Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease causing ulceration of the sexual or the genital organs. These are contagious and are noted worldwide. It is mainly caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or by type 2 (HSV-2). Most commonly, genital herpes is caused by HSV-2. Among the individuals with genital herpes, about 10 to 60% of all individuals are affected by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 2 infections. High incidence of infection is seen in individuals who are poor and less educated. People with multiple sex partners are also prone to the disease. Sores and blisters are seen around the lips, gentials or anus from where the virus enters the individual’s body. Susceptibility to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is increased in individuals with HSV-2. In most cases the infection is unrecognized and undiagnosed.1, 2, 3
Causes of Genital herpes
Genital herpes is mostly caused by herpes simplex virus which are of two types; herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). Genital herpes are commonly caused by HSV-2.
Genital herpes is transmitted by direct contact (skin to skin), sexual intercourse and oral sex with an infected person. In many cases the infection is transmitted unknowingly as the infected person may not know that he/she is infected due to the absence of symptoms.
Signs and symptoms of Genital Herpes
Many affected individuals do not have any signs or symptoms. If noted, the severity of the symptoms may vary in different individuals.
Signs such as fever, muscle aches, headaches, vaginal discharge and painful urination occur during the first episodes. Symptoms are seen within three to seven days of skin to skin contact with the infected individual.
Genital herpes appears as small blisters forming sores or lesions in the genital regions. In men, sores appear in and around the penis. In women, lesions are seen outside the vagina but most commonly occur inside causing discomfort and vaginal discharge.
Repeated recurrences are rarely seen. Reoccurrence of the disease causes pain and tingling sensation at the site of infection even before the lesions or ulcers are seen.3
Diagnosis of Genital Herpes
Physical examination is done based on the appearance of the sores.Swab of the sore is collected and sent to the laboratory to find the existence of virus.
Genital infection is also diagnosed by laboratory tests. Here the culture is examined for the presence of HSV. Blood tests are also carried out to identify the HSV-1 or HSV-2.3,4
Treatment of Genital Herpes
There is no cure for the disease. Following certain self care measures and taking the medications advised by the doctor can shorten the course of the disorder.
Self care measures include avoidance of perfumes deodorants, and antibacterial soaps in the affected regions. Douching should be avoided. Excessive exposure to sunlight can worsen the symptoms and hence should be avoided. Cotton cloths should be preferred over other types of garments.3
Medications are prescribed to shorten the length of the disease outbreaks and also to reduce discomfort. Antiviral medications are recommended to treat the symptoms and can decrease the risk of passing herpes to sexual partners.
Medications such as acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir are prescribed for the treatment.4
Complications for Genital Herpes
Genital herpes can result in severe symptoms in case of individuals who suffer from suppressed immune system.
Psychological distress is seen in individuals suffering from the disease.
During pregnancy, fatal infections related to brain occur in babies.
Individuals who suffer from genital herpes are more susceptible to HIV infection and makes HIV patients more infectious.5
Prevention for Genital Herpes
Individuals should avoid any sexual contacts if sores are present. Individuals with infection are contagious even if they receive medical treatment. Even though the skin appears normal the virus becomes active and transmits to the sex partner. So safe sex practices by using latex condoms are always advised.3
Written by: healthplus24 team
Date last updated: September 22, 2012