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Genital Herpes - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Genital herpes is a viral infection. Genital herpes is common, affecting both men and women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the herpes simplex virus is present in as many as one in six teens and adults in the United States. The cause of genital herpes is a strain of herpes simplex virus, which enters your body through small breaks in your skin or mucous membranes. Contact is the primary way that the virus spreads. When signs do occur, they typically appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals or rectum. The blisters break, leaving tender ulcers that may take two to four weeks to heal the first time they occur. Typically, another outbreak can appear weeks or months after the first, but it almost always is less severe and shorter than the first outbreak. Although the infection can stay in the body forever, the number of outbreaks usually decreases over a period of years. You can pass genital herpes to someone else even when you experience no symptoms. The highest rates of infection are seen among the poor, those with less education, those using cocaine, and those with many partners.

People with herpes may spread the disease even if they do not realize they have an infection. A cluster of blisters may appear, which can burst, leaving painful sores often lasting two to three weeks. A fever, headache and muscular pain may occur during the first attack. Genital herpes infections do not cause permanent disability or long-term damage in healthy adults. However, in people who have suppressed immune systems, HSV episodes can be long-lasting and unusually severe. There's no cure for this recurrent infection, which may cause embarrassment and emotional distress. The doctor can give you medication to help ease the pain of the attack and control further attacks. A cluster of blisters may appear, which can burst, leaving painful sores often lasting two to three weeks. A fever, headache and muscular pain may occur during the first attack.

Causes of Genital herpes

Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus. However, in many people the infection causes no recognized signs or symptoms and can still be spread to a partner. Because the virus dies quickly outside of the body, it's nearly impossible to get the infection through contact with toilets, towels or other objects used by an infected person.

Common causes and risk factors of Genital herpes:

  • A strain of herpes simplex virus (HSV).
  • Stress.
  • A cold sore.

Signs and Symptoms of Genital herpes

The majority of people who've been infected with HSV never know they have the disease because they have no signs or symptoms. The symptoms of genital herpes vary from person to person. Some people have severe symptoms, such as many painful sores, while others have mild symptoms. An initial outbreak of genital herpes usually brings about symptoms within two weeks of having contact with an infected person and can last from two to three weeks. Other symptoms of a primary episode of genital herpes may include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen glands in the groin area.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • discharge.
  • Pain in the legs, buttocks, or genital area.
  • Swollen glands.
  • An itching or burning feeling in the genital or anal area.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Headaches (may be severe).

Treatment for Genital herpes

Several antiviral medications are available to treat genital herpes. They cannot cure genital herpes nor prevent all recurrent outbreaks. When used along with safe practices, Valacyclovir can also help prevent you from passing the infection to someone else. Topical antibiotic ointments also may be applied to prevent secondary bacterial infections. A pregnant woman with a history of herpes must tell her obstetrician. If you have an outbreak at the time of delivery, a cesarean section is usually performed instead of a birth and will usually prevent any complications to the child.

Treatment may include:

  • Certain drugs such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir can shorten outbreaks and make them less severe, or stop them from happening.
  • For pain, you may take aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), or ibuprofen (Advil).
  • Creams or ointments that are placed on the sores are not effective for initial herpes outbreaks.
  • For preventing later outbreaks, people with recurring genital herpes infections also may benefit from the antiviral medications. Treatment is started when the recurrence first begins and continues for 5 days.
  • After bathing, use a hair dryer instead of a towel around the sores, or pat dry gently.