Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is diagnosed and treated by Premier Medical Group.

What is genital herpes?

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Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that occurs primarily in the genitals and anal area. The virus can cause cores on the genital and rectal area, buttocks, and thighs. Genital herpes is most often spread through vaginal, anal, or oral sex with a partner who has the virus, and it can spread even when sores are not present. Pregnant parents can also infect their babies during childbirth.

 

Genital herpes has seen a significant surge in those under 25 years old. Abstinence is the only sure protection a person can take against herpes, but using condoms and other precautionary measures can significantly reduce the risk.

What causes genital herpes?

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Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus, or HSV-2. HSV-1, which causes oral herpes, has increasingly been found to cause genital herpes. If a person does not have herpes, they can become infected when in contact with the virus in one of several forms. This includes a herpes sore, whether healed or open, saliva, genital secretions, or, in some cases, skin. The virus can spread even when symptoms are not visible.

 

Contrary to popular belief, it is not possible to contract herpes from toilet seats, bedding, and swimming pools. The virus cannot live outside the body.

What are the symptoms of genital herpes?

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Symptoms of herpes are commonly referred to as “outbreaks.” In most cases, the first outbreak will occur around two weeks after initial exposure to the virus. When this happens, sores often appear near the area where the virus has entered the body. These sores can blister and break, which can be very painful, and then heal, usually within 7 to 10 days.

 

The herpes virus stays in the body for life, but over time, outbreaks can become decreasingly frequent. Itching and pain may occur even when sores are not present. In fact, most people with herpes do not have symptoms, but even without signs of the disease, the virus can continue to spread to sex partners. It is therefore important to get tested for the virus and to take necessary precautions, like using a latex condom and informing sex partners of the STD.

How is genital herpes diagnosed?

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While a person may be able to diagnose herpes by sight, only a doctor can provide a firm diagnosis. If sores are visible, the doctor will take a sample with a swab and evaluate it for signs of the virus. If there are no visible sores during the time of the visit, a doctor may use a blood sample to determine the same results.

 

Even if you do not suspect you have the herpes virus, it is important to get a regular STD test. Most common STDs do not have symptoms, but without treatment, they can cause long-term damage. If you elect to take a standard STD test at your next physical, a herpes test may not be included (most STD tests include urine samples, not blood). If you want to add this test, talk to your medical provider.

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While there is no cure for genital herpes, certain medicines can help to alleviate symptoms, decrease outbreaks, and lower the risk of passing the virus to another person. If you are looking for ways to alleviate an outbreak, there are a few simple steps you can take.

  • Take a warm bath
  • Keep the affected area dry
  • Wear soft, loose-fitting clothes
  • Place an ice pack on the sores
  • Take a pain reliever like aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen

If you experience frequent outbreaks, a doctor may prescribe a daily medicine. Called suppressive therapy, this can help prevent future outbreaks and lower your chances of passing herpes to sexual partners.

When to see a doctor for genital herpes?

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See a doctor if you suspect you have contracted the herpes virus. They will be able to provide a diagnosis and recommend medicines to help manage the symptoms and prevent further spread. Moreover, other STDs, like syphilis, can look like herpes but require a different treatment. If you suspect you have herpes or another STD, see a doctor as soon as possible. Only they will be able to provide a proper diagnosis and treatment course. If you think you may have a separate STD, take a look at our main information page of sexually transmitted diseases.