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Genital herpes

Genital herpes is an infection caused by a virus called herpes simplex (HSV). There are 2 types of herpes virus: type 1 (cold sores around the mouth and sometimes genital herpes) and type 2 (only genital herpes). It’s a highly contagious infection.

Transmission

  • by skin contact with the infected area in another person
  • during birth, because a mother can transmit the infection to her baby

👉 Important :
Cold sores can cause genital herpes and vice versa. Type 1 and 2 viruses are very similar and both can cause lesions in the mouth and genitals.

Symptoms

Symptoms can appear 2 to 20 days after contact with an infected person and last 1 to 4 weeks. Some people don’t have any symptoms. They don’t know they’re infected and so they can spread the infection.

Infected people may have these symptoms:

  • painful skin lesions (cold sores, blisters) that look like blisters or clusters of pimples, often located in the genital or anal region. They break after a few days, leaking a clear liquid that dries and forms a crust.
  • pain while urinating
  • itching on the genitals
  • tingling and burning feelings before or while the blisters appear
  • fever
  • muscle pain
  • headache
  • swollen lymph nodes

Herpes outbreaks can occur from time to time, especially when the person is tired or weak due to another disease. Stress and heat can also trigger outbreaks.

Screening and treatment 🔍

Herpes is visible to the naked eye at the time of an outbreak. It can also be detected during a medical examination and by analyzing the blood or the fluid from the blisters.

At present, there is no effective treatment that can absolutely cure this infection. However, some drugs can relieve the symptoms when herpes outbreaks or attacks occur.

Prevention

To avoid spreading herpes, use a condom or dental dam (a sheet of latex that protects the mouth) during vaginal, anal, and oral sex. But remember that a condom or dental dam doesn’t offer full protection because it doesn’t cover all the body areas that can be infected (mouth, thighs, buttocks, etc.).

Avoid sex as soon as you notice the warning signs of a herpes outbreak and throughout the attack. An infected person is contagious 12 to 24 hours before the blisters appear. Also ask your sexual partners to see a doctor and take a screening test, even if they don’t have any symptoms.