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What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection that can affect any mucous membrane on the body. This includes both the genitals and the mouth. There are two different strains of the herpes simplex virus: type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-1 typically causes oral infections, but can also cause genital infections, while HSV-2 causes genital infections almost exclusively. Herpes is incredibly common. According to the World Health Organization, over half a billion people between the ages of 15 - 49 suffer from either strain of genital herpes worldwide.

Approximately 70% of people in the UK have herpes. Around 80% of the people that have genital herpes are unaware that they have it. However, it is possible to pass genital herpes to a partner even when symptoms are not present.

While there is no cure for genital herpes, its symptoms and rate of transmission can be controlled by taking medication.

What are the symptoms of genital herpes?

Herpes is generally characterised by:

  • pain or itching
  • small red bumps or tiny white blisters
  • ulcers that form once the blisters rupture
  • scabs that form as the ulcers heal

If you’re having your first herpes outbreak, you will likely be experiencing additional flu-like symptoms including: a headache, fever and muscle aches.

Generally, recurrences are less painful than the original outbreak and the sores heal more quickly.

What are the causes of genital herpes?

Genital herpes is caused by having sexual contact with an infected person. It is very common and highly contagious. Genital herpes can be spread whether or not an open sore is present. The herpes virus cannot survive outside of the human body. For this reason, it is virtually impossible to contract the virus through the sharing of toilets, towels or other objects used by an infected person.

What can you do to treat genital herpes?

Genital herpes treatments include Aciclovir  and Valaciclovir which are antiviral medications. Typically, these medications are recommended during the first outbreak, as it is likely to be the longest lasting and most painful outbreak. Herpes treatments are to be taken for 5 days, up to 5 times a day. These medications can be used to treat both genital and oral herpes.

 

How can you try to prevent genital herpes?

Avoid sexual contact during an outbreak. Herpes is highly contagious during an outbreak, including at the early stages like tingling or itching.

Always use a condom, even once symptoms are no longer present. However, it is important to note that condoms are not 100% effective in preventing the spread of herpes. This is because condoms only cover the penis, while genital herpes can be present on any of the skin surrounding the genitals.

 

Is there a cure for herpes?

Unfortunately, you cannot cure herpes. However, most recurring outbreaks will be much milder than your initial outbreak and over time you will have fewer and fewer outbreaks. These medications can help you get rid of genital herpes symptoms.

Who is likely to contract genital herpes?

Women are more likely to have genital herpes as the virus is more easily transferred from men to women than from women to men.

Where can I buy genital herpes medication?

You can buy genital herpes treatments online here.

How common is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is incredibly common. Approximately two thirds of people aged 15-50 suffer from genital herpes.

Can oral herpes transmit genital herpes?

Yes. If you have HSV-1 and have unprotected oral sex, you can transmit herpes to your partner which will present itself as genital herpes.

How serious is herpes?

Typically, herpes is not serious. While it can cause severe discomfort and, during the first outbreak, flu-like symptoms, generally, herpes isn’t dangerous. However, in rare cases genital herpes can present additional symptoms, but even those aren’t generally serious. Additional herpes symptoms include:

  • Urinary retention
  • Viral meningitis - this is different than bacterial meningitis and is typically very mild and will clear up quickly
  • Frequent outbreaks - people with weakened immune systems or people on certain medications might experience more frequent outbreaks, which can be prevented with antiviral medication
  • People with widespread eczema may experience a more severe infection if a large area of skin is infected

It is important to note that genital herpes may cause some concern during pregnancy. However, these concerns can be avoided if you notify your doctor of your condition.

* Please note results, timeframe and individual responses to treatments may vary from person to person. If you do need medical advice you should always speak to a doctor, pharmacist or appropriate medical professional.