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About Genital Herpes and the Genital Herpes Symptoms

August 11, 2010 by  
Filed under Genital Herpes Tips

What Is Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes is caused by a virus called herpes simplex (HSV). There are two different types of herpes virus that cause genital herpes — Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Herpes Simplex Virus 2. Most forms of genital herpes are Herpes Simplex Virus 2. But a person with Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 (the type of herpes virus that causes cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth) can transmit the herpes virus through oral sex to another person’s genitals.
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It causes herpes sores in the genital area and is transmitted through vaginal, oral, or anal sex, especially from unprotected sex when infected skin touches the vaginal, oral, or anal area. Occasionally, the herpes virus can cause herpes sores in the mouth, and can be spread by secretions in saliva. Because the herpes virus does not live outside the body for long, you cannot catch genital herpes from an object, such as a toilet seat.

Symptoms of a Genital Herpes Outbreak

Someone who has been exposed to the genital herpes virus may not be aware of the herpes infection and may never have a herpes outbreak of sores. However, if a person does have a herpes outbreak, the herpes symptoms can cause significant discomfort.
Someone with genital herpes may first notice itching or pain, followed by herpes sores that appear a few hours to a few days later. The herpes sores, which may appear on the vagina, penis, scrotum, buttocks, or anus, start out as red bumps that soon turn into red, watery blisters. The genital herpes sores may make it very painful to urinate. The genital herpes sores may open up, ooze fluid or bleed, and then heal within the next 2 to 4 weeks.
The entire genital area may feel very tender or painful, and the person may have flu-like symptoms including fever, headache, and swollen lymph nodes. If someone has a herpes outbreak in the future, it will tend to be less severe and shorter in duration, with the herpes sores healing in about 10 days.

How Long Until Genital Herpes Symptoms Appear?

Someone who has been exposed to genital herpes virus will notice genital itching and/or pain about 2 to 20 days after being infected with the herpes virus. The herpes sores usually appear within days afterward.

What Can Happen When Infected with Genital Herpes Virus?

After the herpes blisters disappear, a person may think the herpes virus has gone away — but it’s actually hiding in the body. Both Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 and Herpes Simplex Virus 2 can stay hidden away in the body until the next herpes outbreak, when the herpes virus reactivates itself and the herpes sores return, usually in the same area.
Over time, the herpes virus can reactivate itself again and again, causing discomfort and episodes of herpes sores each time. Sometimes a person has about four to five herpes outbreaks each year, but this can vary between people. Usually, the number of herpes outbreaks will lessen over time.
There is no cure for herpes; it will always remain in the body and can always be passed to another person with any form of unprotected sex. This is the case even if blisters aren’t present on the genitals, but more likely if they are. Many cases of genital herpes are transmitted when symptoms are not present, but a person can lessen the chance of spreading the herpes infection to someone else by taking antiviral medication to lessen the amount of herpes virus that is around. This is a prescription medication that needs to be obtained from a doctor.
Genital herpes also increases the risk of HIV infection because HIV can enter the body more easily whenever there’s a break in the skin (such as a sore) during unprotected sexual contact. In addition, if a pregnant woman with genital herpes has an active infection during childbirth, the newborn baby is at risk for getting herpes infection. This risk is greatest if she gets her first herpes outbreak while pregnant. Herpes infection in a newborn can cause meningitis (an inflammation of the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord), seizures, and brain damage.

How Is Genital Herpes Prevented?

The only surefire way to prevent genital herpes is abstinence. If one partner has a herpes outbreak, avoid sex — even with a condom or dental dam — until all herpes sores have healed. Herpes can be passed sexually even if a partner has no herpes sores or other signs and symptoms of a herpes outbreak. Finally, one way to lessen this risk is to take antiviral medication even when no herpes sores are present if you know you have genital herpes.

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