What is it?
Genital herpes is an infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). There are two main types of HSV; Type 1 (HSV-1) typically causes cold sores around the mouth, but can also cause genital sores while Type 2 (HSV-2) is usually associated with genital sores.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS
Þ A rash around the mouth, genitals, groin, buttocks, and/or anus usually appears 20 days after contact with someone who is infected with HSV
Þ Other first infection symptoms include:
o Itching or tingling on the skin
o Flu-like symptoms (i.e., fever, achy joins and muscles)
o Pain with urination
o Swollen glands in groin and/or neck area
Þ Painful cold sores and blister-like sores in the genital area which usually heal within 1-2 weeks
NOTE: Once you have been infected with the virus is stays in your body for your lifetime. The virus usually remains inactive but can become active. Some people have only 1 outbreak in their lifetime while others have recurrent outbreaks. Recurrent outbreaks tend to be less severe and shorter in duration.
What are some recurrent outbreak triggers?
Þ Poor nutrition
Þ Injury of the affected area
Þ Hormonal changes (i.e., menstruation, pregnancy)
Þ Weakened immune system
Þ Herpes sores may become infected with bacteria.
Þ Touching a herpes sore then touching your eye may cause blindness.
Þ Women who have their primary outbreak during the first trimester of pregnancy can pass it to her child in her womb.
How do I get it?
Þ Direct contact with someone who is infected HSV:
o Having vaginal or anal sex
o Kissing someone with a cold sore
o Receiving oral sex from someone who has cold sore
o Touching sores/blisters and then touching your eyes, mouth and/or genitals.
How do I get tested for it?
Þ Taking a swab of the sore/blister, ideally within 48 hours, will confirm the diagnosis.
Þ Test results will identify whether you have HSV Type 1 or HSV Type 2.
How do I treat it?
Þ Unfortunately, there is no cure for herpes
Þ Anti-viral medications may help reduce the symptoms and speed up healing time. They can be taken as soon as you feel the sores coming back again.
Þ To ease pain or discomfort during an outbreak:
o Keep the affected area clean and dry
o Wear loose fitting clothing
o Avoid perfumed products
o Applying cold compresses to the affected area
o Pour warm water over genitals while urinating to ease burning
o Wash your hands often to prevent the virus from spreading
How do I prevent it?
Þ Abstinence is the only 100% effective method of protection
Þ Avoid direct contact with sores or blisters but REMEMBER - you can get the virus from someone infected even when they do NOT have sores
Þ Use latex condoms or barriers (i.e., dentals dams) during sex
Þ Do not have sex with someone until the sores are gone
Þ Avoid having sex when you feel an outbreak coming on – people will often get a tingling sensation in the area just before an outbreak
How do I prevent recurrent outbreaks?
Þ Get adequate sleep
Þ Eat a healthy diet
Þ Engage in regular physical activity
Þ Practice good stress-management techniques