Genital herpes is a common type of sexually transmitted infection (STI). STIs like genital herpes are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV) which is responsible for a variety of other medical conditions relating to body contact. Most of the genital herpes seen are from the HSV-2 infection and contracted through sexual intercourse or other sexual acts. However while it is more commonly sexually transmitted, the infection can come from other types of bodily contact as well.
Causes of Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is one of the few medical conditions with a single known cause. The herpes simplex virus, particularly the HSV-2 virus, is what causes genital herpes. It is usually spread through sexual contact, by secretions in the mouth or genitals. There is also another type of HSV called HSV-1 except this affects the moth and lips in the form of cold sores or fever blisters. Genital herpes can also appear on the mouth, though mostly on the genitals. Genital herpes is more common in women than men, with people that have multiple sexual partners and unprotected sex at the highest risk for the infection.
Symptoms of Genital Herpes
There are a wide variety of symptoms associated with genital herpes, though many people with the infection don’t experience symptoms. The first stage of symptoms will occur about 2 days to 2 weeks after coming into contact with the infection. Symptoms of genital herpes include an overall sick feeling, low appetite, fever, muscle aches, and swollen or tender lymph nodes in the groin area. Genitals can also get small blisters and bumps that are filled with clear liquid and sometimes painful. In women, they will be located on the vagina, vaginal lips, cervix, anus, thighs or buttocks. In men, the blisters can be on their penis, anus, scrotum, thighs or buttocks. With both genders, blisters are also found on the gums, mouth, eyes, lips, fingers, and tongue. Additional symptoms of genital herpes include vaginal discharge and painful urination.
Diagnosing and Treating Genital Herpes
Tests that are usually performed to find and diagnose genital herpes are a physical examination, culture of the fluid leaking from the blisters (PCR), or a blood test to look for antibody levels of the herpes virus. There is no cure for genital herpes but it can be treated to help reduce discomfort and pain. This includes an antiviral medication to reduce the pain and outbreak of more blisters and sores. Medications may cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, tremors, seizures, rash, headache, or fatigue.