to remember that there is still no cure for genital herpes and that these treatments only reduce the severity and duration of outbreaks.