Generally characterized as a Sexually Transmitted Infection or an STI, Genital Herpes is caused by a virus named Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). There are two types of Herpes Simplex Virus, HSV 1, and HSV 2. HSV 1 causes sores around the mouth, eyes, and on the lips known as Oral Herpes. HSV 2 was considered the main culprit in contracting Genital Herpes, in recent years, more and more cases of it caused by HSV 1 have been reported. This may be due to the fact that more and more young people are engaging in sexual activities at a young age.
While some people might not show any signs of symptoms and those who do it varies from person to person. People with Genital Herpes at first display symptoms like flu-like, runny nose, nausea, headaches, muscle pain, and fatigue. The most common signs seen are fluid-filled painful blisters that pop and leave inflamed, red open sores on the skin. These sores appear in the same areas that the virus entered the body from. These sores are usually seen in and around the vagina, anus, thighs, and buttocks. These cause pain while urinating and abnormal discharge in women.
The symptoms are also known as outbreaks, and these are serious during the first year when someone acquires it. During the first year, there might be frequent outbreaks as well, and the sores take 3-4 weeks to heal. The outbreaks become less often following the first year, and also the sores heal more quickly.
The virus generally attacks those with a weakened immune system, mainly infants, the elderly, and people with HIV. Once acquired, the virus stays dormant in the body for a lifetime, only causing outbreaks when triggered. Genital Herpes is spread through vaginal, oral and anal sex, through the skin to skin contact with an infected person, from mother to infant, through breastfeeding when the child comes in contact with open sores.
Currently, there is no permanent cure for Genital Herpes, but it can be kept under control with medications.
Types of Herpes Simplex Virus
Coming in contact with the Herpes Simplex Virus can cause a person to contact Herpes. There are two types of Herpes Simplex Virus, HSV 1, and HSV 2. HSV 1 causes Oral Herpes. Upon being exposed to the virus, generally, there no symptoms are shown. A person can be infected and still not show any symptoms. Some symptoms that are associated with HSV 1 are painful sores around the mouth area; the appearance of sores is preceded by a tingling and itching feeling at the injection site.
Oral Herpes is usually contracted during childhood, and it is an infection that stays in the body for a lifetime. HSV 1 is exclusively spread through oral contact with an infected person when someone comes in contact with the virus that resides in the sores, saliva, and the surface of the mouth. It can also spread through oral to skin contact with an infected person. Although HSV 1 is the number one cause for Oral Herpes, it can cause Genital Herpes as well, through oral to genital area contact.
HSV 2 is the main cause of Genital Herpes in humans. Just like HSV 1, it usually causes no symptoms or very subtle symptoms that people generally are not even aware of. However, when symptoms do show up, they are fluid-filled sores that might occur as a standalone or in clusters around the vaginal, rectal, thighs, and buttocks. Additionally, they also cause fever and swollen lymph nodes.
The symptoms during the first year are usually more severe with frequent outbreaks, and these, however, decrease with time. There is no cure for Genital Herpes but can be managed with anti-herpes medication. It is spread through contact with the sores, the genital area, mucous of an infected individual. In some cases, it can also be transmitted from an infected mother to a child during birth. People with HSV 2 infection are at a threefold risk of acquiring HIV.
Who Can Get HSV & How Common is it?
Genital Herpes is a very common sexually transmitted infection caused by two types of Herpes simplex virus. HPV 1 which mainly causes sores around the mouth area known as oral Herpes. HPV 1 was not a contributor to the contraction of Genital Herpes until recently. With more cases of youngsters having sex at an early age, HPV 1 now also causes Genital Herpes. HPV 2 is the main cause of Genital Herpes.
People who have contracted the infection do not show any signs and symptoms. When symptoms do occur, it causes painful fluid-filled blisters around the vagina, rectum, buttocks, and thighs. Genital Herpes is transmitted through oral, anal, and vaginal sex, spread through contact with the sore, mucosal fluid, and the infected genital area. It also spreads through oral to genital contact in the case with HPV 1.
Genital Herpes is more common than you might think. Almost one-fifth of people aged 12 and above in the United States are afflicted by it, which is about 45 million people. Genital Herpes is more common in women than men owing to the fact that women’s genitals are more easily infected by the virus compared to a man’s. The risk of contracting Genital Herpes gets more common as people age. It is more common in people that have more than one sexual partner.
Cause of Genital Herpes
The Herpes Simplex Virus causes Genital Herpes. There are two types of this virus, HPV 1 and HPV 2. Genital is extremely common in the United States, with 1 in 5 people aged 12 to 49 afflicted by it. HPV 1 virus normally causes open sores around the mouth, eyes, and on the lips known as Oral Herpes.
Oral Herpes is spread solely through oral contact and oral to skin contact when a person comes in contact with the virus living in the sores, saliva, and the infected mouth area. When a healthy person comes in oral to genital contact with an infected individual, they can contract Genital Herpes.
Causes of HPV1 infection
HPV 1 infection is generally acquired during childhood and stays in the body lifelong. The infection is generally asymptomatic, and a person carrying the virus might not even be aware of it. However, when symptoms do show up, these are usually sores around the mouth, lips, and eyes. Genital Herpes caused by HPV 1 does not recur.
Causes of HPV2 infection
HPV 2 exclusively causes Genital Herpes. Just oral herpes symptoms are not detected. When symptoms do occur, they are painful fluid-filled sores that can either show up on its own as a standalone or occur in clusters. They show up around the vagina, rectum, buttocks, and thigh area accompanied by fever and swollen lymph nodes. It is worth noting that the sores always occur in areas below the waist. There is no cure for Genital Herpes, but it can be managed with medication.
The HPV 2 virus lays dormant in the body lifelong. It resides in the nerve cells around the spinal cord, and due to certain triggers, get activated and cause recurring outbreaks. The outbreaks in the first year are usually the most severe; when the sores take as long as four weeks to heal. The severity of these outbreaks decreases over time.
Symptoms of Genital Herpes
Most people, when they are infected with the virus, do not display any sort of symptoms. However, when the symptoms do occur, they usually take around ten days to show up. The symptoms or outbreaks are the worst during the first year and get better over time.
It is a communicable disease that gets transmitted via anal, oral, and vaginal sex. It can also spread from an infected mother to the child during the delivery process. There is a pattern that follows when a person comes in contact with the virus for the first time.
- The skin near the genital area is swollen and might itch and burn.
- Next, the cluster of sores appear on the infected area
- The sores then burst open and heal
- Fluid-filled blisters or sores around the vagina, anus, buttocks, and thighs.
- Abnormal vaginal discharge in women
- Pain and burning while urinating
- Swollen lymph nodes
- muscle pain
Connect with our Genital Herpes Specialist to consult your case in case of active symptoms of Genital Herpes.
Preventing Genital Herpes
Genital Herpes can be prevented by following the steps below:
- Being in a long term monogamous relationship with someone that does not carry the virus is the first and foremost step. This is especially helpful as Genital Herpes is more common among those who have more than one sexual partner.
- While engaging in sexual activity, it is important to use condoms. However, the condom might not entirely cover the sores, so a person still might get Herpes in that case.
- In the case of oral sex, a person can use dental dams to protect themselves from getting infected by the herpes virus.
If someone’s partner is infected with the virus, it is important to abstain completely from having oral, anal, or vaginal sex till the time the herpes outbreak subsides. Besides that, an infected person is advised to take anti-herpes medication to reduce the duration and the severity of viral outbreaks.