Think you might have genital herpes? Want more information?

We know: All About Genital Herpes

What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) and type 2 (HSV-2). Most genital herpes is caused by HSV-2.

How do I know if I have genital herpes?

There are only minimal or no signs for most individuals infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2 genital herpes. When signs do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters burst and leave tender ulcers or sores that usually take anywhere from two to four weeks to heal.

Typically, after the first outbreak, another outbreak can appear weeks or months after the first. However, any later outbreaks will almost always be less severe and last a shorter time than the original outbreak. For the most part, the number of outbreaks will to lessen over a period of years, although the infection may remain in the body indefinitely.

How do people contract genital herpes?

  • HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be found in and released from the sores that the viruses cause, but they also are released between outbreaks from skin that does not appear to be broken or to have a sore. Generally, a person can only contract HSV-2 infection during sexual contact from someone who has a genital HSV-2 infection. It is important to note that transmission can occur from an infected partner even though he or she may not show visible signs of infection.
  • HSV-1 can cause genital herpes, but it more commonly causes infections of the mouth and lips that are commonly known as "fever blisters." HSV-1 infection of the genitals can be caused by oral-genital or genital-genital contact with a person who has HSV-1 infection. Genital HSV-1 outbreaks recur less regularly than genital HSV-2 outbreaks.

What treatment is available for genital herpes?

Currently, there is no treatment that can cure herpes, but anti-viral medications can shorten and prevent outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication. Additionally, daily suppressive therapy for symptomatic herpes can reduce transmission to partners. Make an appointment to see your doctor for more information about medication.

How can I prevent contraction and/or transmitting herpes in the future?

  • The only sure way to avoid transmission of sexually transmitted diseases, including genital herpes, is to abstain from sexual contact. Alternatively, being in a long-term monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and is known to be uninfected can prevent contraction.
  • Genital ulcer diseases can occur in both male and female genital areas that are covered or protected by a latex condom, as well as in areas that are not covered. Correct and consistent use of latex condoms can help to reduce the risk of genital herpes only when the infected area or site of potential exposure is protected by the condom. Since a condom may not cover all infected areas, even correct and consistent use of latex condoms cannot guarantee protection from genital herpes.
  • When lesions or other symptoms of herpes are present, persons infected with herpes should abstain from any sexual contact with uninfected partners. It is important to know that even if a person does not have any symptoms he or she can still infect sexual partners. Sexual partners of infected persons should be advised that they may become infected. Sexual partners can seek testing to determine if they are infected with HSV. A positive HSV-2 blood test most likely indicates a genital herpes infection.

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