Genital Herpes is one of the commonly transmitted Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs or STDs) caused by Herpes Simplex Virus.
There are two types of Herpes Simplex Virus:
- HSV 1 – This one typically causes cold sores. Cold sores are red coloured blisters filled with fluid. They generally appear on the lips or around the mouth. These are also found on other parts of the body such as fingers, nose or inside the mouth or near the genitals.
- HSV 2 – This type of virus causes genital herpes.
Either variant of this virus can cause sores near the genitals.
How does genital herpes spread from infected person to health individual?
Herpes virus enters a healthy person’s body through the microscopic gaps in the mucus membranes present in the nose, mouth and in/on the genitals. Once the virus enters the body, it travels through the nerves and stays in the nerve tissues of the body. Usually they start multiplying quickly and the body starts showing symptoms. HSV (Herpes Simplex Virus) is found in the saliva, semen and vaginal fluids of the infected person.
- Herpes spreads through unprotected sexual contact. When the mucus membrane of the healthy person and the fluids secreted in the infected person come into contact, virus enters the body of the healthy individual.
- Herpes spreads through oral sex. As the virus stays in the saliva, when the saliva of the infected individual comes into contact with the health person’s genitals, the virus will be able to spread to the healthy person.
Symptoms of Genital Herpes
Depending on the individual, the time when the symptoms start showing up may vary from 2 days (post contact) to 30 days. Symptoms of Genital Herpes (or Herpes Simplex Virus infection) include:
- Blisters near the penis, scrotum or buttocks (in men)
- Blisters near the vagina, anus and buttocks (in women).
- Blisters can appear anywhere on the body that comes into the contact with the bodily fluids of the infected person.
Before the formation of blisters, skin starts to itch. Gradually, fluid gets collected in small pockets under the skin and they show up as blisters in few days. A crust can form on the sores within a week after they form. Lymph nodes may also swell as the body fights a losing battle against the infection. Headaches, body pains and fever are other commonly seen symptoms after infection.
If the infected individual is pregnant and if no proper medication is taken, there is a risk of giving birth to a baby who may be blind or whose brain may have damaged. Sometimes, the baby may even die after she/he is born. It is very important to see a doctor if you see any of the symptoms and it becomes more critical to take care of the baby if you get infected while you are pregnant.
How is genital herpes diagnosed?
Most of the time, the blisters and other symptoms may confirm the infection. However, a blood test may be required to confirm the infection if the outburst of sores is not clear.
If you have had unprotected sex with an unfamiliar person, may be penetrative or just oral, it is better to see a doctor immediately the next day and get tested.
Treatment for genital herpes
Genital herpes has NO CURE. You will be put on antiviral drugs to slow down the progression of virus in your body while letting your body fight it. As long as you are using medicines, you may get relieved of symptoms such as tingling, itching and some blisters.
Once you stop your medications, the virus will still be present in your body but may not show symptoms for some time. There can be another episode of blisters and other symptoms at later point of time. Then you may have to take another dose of the antiviral drugs.
If you are pregnant and diagnosed with genital herpes, you should know that the virus can infect the baby too. Your doctor will let you know the risks and complications that you can expect with your child. You will be put on to antiviral medications that help you deliver a healthy baby.