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Dermatology Information and Resources

Genital Herpes

Genital Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that is common among teens and adults with 1 in 6 people between the ages of 14 and 49 contracting the virus. Genital herpes has no known cure but outbreaks can be reduced with proper treatment. There are two classifications of Genital Herpes: Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2).[1]

Common Symptoms: According to the CDC, many people with genital herpes are asymptomatic or may confuse symptoms with something else.[2] Most first realize they have genital herpes during an initial outbreak where sores or blisters begin to form in and around the genitals, anus, or mouth. These blisters can burst, causing painful sores in the affected areas. Sores can also form on the urethra, making urination difficult. Repeated outbreaks can occur and vary in intensity, but are notably more common within the first year of contracting the virus. Other symptoms include cold sores in the mouth or on the lips and raised bumps in the groin area that are itchy, sensitive to contact, ulcer formation, and scabbing. These symptoms might be accompanied by fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, and swollen lymph nodes during the initial outbreak.[3]

Causes:  Genital herpes is primarily sexually transmitted through penetration. Unprotected sex (including oral or anal) with a carrier of the virus is the most likely way to contract herpes. Coming into sexual (or sometimes physical contact) with the bodily fluids of a carrier can transmit herpes, such as while kissing someone with a cold sore, saliva transmission, or even skin (in the oral or genital area) contact with a carrier during an outbreak.

Treatment: Genital herpes can remain dormant in the body with outbreaks recurring on and off throughout one’s lifetime after the virus has been transmitted. The best preventative measure is to maintain a long-term sexual relationship with someone who is not a carrier, or abstain from all forms of sexual contact. Using condoms does not 100% protect against genital herpes due to the potential for skin-to-skin contact and transmission, as well as transmission via oral or anal sex.

A healthcare provider can diagnose genital herpes by reviewing your symptoms, swabbing the sores for lab testing, or administering a blood test to look for herpes antibodies. Anti-herpes medications can be prescribed to lessen outbreaks, decrease severity when outbreaks occur, and lower the risk of transmission.[4]

Common antiviral medications used to treat genital herpes include:

  • Acyclovir (Zovirax)
  • Valacyclovir (Valtrex)

 
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References

[1] https://www.webmd.com/genital-herpes/default.htm
[2] https://www.cdc.gov/std/herpes/stdfact-herpes.htm
[3] https://medlineplus.gov/genitalherpes.html
[4] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/genital-herpes/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20356167