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Genital Herpes (HSV)

(Her–peas)

Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) is the virus which causes Genital Herpes. There are two types of Herpes viruses, Type 1 (the common cause of cold sores) and Type 2 (the most common cause of genital sores); however both Type1 and 2 can infect the genitals. Herpes is passed through skin to skin contact or through vaginal, anal, and oral sex. Most people are infected with herpes and do not know they have it because they may not recognize their symptoms as herpes outbreaks. Often people infected will think their blisters are from a spider bite or allergic reaction to a latex condom. It is only when the “bite” or “allergy” keeps reappearing that the person seeks medical care. The Herpes virus can be transmitted whether a person has an outbreak or not, this is called asymptomatic shedding.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Herpes?

People infected with Herpes may have very mild symptoms that are often ignored or they may not exhibit any symptoms at all. When symptoms do occur they may include flu-like symptoms that include fever, swollen glands, body aches, tiredness or Sores or blisters that last 7 – 10 days or more. These sores/blisters may occur anywhere on the lower abdomen, buttocks or genitals. There may be only one or multiple blisters, which will break open and become an open sore and then will scab over and heal. Mild scarring may occur. Or the symptoms may be only mild irritation with itching.

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How Common Is Herpes?

It is estimated that 45 million people (18 years and older) in the United States are infected with Herpes Virus Type 2. To make that more meaningful, 1 in 4 women are infected and 1 in 5 men are infected.

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How Do I Know If I Have Herpes?

Herpes can be diagnosed during an outbreak with a visual examination, by rubbing a cotton swab over an outbreak area and sending it to the lab for a culture. If no symptoms are present, a blood test can identify if there are antibodies for Herpes in the blood.

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Can Herpes Be Cured?

Because Herpes is caused by a virus there is no cure. Once a person is infected, they will have it for life and be able to spread it to others. However, there are medications available that can help to reduce the symptoms and duration of an outbreak, reduce the frequency of outbreaks and reduce the risk of passing the virus to partners.

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How Can I Protect Myself From A Herpes Infection?

The best way to avoid getting Herpes is to not have sex, or to be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected. Your risk may also be reduced by limiting your number of partners (the fewer people you have sex with the fewer opportunities you have to be exposed to the virus), and by using condoms. However, because Herpes can be in areas where a condom does not provide protection, the risk is not eliminated. If you or your partner is infected with Herpes, talk with your health care provider about the use of medication to reduce transmission.

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Click Here to see an image of Herpes. Warning: graphic image!
Antibodies: proteins found in the blood that are used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects like bacteria and viruses
Sores or Blisters: Sores are open wounds of the skin or mucous membranes that are tender or painful and may be caused by a bacterial or viral infection. Blisters occur when fluid collects below or within the skin. Blisters associated with herpes can be painful and itchy.
Swollen Glands: Swollen Glands: also known as lymph nodes. Lumps felt under the skin at the neck, under the jaw, underarms, and groin. Can be a sign of infection.
Mutually Monogamous: two people who are in an exclusive relationship with each other. Neither one of them has sexual contact with another person outside of their relationship.