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Genital herpes


Disease: Genital herpes Genital herpes
Category: Genito-urinary diseases

Disease Definition:

Affecting both men and women, genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease. Pain, itching and sores in the genital area are some of the features of genital herpes.


A type of herpes simplex virus (HSV) causes genital herpes, which enters the body through small breaks in the skin or mucous membranes. The primary way that the virus spreads is sexual contact.


Genital herpes, which is a recurrent infection that could cause embarrassment and emotional distress, has no cure. A person shouldn't avoid sex or give up on relationships if they have genital herpes. Someone with HSV could manage the spread of the virus by taking steps to protect themselves and their partner.

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Symptoms, Causes


Because the majority of people that have genital herpes do not experience any signs or symptoms, they never know that they have the disease. Sometimes, the signs and symptoms of genital herpes could be so mild that they go unnoticed. In most cases, the worst outbreak is the first one and some people never experience a second one. But other people could experience these outbreaks after the initial outbreak for as long as 40 years.


In case someone experiences signs and symptoms of genital herpes, they will include:


  • Pain or itching around the genital area, buttocks or inner thighs
  • Small red bumps, blisters (vesicles) or open sores (ulcers) in the genital, anal or nearby areas.


Usually, pain or itching is the first symptom of genital herpes, which could begin within a few weeks after exposure to an infected sexual partner. Small red bumps may appear after several days, which could rupture and become ulcers that ooze or bleed. Scabs form and the ulcers eventually heal.


The vaginal area, external genitals, anus, buttocks or cervix can be erupted by sores in women. However, in men, sores could appear on the buttocks, anus or thighs, scrotum, or inside the urethra, the channel inside the penis leading to the bladder.


If someone has ulcers, urinating can be difficult. Until the infections clears, a person may experience pain and tenderness in their genital area. Headache, muscle aches and fever, along with swollen lymph nodes in the groin are some of the flu-like symptoms that may be experienced during the initial breakout.



For each person, genital herpes varies. The signs and symptoms of this disease could recur for years. Although many people have less frequent outbreaks as time passes, however, some people could experience numerous episodes each year. Some of the factors that could trigger outbreaks include:


  • Illness
  • Surgery
  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Friction, such as that caused by vigorous sexual intercourse
  • Immune system suppression due to infections, such as HIV/AIDS or from medications such as chemotherapy or steroids.
  • Menstruation


Even when lesions are not present, in some cases the infection could be active and contagious.


A person should see a doctor in case they suspect that they have genital herpes or any other STD (sexually transmitted disease).


Genital herpes could be caused by two types of herpes simplex virus infections:

HSV type 1 (HSV-1):

Even though this type could spread to someone's genital area during oral sex, however, it usually causes cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth.

HSV type 2 (HSV-2):

Genital herpes is usually caused by this type. The virus spreads through skin-to-skin contact and through sexual contact. This type is very common and highly contagious, no matter if the person has an open sore or not. In many people, the disease could still be spread to a sexual partner even if they don't have any recognized signs or symptoms.


It is nearly impossible to get the infection through contact with toilets, towels or other objects used by an infected person because the virus dies quickly outside of the body.



Usually, genital herpes will not cause any other serious permanent complications besides the sores in case the person's a healthy adult. However, some of the complications that could occur include:

Newborn infection:

As the infant passes through the birth canal, a mother with open sores could spread the infections to her newborn. Mothers are most likely to transmit the infection to their babies in case they're experiencing their first outbreak of herpes at the time of delivery. Blindness, brain damage or death of the newborn could be caused by genital herpes.

Contracting other STDs:

If someone has genital herpes, it means that they have an increased risk of transmitting or contracting other STDs, such as the AIDS virus.


In some rare cases, inflammation of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord could be caused by HSV infection.


In men, especially in homosexuals, HSV infection could cause inflammation of the lining of the rectum.

Urinary bladder retention:

In women, HSV infection could cause urine retention or other difficulties with the urinary system.


Treatment for genital herpes consists of oral prescription antiviral medications, including famciclovir, valacyclovir and acyclovir.


Despite the fact that there's no cure for genital herpes, but with treatment a person could be able to:


  • Minimize the chance of transmitting the herpes virus to other people.
  • Lessen the severity and duration of symptoms in recurrent outbreaks
  • Help sores heal sooner during an initial outbreak
  • Reduce the frequency of recurrences.


A person may be recommended taking medications only when they experience symptoms of an outbreak, a method called episodic therapy, or they may be recommended taking medications daily, even if they're not experiencing any signs of an outbreak in order to minimize their chances of recurrent outbreaks, a method called suppressive therapy.
Usually, if someone experiences five or more outbreaks each year, they will be recommended suppressive therapy. However, people with even fewer outbreaks each year are being treated with suppressive therapy because the medications have proven very safe and effective.


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