Posted September 5, 2022 by Anusha ‐ 3 min read
Genital herpes is a disease caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), of which there are two types. Type 1 (HSV-1) usually causes oral herpes, an infection of the lips and mouth. Symptoms are commonly known as cold sores or fever blisters.
Causes of Genital Herpes
Herpes simplex type 1, which is transmitted through oral secretions or sores on the skin, can be spread through kissing or sharing objects such as toothbrushes or eating utensils.
In general, a person can only get herpes type 2 infection during sexual contact with someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection.
It is important to know that both HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be spread even if sores are not present.
Pregnant women with genital herpes should talk to their doctor, as genital herpes can be passed on to the baby during childbirth.
For many people with the herpes virus, which can go through periods of being dormant, attacks (or outbreaks) can be brought on by the following conditions:
General illness (from mild illnesses to serious conditions)
Physical or emotional stress
Immunosuppression due to AIDS or such medications as chemotherapy or steroids
Trauma to the affected area, including sexual activity
Symptoms of Genital Herpes
Cracked, raw, or red areas around your genitals without pain, itching, or tingling
Itching or tingling around your genitals or your anal region
Small blisters that break open and cause painful sores. These may be on or around your genitals (penis or vagina) or on your buttocks, thighs, or rectal area. More rarely, blisters may occur inside the urethra – the tube urine passes through on its way out of your body.
Pain from urine passing over the sores, this is especially a problem in women.
Flu-like symptoms, including fever, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue
Diagnosis of Genital Herpes
The PCR test can tell if you have genital herpes even if you don’t have symptoms.
The PCR test looks for pieces of the virus’s DNA in a sample taken from cells or fluids from a genital sore or the urinary tract.
This is a commonly used test to diagnose genital herpes and is very accurate.
During the exam, your health care provider can take a sample of cells from a sore and look for the herpes simplex virus (HSV) under a microscope.
Cell culture or PCR test may give a false-negative result if the sores have begun healing or if you are recently infected.
A false-negative test shows you don’t have the condition when in fact you do.
False-positive test results are possible, too. If you test positive, but your risk for getting the virus is low, you may need further testing.
Treatment of Genital Herpes
If you have symptoms such as sores when you’re first diagnosed with genital herpes, your doctor will usually give you a brief course (seven to 10 days) of antiviral therapy to relieve them or prevent them from getting worse.
Your doctor may keep you on the drugs longer if the sores don’t heal in that time.
After the first treatment, work with your doctor to come up with the best way to take antiviral therapies.
Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug for you to keep on hand in case you have another flare-up, this is called intermittent therapy.
You can take the pills for two to five days as soon as you notice sores or when you feel an outbreak coming on.
Sores will heal and disappear on their own, but taking the drugs can make the symptoms less severe and make them go away faster.
If you have outbreaks often, you may want to consider taking an antiviral drug every day.
Doctors call this suppressive therapy.
For someone who has more than six outbreaks a year, suppressive therapy can reduce the number of outbreaks by 70% to 80%.
Many people who take the antiviral drugs daily have no outbreaks at all.