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A Quick Overview of Genital Herpes -Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

Genital herpes is a contagious strain of the HPV virus that effects the genital regions of men and women and is transmitted through sexual contact.

genital herpes
Genital herpes virus

Genital herpes is a strain of the herpes simplex virus (HSV), from the viral family herpesveridae.

This highly contagious disease is transmitted through sexual contact such as vaginal, anal or oral sex.

If you have small breaks in your skin or mucous membrane when having sexual contact with an infected partner, you are susceptible to contracting the herpes simplex virus.

The symptoms of genital herpes include pain and discomfort of the infected area, as well as itching and sores.

Once infected with the herpes simplex virus, the virus stays in the carrier’s body for life.

The visual signs of genital herpes may come and go. When they are visible, it is commonly referred to as a herpes outbreak, and when there are no visible signs of the disease, it is known as silent.

It is almost impossible to become infected with HSV through contact with toilets, towels or other objects that may have come in contact with an infected party.

This is because the virus dies quickly outside of the body.

genital herpes

Genital Herpes Statistics

Based on reported cases, the herpes simplex virus currently infects 1 of every 5 sexually active Americans, making it one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the country.

In the last three decades, the increase in reported cases of HSV has risen 30%, and affects both men and women.

Despite the drastic increase in reported cases in recent years, less than 10% of those who test positive for genital herpes suspect that they might have it.

This is because more than 80% of those tested had no outbreak, leaving the infected person clueless to their condition.

It is projected that at least 22% of adults in this country have the herpes simplex virus that is primarily responsible for genital herpes.

genital herpes

Types of Genital Herpes

There are two types of herpes simplex virus:

  • HSV-1: This strain of the herpes simplex virus is familiar to most. Technically called oral herpes lesions, this strain of herpes outbreak is commonly known as cold sores or fever blisters. HSV-1 is generally not the infecting virus for genital herpes, although the number of cases of genital herpes containing this strain is on the rise. HSV-1 can be spread by having oral sex with a partner who has a herpes sore on their mouth or lips. HSV-1 is less likely to cause repeated outbreaks than HSV-2.
  • HSV-2: This strain of the herpes simplex virus is less familiar but is the main cause of genital herpes.

This strain is spread through vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner.

genital herpes

Transmission of Genital Herpes

genital herpes
Genital herpes transmission

If you have small breaks in your skin or mucous membrane when having sexual contact with an infected partner, you are susceptible to contracting the herpes simplex virus.

This is particularly true if the virus is currently active in your infected partner and being shed.

Since it is possible for the herpes virus to be active with no visible signs, you may contract the disease from an infected partner who shows no visible signs of genital herpes.

Remember, this is a highly contagious disease that is transmitted through sexual contact such as vaginal, anal or oral sex.

It is, however, almost impossible to become infected with the herpes simplex virus through contact with toilets, towels or other objects that may have come in contact with an infected party.

This is because the virus dies quickly outside of the body.

Once contracted, the herpes simplex virus remains in the nerve cells and may cause reoccurring outbreaks over the lifetime of the infected person.

For genital herpes (Type-2), the virus remains at the base of the spinal cord. For oral herpes (Type-1), the virus remains at the base of the brain stem.

genital herpes

Genital Herpes and Pregnancy Risks

genital herpes

Expecting mothers who have contracted the herpes simplex virus risk passing the virus on to their unborn child if the herpes simplex virus is active at the time of vaginal delivery.

Known as neonatal infections, primary and non-primary herpes infections can also be passed to the fetus.

Studies have shown that primary initial infections increase the risk to the unborn child by 30% over non-primary initial infections.

Neonatal infections are classified into three categories:

Disseminated Infections: primarily affecting a baby’s liver
Encephalitis: causing swelling of the brain
Dermalogical Infection: affecting the eyes, skin or mouth

genital herpes

Symptoms Of Genital Herpes

There are noticeable symptoms that come with the herpes simplex virus, which may be confused with symptoms from other illnesses.

After years of studying cases of genital herpes, researchers have classified outbreaks of the herpes simplex virus into the following categories:

genital herpes
  • Primary: Primary initial infections cause the most severe onset of symptoms. These include local and constitutional symptoms.
  • Non-Primary: Non Primary initial infections produce milder symptom severity, recognized as an average between primary and recurrent.
  • Initial: The symptoms that accompany either a primary or non-primary outbreak.
  • Recurrent: Recurrent occurrences produce the mildest of symptoms and are accompanied by a phenomenon known as prodrome. Prodrome is the body’s way of predicting when an outbreak will occur, and a sufferer will begin to feel symptoms such as pain, itching, or burning before the actual outbreak. This allows someone with genital herpes to begin treatment before the outbreak actually occurs, diminishing the severity and in some cases eliminating the outbreak altogether.
genital herpes

Cure for Genital Herpes

Currently, there is no cure for either strain of the herpes virus, although genital herpes treatment is available to deal with the physical signs of the disease.

genital herpes cure

These treatments, called antivirals, focus on increasing the speed with which outbreaks are eliminated, as well as working toward eliminating outbreaks from reoccurring (although there is no guarantee that reoccurrence can be eliminated).

Topical solutions are also available to help treat the visible outbreaks of genital herpes.

You should also be aware of other medical complications of herpes.

Also read – How to cure genital herpes naturally?

genital herpes

Seeking Professional Help

If you suspect that you have genital herpes or know that you have been exposed to them, seeking medical advice from your primary care physician is the best place to begin to plan a course of action for diagnosis and treatment.

genital herpes

No matter how uncomfortable or embarrassing the subject may be to you, it is important that you talk openly and honestly with your doctor to ensure the best possible treatment in the event that you have contracted the virus.

Your primary health physician will most likely test you for genital herpes in one of two ways.

The first is by viral culture. In this procedure, the doctor will use a sterile cotton swap and rub the base of a suspected herpes sore and send the sample to a lab to see if it contains the herpes virus.

Since the herpes virus is only present in the outbreak of sores for a short period of time, the test could come back negative, but you may still have the virus.

A Serology test, or blood test, will require your doctor to take a blood sample from you and send it to a laboratory for examination to determine if you have genital herpes.

genital herpes

Published in Genital Herpes