Genital Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection. It is caused by two types of herpes simplex virus (HSV), HSV 1, which is mainly associated with oral Herpes resulting in sores around the eyes, lips, and mouth area. It results in genital Herpes through oral to genital contact during oral sex.
Another type of herpes simplex virus, HSV 2 is exclusively responsible for Genital Herpes in humans. Herpes is generally asymptomatic. Someone can not show any symptoms and yet carry the virus.
The symptoms when they do appear include fluid-filled blisters that occur mainly in clusters around the genital area that is the vagina and rectum, as well as the buttock area and thighs. These sores almost always appear in areas below the waist.
During the first year of getting genital Herpes, the viral outbreaks are generally severe and more frequent with sores taking almost four weeks to heal. These, however, get better over time.
Currently, there is no cure for Genital Herpes; however, it can be managed with anti-herpes medications and taking preventive measures while engaging in sexual activity.
Learn more about the disease on our recommended post: Basic Understanding og Genital Herpes
The Key Facts on Genital Herpes
Genital Herpes is caused by a type of herpes simplex virus (HSV) HSV2, and it is also caused by HSV 1, which generally causes oral Herpes. Almost 1 in 3 adults carry this virus in their bodies.
Being asymptomatic genital Herpes causes very subtle symptoms or none at all. Because of that, almost 80% of people are not aware that they have this infection.
As much as 75% of the population acquire genital Herpes from individuals that are not aware that they are carrying either of the two types of virus.
Being diagnosed with genital Herpes proves to be very hard on people emotionally as opposed to the condition itself HSV 1 is responsible for oral Herpes, and it can also cause genital Herpes if there is oral to genital contact with an infected person. As much as 50% of the cases of Genital Herpes are caused by HSV1.
Although the symptoms of genital Herpes subside on their own if it gets unmanageable anti-herpes medication can be taken to get some relief.
Genital Herpes is asymptomatic, but when they do appear, they can vary from person to person. Some might get sores or blisters, while for some, it might not be more than a mild rash.
Even when there are no symptoms of insight, genital Herpes can still be transmitted from person to person. It is advisable to make use of condoms while engaging in sexual activities; however, since they do not cover all areas with sores, it might not be 100% effective. Taking anti-herpes medications daily can help with frequent outbreaks and its severity.
FAQs on Genital Herpes
How serious is Genital Herpes?
Aside from causing symptoms that is a nuisance and cause discomfort, Genital Herpes is not considered a fatal infection. It does, however, raise the risk of acquiring HIV as the open sores serve as an easy portal for the HIV virus to enter the body.
Additionally, an infected mother can spread the virus to the baby while delivering. The risk of the baby acquiring genital Herpes is higher if the mother has been recently exposed to the virus. Doctors usually perform a C-section if a woman is going through an outbreak at the time of delivery.
How to find out you have Herpes?
Genital Herpes usually does not cause any symptoms, and even when a person might be infected, they are not aware of it. When the symptoms do show up, they are fluid-filled blisters that occur in clusters, these then burst open and leave painful sores that take a while to heal during the first year of acquiring this infection.
The sores are always located below the waist, around the genitals, buttocks and the thighs. These symptoms can easily be mistaken for vaginal yeast infections, razor burns, and such. It is, therefore, advisable to consult a doctor.
How can Herpes be prevented?
Genital Herpes is not a fatal disease, and there are some preventive measures to avoid it. First and foremost, it is important to use condoms while engaging in vaginal and anal sex. Condoms, since they do not cover all areas with sores, might not be the most effective measure to prevent genital Herpes; however, it does greatly reduce the risk. Dental dams can be used during oral sex to prevent Genital Herpes.
Other than that, it is also important to be in a long term monogamous relationship and not have multiple sexual partners. When one of the infected partners is having an outbreak, any kind of sexual activity with them should be avoided. The daily administration of anti-herpes medications can help a great deal in reducing the duration and severity of herpes outbreaks.
Is there a test for Genital Herpes?
Yes. Herpes can be detected by taking a small sample from the open sore and getting it tested in a laboratory. Aside from that, it can also be detected by means of a blood test. Through a blood test, it can be confirmed whether antibodies made by the body’s immune system are present in the blood or not.
If the test reveals antibodies to HSV 2, then it means a person has the genital virus. HSV 1 through oral to genital contact can cause Genital Herpes, and if antibodies to HSV 1 are detected, it means that a person either has oral or genital Herpes.
What happens when Herpes enters the body?
