Genital Herpes

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What is Genital Herpes?

Genital Herpes is an ailment that is still an embarrassing problem for most people infected with it. This condition is the most commonly diagnosed STD. Cold sore outbreaks on the lips are usually caused by the herpes virus type 1 (HSV-1). In contrast, herpes virus type 2 (HSV-2) solely triggers attacks in the genital region.

How Do We Get Genital Herpes?

The herpes virus (HSV) can be transmittedTrusted Source through direct and close contact between individuals, leading to its easy spread. It includes:

It is possible to contract herpes from a sexual partner who does not display any visible signs or symptoms. This is because the virus can become active on the skin without causing visible blisters or sores, a condition known as asymptomatic shedding.

Genital Herpes: Symptoms, Helpful Prevention, and Treatment

A newborn baby can contract herpes during childbirth. However, this risk is lower if the first herpes episode is diagnosed before or at the start of pregnancy and if no ulcers are visible during delivery. During the late stages of pregnancy, doctors may prescribe medication to reduce the likelihood of certain risks.

What does a herpes infection look like?

In many people, genital herpes does not cause any symptoms. It is passed on to a partner during sexual intercourse. Possible symptoms are easy to recognize by a doctor. There may be pain and skin changes in the form of blisters located in the area of the genitals and perineum (both in women and men).

Sometimes herpes affects the area around the anus and buttocks. Some patients experience notorious recurrence of herpes symptoms, but they are less bothersome than the first time.

Genital herpes – what are the symptoms?

Genital herpes may not show any symptomsTrusted Source or it can cause changes in the skin and mucous membranes. The disease is extraordinarily dangerous for pregnant women. It is because of the possibility of transferring the infection to the fetus, causing severe complications. Full-blown infection during pregnancy can cause intrauterine, perinatal, or postnatal baby infection.

The most significant risk of infection of the child with the herpes virus occurs in the case of vaginal delivery. It is because of during which the newborn is exposed to direct contact with infected cells of the mother’s body.

The first symptoms of the herpes virus may be visible a few days after infection – we can observe them on the skin and mucous membranes of the genital organs.

The first symptoms are:

The blisters that affect the genitals take up to two weeks to grow and eventually burst and turn into painful sores. Enlarged lymph nodes in the groin area can be a sign of herpes. These swollen nodes can be felt when touched. Some individuals may also experience pain while urinating as a disease symptom.

Genital herpes in women causes vaginal discharge. Additionally, ulcers and blisters can develop on the cervix. It can last up to twenty days before disappearing on its own without leaving any visible scars.

The fact is that the first symptoms of herpes can appear even years after the infection occurs. There is suspicion that this is connected to the immune system, which responds uniquely to the virus in every individual.

Many people are carriers of the HSV-2 virus, despite the lack of clinical symptoms. Infection with this virus likes to recur. Getting sick and curing the infection does not make us immune to it, but it goes into the so-called sleep state (latency state). The HSV-2 virus is most often activated by factors such as:

Genital herpes – when to see a doctor?

The occurrence of suspicious changes in the genital area should prompt immediate consultation with a gynecologist. It is especially significant for pregnant women. Early diagnosis of genital herpes and implementation of appropriate treatment reduces the risk of spreading the virus and in the case of pregnant women – the risk to the child.

If a woman has had incidents of illness before pregnancy, it is worth informing her doctor about it.

Diagnosis of the genital herpes virus

After going to the doctor’s office (dermatologist or gynecologist), the specialist assessesTrusted Source whether we have herpes based on typical clinical symptoms and a medical interview conducted with us. Before the doctor implements any treatment, they must ask a few personal questions that will help them choose an effective therapy method. The medical history includes the following questions about the genital herpes virus:

In addition to the medical history, specialists may order testsTrusted Source to identify the herpes virus. The determination of what type of virus we are dealing with is performed when the disease is severe. For this purpose, we use the following: 

Genital herpes – treatment

Unfortunately, there is no effective cure for genital herpes, although research is ongoing to develop new drugs such as vaccines and immune system boosters. Fortunately, some treatmentsTrusted Source can assist in relieving the symptoms. We mainly use antiviral drugs, both for external and oral use. The sooner you start taking medicines (within 72 hours of the appearance of ulcers), the more effective they are.

Most often, the treatment lasts five days and is most effective in the first stage of the disease.

If the symptoms do not improve during this time, the doctor usually changes the dose and extends the treatment. It is also recommended to take preparations with vitamin B1 and vitamin B12.

