Genital herpes is a common infection caused by sexual contact with someone who has the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The virus can remain dormant in the body for several years before there’s an outbreak of genital herpes. But even if no sores are visible, a person with the HSV virus can still be contagious.
There's no cure for genital herpes, but medications can ease symptoms and reduce the risk of infecting others. Condoms can also help prevent the spread of a genital herpes infection.
In most cases, there are no signs or symptoms of carrying the HSV virus. If there are symptoms, they’ll likely begin within two to 12 days after contracting the virus.
Symptoms may include:
- Pain or itching in the genital area during an outbreak
- Small red bumps or tiny white blisters on the genitals
- Ulcers that form when blisters rupture
- Painful urination (usually due to ulcers)
- Scabs that form as ulcers heal
- Flu-like symptoms, including swollen lymph nodes, headache, muscle aches, and fever
Causes and Risk Factors
The two types of herpes simplex virus infections that can cause genital herpes are:
- HSV-1 - This type of HSV that typically causes cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth can be spread to the genital area during oral sexual contact.
- HSV-2 - This highly contagious type of HSV that most often causes genital herpes is spread through sexual contact.
Your risk of becoming infected with genital herpes may increase if you are female and/or have had multiple sex partners. Women are more likely to develop genital herpes than men because it’s more easily transmitted from male to female genitalia.
There’s no cure for genital herpes or for the virus that causes it. However, treatment with prescription antiviral medications may:
- Help sores heal sooner during an initial outbreak
- Lessen the severity and duration of symptoms in recurrent outbreaks
- Reduce the frequency of recurrence
- Minimize the chance of transmitting the herpes virus to another
If you’ve been diagnosed with the HSV virus or suspect you may have contracted genital herpes, the Urology specialists at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic in Houston can diagnose the condition and treat your symptoms to reduce discomfort during an outbreak.