Genital herpes is a common, highly infectious disease caused by a virus that infects the genital areas. It is transmitted from one person to another during sexual activity, causing blisters or groups of small ulcers (open sores) on and around the genitals in both men and women switch firmware 8.1.0. Many people with genital herpes actually never have sores, or they have very mild symptoms that often go unnoticed, or are mistaken for insect bites or another skin condition.
Signs and symptoms
If signs and symptoms do occur during the first outbreak, however, they can be quite severe. This first outbreak usually happens within 2 days to 2 weeks of being infected, with general symptoms including decreased appetite, fever, a general sick feeling, muscle aches in the lower back, buttocks, thighs, or knees and swollen and tender lymph nodes in the groin during an outbreak. Other symptoms that may occur include painful urination. Women may have vaginal discharge or, occasionally, be unable to empty the bladder and require a urinary catheter.
Although there are medications that can be prescribed to treat outbreaks and minimise the symptoms, genital herpes cannot be cured. The three major drugs commonly used to treat genital herpes symptoms include: acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir. These are all taken in pill form, although severe cases may be treated with the intravenous (IV) drug, acyclovir.
When treatment is given
- When you’re first diagnosed with genital herpes, if you have symptoms such as sores, your doctor will usually give you a short course (seven to 10 days) of anti-viral therapy, to relieve the symptoms or prevent them from getting worse. Your doctor may also keep you on the drugs for longer if the sores don’t heal in that time.
- After the initial treatment, your doctor may prescribe an anti-viral drug for you to keep on hand, in case you have another flare-up, which is called intermittent therapy. You can take the pills for two to five days as soon as you notice sores or when you feel an outbreak coming on. The sores will heal and disappear on their own, but taking the drugs can make the symptoms less severe and make them go away faster.
- If you have outbreaks often, you may want to consider taking an anti-viral drug every day. Doctors call this suppressive therapy. For someone who has more than six outbreaks a year, suppressive therapy can reduce the number of outbreaks by 70% to 80%. Many people who take the anti-viral drugs daily have no outbreaks at all.
Possible side effects
The side effects of these herpes drugs are generally considered mild and believed to be safe in the long term. People taking suppressive therapy should see their doctor at least once a year to decide if they should continue, however. You may find taking the pills every day to be inconvenient, the drugs may not work for you, or you may naturally have fewer outbreaks as time goes on. Your doctor can help you make treatment choices to suit your needs.
How to prevent yourself from getting genital herpes?
There are several things you can do to lower your risk of getting genital herpes:
- The best way to prevent any STI, including genital herpes, is to practice abstinence, or not having vaginal, oral or anal sex at all.
- Having a sexual relationship with one partner who has been tested for herpes and is not infected is another way to lower your chances of becoming infected. Be faithful to each other, meaning that you only have sex with each other and no one else.
- Use condoms correctly and every time, you have any type of sex. For vaginal sex, use a latex male condom or a female polyurethane condom. For oral sex, use a dental dam. Keep in mind that condoms may not cover all infected areas, so you can still get herpes even if you use a condom.
- Some methods of birth control will not protect you from STIs. If you use one of these methods, be sure to also use a latex condom or dental dam correctly and every time you have sex.
- Learn the common symptoms of genital herpes and other STIs. Do not have oral-genital contact if you or your partner has any signs of oral herpes, such as a fever blister. Talk to your doctor immediately if you think you may have genital herpes or another STI. Don’t have sexual contact until you have seen your doctor.