Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The virus is primarily disseminated through sexual contact. After the initial infection, the virus stays dormant in your body and has the potential to reactivate several times a year.1
Causes of Genital Herpes
The World Health Organization stated that in 2016, about 3.7 billion people under age 50 years had contracted HSV-1. In the same year, around 491 million people ages 15 to 49 years had an HSV-2 infection. 2
Hence, there are two types of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) cause genital herpes: 2
> HSV-1. This type usually causes cold sores, but it can also cause genital herpes.
> HSV-2. This type usually causes genital herpes, but it can also cause cold sores.
HSV-1 or HSV-2 can be found in bodily fluids, including saliva, semen, vaginal secretions
When present, symptoms may begin about two to 12 days after exposure to the virus. If you have genital herpes, you may experience the following signs and symptoms: 1
> Pain or itching. Until the infection is gone, you will feel discomfort and tenderness in your vaginal area.
> Small red bumps or tiny white blisters. These may appear a few days to a few weeks after infection.
> These may form when blisters rupture and ooze or bleed. Ulcers may make it painful to urinate.
> Skin will crust over and form scabs as ulcers heal.
> Discharge from the urethra, the tube that allows the body to excrete urine.
> Discharge from vagina.
> In the early stages of an outbreak, you could experience flu-like symptoms like fever, headache, body aches and swollen lymph nodes in your groin.
How to Reduce the Risk for Genital Herpes? 3
> Use a condom every time you have sex. If you cover the area that is easily infected with a latex condom, you may be protected from the herpes virus.
> Ask your partner about their sexual history and any diseases they may have had in the past. People with a history of STDs are more likely to have genital herpes
> Limit partners you have for sexual activity.
> Request that your partner undergo a genital herpes test.
> Delay having sexual relations until you find a lifelong monogamous partner.
The only way to be 100% certain you won't get a sexually transmitted disease is to have just one sex partner who has no STDs and only if both of you stay monogamous.
1. Mayo clinic. Genital Herpes. Mayo Clinic. Updated on October 13, 2020. Available https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/genital-herpes/symptoms-causes/syc-20356161
2. Macon B. Genital Herpes Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis. Updated on May 20, 2022. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/std/genital-herpes
3. Johnson T. 10 Ways to Reduce the Risk for Genital Herpes. WebMD. Updated on November 10, 2020. Available at: https://www.webmd.com/genital-herpes/reduce-risk