The herpes virus enters the body through the mouth in the case of oral Herpes and through genital to genital contact in the case of genital Herpes. The virus, when it enters the body, starts to multiply like any pathogen. Since our immune system makes antibodies to fight any foreign object that enters the body, to avoid the body’s immune system, the herpes virus takes refuge in a nerve cell near the base of the spinal area, as in the case of genital Herpes.
In the case of oral Herpes, the virus hides in nerve cells at the top of the spine area. Here the virus lays dormant for an indefinite amount of time and only gets activated when it is triggered due to certain things. When it gets activated, it travels to the same areas of the body it entered from and causes blisters to develop in that area. The virus, once it enters the body, stays in it for a lifetime.
How can a doctor identify if you have Herpes?
A doctor can tell if someone has Herpes or not by simply examining the symptoms. Sometimes when there are no symptoms or if they are mild, a doctor can run some tests. A biopsy wherein a sample of the sore is taken to a lab to be examined can help confirm if a person has Herpes or not. Aside from that, blood tests are also resorted to. Through blood tests, it can be determined if someone has herpes antibodies in the blood or not. If yes, then it can be ruled as a case of Herpes.
How to reduce your risk of getting genital Herpes?
The chances of someone getting genital Herpes can be reduced by making use of condoms during sex; these can reduce the risk but not completely eliminate it. It is important to be in a long-term monogamous relationship as having many sexual partners increases the risk of getting genital Herpes.
Additionally, it is important to abstain from engaging in sexual activities when the infected partner is going through an outbreak. Daily intake of anti-herpes medication also helps a great deal in reducing not only the duration of outbreaks but also their severity.
How to avoid spreading Herpes to your partner?
Apart from taking anti-herpes medication like valacyclovir on a daily basis, the chances of spreading Herpes can be reduced to a great extent through the use of condoms during vaginal and anal sex and dental dams during oral sex. Additionally, being in a long-term monogamous relationship also helps a lot. When an infected partner is having an outbreak, it is best to avoid any sexual contact with them.
Will having Herpes affect my pregnancy?
If herpes virus-infected a woman before getting pregnant, there are no complications. However, if a woman gets Herpes while being pregnant, then it can cause complications like miscarriage and early delivery. It can severely affect the baby as it can result in problems relating to the eyes and also brain damage.
A Cesarean- section is resorted to by the doctors if the mother has a herpes outbreak during delivery. Oral Herpes does not cause any complications during gestation and delivery. It is, however, advisable that the mother does not have any oral to skin contact with the baby till the sores have healed completely.
Do HSV-1 and HSV-2 spread the similar way?
HSV 1 is transmitted via direct contact with the virus present around or in the open sores, saliva, and genital fluids. It is generally transmitted through kissing, sharing of lip products, sharing of cups, spoons, and oral sex.
A person with HSV 1 can transmit the virus through oral to genital contact; in that case, the other person develops sores around the genitals. HSV 2 is spread exclusively through sexual activity like oral, anal, and vaginal sex. That is, genital to genital and contact with the genital fluids.
Is there a cure for HSV-1 or HSV-2?
The herpes virus, once it enters the body, stays there for a lifetime in a dormant state. It gets activated when triggered by certain stimuli. When activated, they cause outbreaks causing the appearance of sores and such. Currently, there is no cure for it. The anti-herpes medications provided help with the outbreaks. And also makes the symptoms manageable. But these medications do not completely cure it.
What is the link between Genital Herpes and HIV?
Genital Herpes causes the eruption of sores on the infected site. These sores act as easy portals through which the HIV virus can enter the body. If someone has Herpes, the chances of acquiring HIV is raised threefold. The open sores and the broken mucous membranes make it harder for the body to resist infections.
Additionally, genital Herpes also causes an increase in the number of CD4 cells in the mucous membranes. If a person has both HIV and genital Herpes, the herpes infection site can result in rapid multiplying of the HIV virus; this increases the chances of spreading HIV through oral and genital contact with an uninfected person.
How does Genital Herpes affect a pregnant woman and her baby?
Genital Herpes can be transmitted from a mother to the baby during delivery. Therefore it is very important not to hide things from the healthcare providers and to tell them if the herpes virus has previously infected a woman. In that case, it might not be fatal to the baby. However, if the mother gets infected after getting pregnant, then it causes serious complications.
The baby can have brain damage, and the risk of miscarriage also increases. In order to prevent women from getting infected with Herpes, they are advised to avoid sex during late pregnancy if their partner is suspected to be infected with the virus. If a woman has a herpes outbreak during the time of delivery, the doctors perform a C-section to reduce the risk of the baby acquiring Herpes.