Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections; it is estimated that one in every five people in the United States has genital herpes. Women are more likely than men to contract genital herpes. Genital herpes is a viral infection disseminated through sexual contact caused by Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-2 infection is more prevalent than HSV-1 infection. Infections produced by HSV-1 and HSV-2 do not initially manifest any signs or symptoms; when they do, they appear as one or more tiny blisters around the genitals or rectum. To effectively avoid genital herpes, you must first educate yourself on how to diagnose and cure it.
Transmission of genital herpes
Genital Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that spreads through close contact with an infected individual, most commonly through sexual intercourse. During vaginal, oral, or anal sex, the virus enters your body through a break in the moist skin of the penis, vagina, cervix, urinary entrance, or anus. Genital herpes is known for causing sores near the lips, genitals, and anus. The infection is also spread through direct contact with these lesions.
HSV-2 infection spreads by sexual contact or skin-to-skin contact with an infected individual, irrespective of whether or not he has an open sore.
HSV-1 genital infections manifest as fever blisters or cold sores in and around the mouth and lips, and they spread through oral-genital or genital-genital contact with an infected person. The herpes virus affects your mouth, lips, tongue, eyes, gums, and fingers, in addition to your sexual organs. If you contact the sore and then rub or scratch any other part of your body, especially your eyes, you could infect yourself.
People at risk
Anyone who engages in sexual activity can become infected with the herpes virus. People who engage in unprotected sex and have more than one sex partner are more vulnerable. According to studies, genital herpes is more widespread in the United States. HSV-2 infection affects around 16.2% of the population (one in every six). HSV-2 is more prevalent in women aged 14 to 49 than in men of the same age group. The most common route of transmission is from an infected male partner to his female partner, and vice versa.
After the virus enters the body
Once the virus enters your body, you may go through several stages of infection.
- Primary stage: This stage starts 2 to 8 days after infection. A small group of painful blisters will appear near your genital region. The blisters are filled with clear or cloudy fluid that breaks open and becomes open sores. You may experience a fever and other flu-like symptoms at times. Most people do not experience any of these symptoms and may not even have the slightest hint that they are infected.
- Latent stage: During this stage, you will have no symptoms as the virus is busy traveling from your skin to the nerves near your spine.
- Shedding stage: Again, a non-symptomatic stage where the virus multiplies in the nerve cells and starts invading the saliva, vaginal fluid, or semen.
- Recurrences: The blisters and sores come back after the first attack. However, the symptoms are not as severe as they were in the initial attack.
Identifying genital herpes
There are no indications or symptoms of genital herpes. Someone who is infected may never get sores. If signs and symptoms do appear, they are well noted. You may experience pain and itching followed by soreness in the buttocks, vagina, scrotum, penis, and anus. The sores usually disappear within 2 to 4 weeks. If the sores are open, there could be fluid or blood oozing from the sore. It could be painful to urinate, along with tenderness and pain in the genital area. Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, lethargy, headaches, and enlarged lymph nodes, may also occur in some people. Pain in the lower back, thighs, buttocks, or knees is possible. The symptoms of repeated infections are milder, and the sores heal faster. If you see or suspect any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately for a clear diagnosis, as many other conditions might cause similar symptoms.
Diagnosing and treating herpes
The herpes virus can be diagnosed using samples collected from sores and cultured to assess the virus’s development. A positive test confirms herpes, but a negative test does not exclude the virus’s presence. A blood test is performed to detect the presence of antibodies developed in response to the infection.
Genital Herpes is incurable. The virus remains dormant in the nerve cell until it is triggered by anything, such as stress, illness, surgery, monthly periods, vigorous sex, or diet. Medication, of course, can be extremely beneficial. Acyclovir relieves pain and speeds up the healing process. It also reduces the number of recurrences. Acyclovir creams are available for application to the sores. Herpes recurrence is treated with famciclovir and valacyclovir. Hospitalization and intravenous medicines are required in severe situations.
Pain is a troublesome symptom of herpes. Certain steps can help alleviate the pain produced by the infection.
- Taking aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen can help reduce pain.
- Keeping lukewarm water on the sore or taking a bath in lukewarm water.
- Cleaning the affected area and drying it properly.
- Wearing loose cotton underwear.
- Washing the area with mild soap and water if blisters are broken.
Sex during infection
Being diagnosed with herpes makes you feel guilty and ashamed. You may be frustrated since your entire sexual life has been impaired, but remember that you are not alone in your battle against herpes; millions of people battle it every day. If you have herpes, tell your partner and practice safer sex (use condoms). However, there is no safer time to have sex if you are infected because you may accidentally give the infection to your partner. If you have sores, avoid having sex because sores facilitate the AIDS virus. Remember that using a condom lessens the chance of spreading but does not provide full protection.
Genital herpes and pregnancy
Herpes infection during or before pregnancy should be thoroughly examined by your healthcare provider, as you may pass the infection on to your unborn baby, causing brain harm or even death. Your baby is safe until it enters the uterus, but during delivery, it must navigate through the virus-infested birth canal. Contact with the virus will infect your newborn as well. Hence, it is critical that you notify your doctor ahead of time so that he can decide on a cesarean delivery.
Coping with genital herpes
Don’t be discouraged if you have genital herpes; talk to your doctor, given that millions of people have it. There are numerous support groups that would like to educate you and assist you in leading a normal life. Manage your stress and live a healthy lifestyle to effectively cope with the sickness.