Genital Herpes Causes, Prevention and Treatment

Genital Herpes Causes, Prevention and Treatment

Genital herpes is a type of sexually transmitted disease. Its occurrence results in genital sores which breaks open and oozes fluid.

Genital sores are extremely painful. Genital herpes affects about 14 percent of adults whose ages range between 14 and 49.

What causes genital herpes?

Genital herpes is caused by two types of herpes simplex virus. The first is HSV-1 which is responsible for cold sores while HSV-2, the second type of virus causes genital herpes.

The HSV gets into the body via the mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are small layer of tissues that coats the openings of the body. They are present in the genitals, mouth and the nose. The viruses upon entry into the body organize themselves in the body cells and remain in the pelvic nerve cells. Treatment of viruses is quite difficult because they adapt easily to whatever environment they find themselves in.

The HSV is present in the saliva, vaginal secretions and semen of infected people.

Knowing the symptoms of genital herpes

When blisters appear, the condition is known and addressed as “outbreaks.” Outbreaks can appear even 48 hours after contacting the virus. In some cases, they can appear as late as a month after getting the virus.

Males have symptoms such as blisters on the anus, scrotum or on the male sex organ (penis). In females, blisters can appear at the anus, buttocks and around the vagina.

General symptoms for both males and females include:

  • Blisters on the face or lips
  • Tingling and itching at the infected site (this normally occurs before the blisters appear).
  • Ulceration of the blisters
  • Appearance of crusts over the sores (within a week of outbreak)
  • Swelling of the lymph nodes and glands
  • Fever, aches on the body, and headaches.

An infant who is born with herpes may have such symptoms as ulcers on the genitals, body and face. The complications associated with genital herpes in babies are great. They include cerebral damage, blindness and even death.

It is important that you contact your physician if you get pregnant (when infected). The physician will take preventive measures that will stop the fetus from getting infected. Such includes delivery via cesarean section rather than through vaginal delivery.

Diagnosis of genital herpes

Physical examination of the genital sores is one step taken in diagnosis. This can be confirmed through laboratory tests though it isn’t necessary.

Blood tests can be used to diagnose herpes simplex virus. It is important that you consult your physician on time if you fell you’ve been exposed to the virus –whether or not there are symptoms.

Treatment of genital herpes

Treatment does not cure you of HSV rather it reduces the outbreaks. Medications used include antiviral drugs. Antiviral drugs facilitates healing of the sores and also serves as an analgesic. You should take your medications once the outbreaks show up. General medications administered include famciclovir (Famvir), valacyclovir (Valtrex), and acyclovir (Zovirax). Medications are administered orally.

Home care

Bath or shower in warm water using mild cleansers. The infected site should be kept clean and dry at all times. Always wear clothes with loose cotton to keep the infected area comfortable.

Things to know when you are pregnant with genital herpes

There’s nothing wrong with being concerned about the health of the fetus when you are down with any kind of sexually transmitted disease. The baby is at risk if you deliver through the vagina. It is therefore of great importance that you inform your physician that you are infected (upon getting pregnant). Your doctor will critically analyze the situation and advice you accordingly. Pregnancy-safe treatments can be prescribed to ensure a healthy delivery. You may also be advised to deliver via cesarean section.

Be informed that complications such as premature birth or miscarriage can occur as a result of genital herpes.


Sexually active adults are advised in their best interest to practice safe sex. Use condoms whenever you are engaged in sexual intercourse. This serves as a preventive measure for infection with genital herpes and other STDs.

Genital herpes has no known cure. However, with the use of proper medications, the condition can be managed. Note that outbreaks do not occur unless they are triggered by a factor. This implies that genital herpes usually lies dormant in the body until something triggers its outbreak. Factors that triggers outbreaks include tiredness, sickness or stress. Your physician will draw up a treatment plan to help you manage the condition.

Mark Riegel, MD

Latest Stories

Here’s what we've been up to recently.

Concerned about an STD?

Help stop the spread of STDs by knowing your status. Get tested today!