What Do I Need to Know About Genital Herpes?

   The NP Answers Your FAQ: What Do I Need to Know About Genital Herpes?

If you’ve been diagnosed with genital herpes, you’re not alone: 45 million people in the United States, or one out of 5 people, are infected with this virus.


   Genital herpes is a recurrent sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the herpes simplex virus type 1 or type 2, or

HSV-1 and HSV-2. In the past, HSV-2 caused almost all genital herpes infections, however in the past decade, practitioners are seeing more HSV-1 genital infections. This is probably due to transmission via oral sex practices.

    Typically, the initial outbreak of genital herpes is the worst. It causes burning pain as well as clusters of sores on the penis or vulva. However, many first-time infections may be mild skin irritations that often are attributed to chafing, shaving, yeast infections, urinary tract infections, insect bites, tight pants or allergies. In other people, the initial outbreak may go completely unnoticed but may recur months or years later. 


   Genital herpes is a lifelong infection; there is no cure. One of the reasons genital herpes is common is because 90% of people infected do not know they are infected. People who have this infection may be contagious to others when symptoms are present. However, “asymptomatic viral shedding” means that a person without active herpes sores may still be capable of transmitting this infection to their partners.


   The lesions associated with the herpes virus may emerge within 1 to 21 days after exposure. Signs and symptoms associated with herpes can vary greatly, however students often schedule an appointment with the practitioner when they notice a painful sore in the genital area that may turn into a cluster of small, painful blisters and be associated with difficult, painful urination, groin tenderness and fever.  The first step in making a diagnosis is taking a medical-sexual history to determine your risk factors for STIs. The second step is to perform an examination. A herpes culture may be taken by swabbing the affected skin for the purpose of sending the specimen to the lab for identification. Blood testing for HSV 1 and 2 antibody levels is another method that may be considered for diagnosing herpes in the patient or partner.


   There are safe and effective medicines to control your herpes and reduce transmission to sex partners. They are referred to as “episodic therapy” and “suppressive therapy”. Episodic therapy involves taking a prescription medication at the first sign of a herpes outbreak to reduce severity and duration. “Suppressive therapy” involves taking a prescription medicine every day to help suppress outbreaks of genital herpes before they occur. 


   Common “triggers” thought to lead to outbreaks include skin friction, sex, stress, sunlight/sunburn, wind, fever, surgery, menstruation and infections.  Sexual contact should be avoided when any symptoms of an outbreak are present. Condoms are a good form of protection against HIV and other STI’s however are not 100% protective against transmission of herpes.


   It is normal to be upset whenever an STI like herpes is diagnosed. It is also important to know that GH is common and you can still have normal, satisfying relationships, both emotional and physical, with genital herpes. Some students benefit by a few informational support sessions with the practitioner, other students may want to take advantage of our counseling service to put the issue in perspective. There are community resources available: www.sandiegocityHELP.org.

 If you think you may have contracted herpes or another STI,   please call (760) 750-4915  to schedule an appointment.


2 thoughts on “What Do I Need to Know About Genital Herpes?

  1. Pingback: Herpes Information and News » What Do I Need to Know About Genital Herpes?

  2. From the time a person notices signs of Genital herpes symptoms, they should avoid sexual exposure including oral and or anal. In addition the risk of transmission can be reduced by assisting in detection of infected partners. Genital herpes symptoms can be anything from muscle pains, swollen glands, fever, vaginal discharge. For some people they experience backaches and headaches. Worse still this comes with sores or blisters which in turn can cause a lot of agony and discomfort. Genital herpes symptoms which come in form of blisters and sores can be very painful sometimes.
    There are various ways to suppress this discomfort; Keep the affected area clean and dry, by wearing loose fitting clothes, by soaking yourself in warm water, better still use a blow dryer with low heat to dry the affected area as opposed to a towel. Women are highly advised against douching. This is to mention just a few of home remedies. Let no one lie to you. Research has shown that there is no cure for genital herpes.

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