Genital Herpes is caused by the Herpes simplex virus. It affects any mucous membrane such as those found in the mouth. There are two types of herpes namely, type 1 and type 2.They are both very contagious.HSV type 1 affects mostly the mouth and lips and causes cold sores or fever blisters. However, it can be passed from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex. HSV type 2 often causes genital herpes and can be spread through fluids from the mouth or genitals.
How it is spread
• Vaginal, oral or anal sex
• It is also spread through contact with open sores. It is also possible to get the virus from an infected person who does not exhibit the symptoms or sores
• Genital touching
• During childbirth from mother to child
• During breastfeeding, if the baby touches an open sore
Most people with the virus do not experience the symptoms and if they do it is mild but they still spread it to other people. If symptoms occur during the first outbreak they can be severe. This usually occurs within 2 days to 2 weeks of infection. When the symptoms are present they include:
• Pain or itching that starts within 2-10 days within exposure to the infection
• Small bumps or tiny blisters
• Ulcers that form when the blisters rupture and ooze or bleed
Ulcer formed after blister burst-female genitalia Healing ulcer-male genitalia
•Scabs that form after the ulcer heals
• During the initial outbreak, you may experience flu-like symptoms, swollen lymph nodes in your groin, headache, muscle aches and fever
• Ulcers may make it painful to urinate
• Pain and tenderness in the genital area until the infection clears
• In women, the sores develop on the vagina, external genitals, and cervix
• Vaginal discharge in women or inability to empty the bladder thus requiring a urinary catheter
• In men, sores may appear on the penis, scrotum, thighs and urethra
Genital induced sores on female and male genitalia respectively
• It can also appear on the buttock, mouth, tongue, eyes, gums, lips, fingers and anus for both genders
Ocular herpes damages the cornea and can cause blindness if not treated promptly.
Ocular herpes Infected tongue Sores on the lips
• Decreased appetite
• Swollen and tender lymph nodes in the groin
• Painful urination may be experienced
After the first outbreak of infection, the virus remains in the body for life and may produce sores at a later date. This is referred to as recurrent outbreaks and is usually shorter and less painful as the first attack. This recurrent outbreaks can be triggered by stress both physical and emotional, sunlight, a viral infection or hormonal changes including menstruation. Also with time as more outbreaks occur the flu-like symptoms experienced in the first outbreak are less likely to occur.
Testing is done through the culture of fluid from a blister or open sore. This test is useful during the first outbreak. Another test includes conducting a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) conducted on fluid from a blister. The test is usually very accurate. Blood tests can also be conducted to check for antibody level to the herpes virus. This test is effective even between outbreaks when there are no sores present. If a person has never had an outbreak then a positive test result would indicate exposure to the virus at some point in the past.
It cannot be cured. However, antiviral medicines such as acyclovir or valcyclovir may be administered. They help reduce pain and discomfort and also help heal the sore more quickly during an outbreak.
• Abstinence is the most assured way of protection
• Use of condoms effectively and consistently
• Go for regular testing with your partner
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