There is still less awareness about sexually transmitted diseases and infections that people don’t like to talk about it. There are so many infections that one can get from their partners. Instead of hiding it, one must see a doctor for treatment before these infections aggravate diseases. Genital herpes is one kind of STI that causes fluid-filled bumps or blisters that can become extremely painful and discomforting. These may break and fluid may flow causing infection to spread. Adults can get this infection and they must seek immediate treatment before this infection leads to HIV. In this section, we have explained everything related to genital herpes. You can also get to read several articles that are linked to this infection.
What Causes Genital Herpes?
Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus. However, there are two types of this herpes virus- HSV-1(which causes cold sores) and HSV-2(that causes genital herpes). You can get affected by one of these viruses that enter the human body by invading the tissue layer or mucous membranes. This virus can be identified by checking the fluids of the affected person that most commonly includes- semen, saliva and vaginal secretions. In short, this virus resides in the mouth, nose and genitals. The virus multiplies after getting inside the body and enters the cells. As it mutates, it becomes difficult to track and treat this virus.
Symptoms of Genital Herpes
The symptoms aren’t prominent or let us just say that symptoms of genital herpes are not much different to others as these cause blisters. For your information, the first outbreak of genital herpes in the form of blisters would occur a minimum of about 2 days and a maximum of 30 days after virus contraction. If you have contracted HSV virus, you would get blisters on:
- Genital part
The other general symptoms include:
- Blisters on mouth, face and lips
- Itchiness along with blistering
- Tingling sensation before blistering
- Ulcerated blisters with open sores that discharge fluid
- Crust on the blisters within a week of the outbreak
- Fever along with headaches and body ache
- Swollen lymph nodes
Babies can also get genital herpes if they have contracted the virus through vaginal delivery(if the mother has the virus that is present in her vaginal discharge). The symptoms in newborns with genital herpes are ulcers on face, genitals and different parts of the body. In some cases, this condition can lead to serious health consequences in babies where they may be born with blindness, suffer brain damage or may even die due to this infection. Therefore, it is very important for a mother to get tested for herpes during pregnancy. As per Dr. Aruna Kalra, Director of Gynaecologist & Obstetrician Department, CK Birla Hospital for women, Gurugram, If you test positive, inform your doctor about this beforehand so that they can suggest you right treatments and precautions to reduce the risk of virus transmission to the baby during vaginal delivery. However, babies born with c-section are at lesser risk of contraction.
Spreading of the Infection
The infection is not restricted to the areas mentioned above. There can be a difference in the location of the symptoms as infection can spread. Wherever the virus has entered, it will infect that part and cause sores. If you touch the infected sore and you contact another area with those infected hands, the infection may happen there as well. Any body part including the eyes can, therefore, get infected with genital herpes virus.
Also, genital herpes can recur. There are many people who get symptoms after regular intervals and so, they experience the symptom on an ‘on and off’ basis. They may get herpes frequently. However, for some people, this is one-time only or may not recur, it varies from person to person. You would feel pain in your legs, lower body and buttocks during recurrence. Itching and tingling may also be experienced but it won’t be severe as compared to the first outbreak because recurrences are generally less painful and discomforting.
Diagnosing genital herpes
If you think you have genital herpes because you are noticing relevant symptoms, you must go and see a healthcare provider for examination. He/she will conduct a visual exam first to check herpes sores and then if required, they would conduct a laboratory test for confirmation regarding herpes presence. There is a blood test that can diagnose the virus even if you haven’t experienced the outbreak yet. If you are doubtful about contracting the virus, you must get tested. Do not wait for symptoms to show and then get tested because delaying treatment may worsen your condition.
The link between Genital Herpes and HIV
In case you do not know, genital herpes and HIV are linked. If you have genital herpes, you are at a greater risk to get HIV infection. This is because herpes infection causes sores and makes the skin break at the affected parts including the mouth and genitals. This makes a way for the HIV virus to enter the body and cause infection. In addition to this, genital herpes condition causes an increase in CD4 cells that are easy targets for HIV. While HIV can be transmitted from one partner to another, if one partner has both HIV and herpes, the risk doubles up and the uninfected partner may also get HIV during sexual contact. Thus, early diagnosis of genital herpes can not only control the outbreak but also reduce the risk of HIV.
How Is Genital Herpes Treated?
Sadly, there is no such treatment for genital herpes as of now. The possible ways of treatment focus on reducing the outbreaks and not cure the infection. Here are some treatment options:
Since this is caused by a virus, antiviral drugs can be given to reduce the pain and discomfort. These medications promote faster healing by reducing sores and eliminating pain caused by the sores. If you see the symptoms and you know it is genital herpes, take medications in advance. If medicines are taken right when the outbreak happened, the symptoms such as itching, tingling and soreness can be reduced effectively. Besides, you can also ask the doctor to prescribe medicines that are given to prevent genital herpes in the future.
The only other treatment option apart from medications is home care. There are certain practices that you need to exercise in order to prevent herpes from spreading. These are also effective in controlling the symptoms. Cleaning the affected area including mouth and genitals with antibacterial soaps or antiseptic liquids; using mild soaps and body cleansers while washing or bathing; wearing loose cotton clothes or any other breathable fabric to prevent sweating and promote comfort; covering the mouth(if herpes outbreak happened there) to prevent dirt and dust buildup that may cause infections.
How to prevent genital herpes?
Prevention is better than cure, this is cent percent true in the case of genital herpes. Since there is no cure, prevention is the best feasible option. Here are some preventive measures that you can consider to prevent sexually transmitted diseases including genital herpes:
- Avoid intercourse if you are sexually inactive.
- If you are sexually active, stay in a monogamous relationship with a healthy partner.
- Get yourself and your partner tested for STDs and STIs.
- Use protection during intercourse every time.
- If your partner has or had genital herpes in the past, ensure that he/she get tested regularly. Avoid physical relationships if there are symptoms.
- Ask the partner to take anti-herpes medicines as prescribed by the doctor to eliminate the risk of herpes transmission from one to another.