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What Is Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). There's no cure for genital herpes, but medicines can help control the infection.

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that any sexually active person can get. Most people with the virus don’t have symptoms. Even without signs of the disease, herpes can still be spread to sex partners.

What is oral herpes?

Oral herpes is usually caused by HSV-1 and can result in cold sores or fever blisters on or around the mouth. However, most people do not have any symptoms. Most people with oral herpes were infected during childhood or young adulthood from non-sexual contact with saliva.

Is there a link between genital herpes and oral herpes?

Oral herpes caused by HSV-1 can be spread from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex. This is why some cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-1.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Genital Herpes?

Most people with genital herpes don't have any symptoms. They may not even know they are infected.

Some people with genital herpes can have "outbreaks" of sores in the genital and anal area. (Genitals are the sexual or reproductive organs that are on the outside of the body.) The sores heal within a few weeks. Outbreaks can be brought on by stress, illness, being overly tired, or being in sunlight. Girls can have outbreaks when they get their periods.

The first outbreak often is the most severe. Outbreaks usually become less severe over time.

Recognizing the symptoms of genital herpes?

The appearance of blisters is known as an outbreak. On average, a first outbreak will appear 4 daysTrusted Source after contracting the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, it can take as little as 2 days, or as much as 12 days or more, to appear.

General symptoms for those with a penis include blisters on the:

  • penis
  • scrotum
  • buttocks (near or around the anus)

General symptoms for those with a vagina include blisters around or near the:

  •     vagina
  •     anus
  •     buttocks

 

I’m pregnant. How could genital herpes affect my baby?

If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, it is very important for you to go to prenatal care visits. Tell your doctor if you have ever had symptoms of, or have been diagnosed with, genital herpes. Also tell your doctor if you have ever been exposed to genital herpes. There is some research that suggests that genital herpes infection may lead to miscarriage, or could make it more likely for you to deliver your baby too early.

Herpes infection can be passed from you to your unborn child before birth but is more commonly passed to your infant during delivery. This can lead to a potentially deadly infection in your baby (called neonatal herpes). It is important that you avoid getting herpes during pregnancy. If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, you may be offered anti-herpes medicine towards the end of your pregnancy. This medicine may reduce your risk of having signs or symptoms of genital herpes at the time of delivery. At the time of delivery, your doctor should carefully examine you for herpes sores. If you have herpes symptoms at delivery, a C-section is usually performed.

It’s very important that you tell your doctor if you contract genital herpes and are pregnant.

 

Can Genital Herpes Be Prevented?

The only way to prevent genital herpes and other STDs is abstinence. This means not having sex (oral, vaginal, or anal). If someone decides to have sex, using a latex condom every time can prevent most STDs.

But condoms can't always prevent the spread of genital herpes. This is because the virus may be in the skin near the genitals (and not covered by a condom).

Genital herpes is a lifelong condition, but there are ways to manage it. If you have genital herpes:

  • Take medicines to stop outbreaks or make them less frequent and less severe.
  • Help reduce the risk of spreading genital herpes to others by taking medicines, always using a condom during sex, and avoiding sex during outbreaks.
  • Talk to partners before starting a sexual relationship.

Teens who are sexually active should get tested for STDs every year or more often if recommended by their health care provider.

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