The genital herpes virus is back

Sores and other symptoms may go away after a few weeks, but the virus stays in the body and causes, although not in everyone, relapsesTrusted Source from time to time: usually after 3-12 months, often in the same places. The more severe the first symptomatic flare of HSV infection, the more likely the disease will relapse.

Subsequent relapses are usually milder, lasting from 3 days to 2 weeks. These factors can contribute to their development: stress, other illnesses, skin trauma, and pregnancy. In general, herpes recurrences are caused by a weakened immune system. People with a deficiency of B vitamins and living in constant tension have them much more often.

Some tips for dealing with genital herpes

Here are some practical tipsTrusted Source to help you fight genital herpes:

Genital herpes – home treatment

A cold compressTrusted Source(ice cubes wrapped in a towel) placed on sore areas for 5-10 minutes can provide relief. Remember not to apply ice directly to the skin.

It is significant to drink plenty of fluidsTrusted Source. In this way, urine will become more dilute, and urination will be easier and less painful. Avoid flavored soaps, bubble baths, and other similar products that can irritate the skin. Gently washing the sore areas with a cotton swab and water gives the best results.

Do not use the same towel or sponge as other people – this will minimize the risk of infection. Sexual abstinenceTrusted Source is recommended until the blisters and sores disappear and until you see your doctor.

Pregnancy herpes – HSV virus

Herpes during pregnancy can be caused by infection with both virus types. The first virus is for cold sores, and the second is for genital herpes.

Herpes is a viral disease, so it is transmitted by droplets. Cold sores can appear, for example, after a kiss with a sick person, as it spreads most often through the mucous membranes of the mouth and after contact with facial skin lesions.

Once we become infected with the HSV virus, it stays in our body for life. The symptoms of the disease may even become active for a long time. It attacks when our immunity is lowered, for example, when we have a cold.

Other factors that favor the activation of the herpes virus are, for example: cooling the body, stress, injuries to the skin and mucous membranes, but also exposing the face to intense sun, as well as cosmetic treatments such as face peeling.

Genital Herpes: Symptoms, Helpful Prevention, and Treatment

Herpes in pregnancy – symptoms

Herpes during pregnancy, when it appears on the lips, manifests as tingling, itching, and redness. Visible bubbles with serous fluid occur only after a few days. When a severe vesicle ruptures, a wound appears, followed by a scab, which falls off on its own over time.

Genital herpes symptoms include the presence of vesicles filled with clear fluid. However, after rupture, the blisters take the form of painful sores. Genital herpes may be accompanied by fever and enlarged lymph nodes. Symptoms of this condition can last up to two weeks.

Herpes during pregnancy – risk for the baby

Herpes during pregnancy can carry serious complications as well as life-threatening for the fetus and newborn childTrusted Source. Primary infection with the herpes virus can even lead to miscarriage.

Herpes during pregnancy on the lips does not pose a significant threat to the baby. Much more dangerous is the HSV2 virus, which is responsible for genital herpes – and it is the one that poses a severe threat to the fetus and newborn child. However, it is worth emphasizing that cold sores can lead to the development of genital herpes.

How to deal with recurrent herpes?

Genital herpes during pregnancy is most dangerous during childbirthTrusted Source. Then the HSV virus can be passed on to the newborn. If a woman suffers from severe and extensive skin lesions caused by herpes, the doctor may decide to perform a cesarean section.

Intrauterine infection of the fetus before 20 weeks of gestation may lead to:

Contracting herpes during the third trimester of pregnancy can lead to the premature birth of the baby.

Genital herpes and sex

If the partnersTrusted Source are carriers of the same virus, there is no possibility of re-infection. It should be remembered that the disease does not have to be accompanied by any symptoms. The herpes simplex virus is very contagious when blisters are present. Intercourse in this state carries a high risk of passing the virus on to your partner.

It is recommended to avoid sex from the moment the first symptoms appear until they disappear entirely. Using a condom does not provide complete protection against infection as it only protects the covered area of the body.

If there are no symptoms of genital herpes present, the chances of transmitting the virus to one’s partner are reduced. However, sometimes the virus is present on the surface of the skin of the genitals. It is significant to understand that sexual contact can put you at risk of contracting the virus. It can happen even if you don’t have any symptoms.

Individuals taking antiviral medications for an extended period have a lower probability of contracting the virus.

Genital Herpes: Symptoms, Helpful Prevention, and Treatment

Video: Herpes – Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis


July 19, 2023
12 minutes read

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