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Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). It’s caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Most people have HSV-1, which usually shows up on the mouth or lips as cold sores. You can get HSV-2 through vaginal or anal sex with someone who has genital herpes. Genital herpes can be treated and prevented. If you think you have genital herpes, talk to your doctor right away.
What is genital herpes?
Genital herpes, also known as genital herpes simplex virus (HSV), is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes simplex virus. It often causes blisters on the genitals and around the anus, but it can be passed on to others through sexual contact.
Genital herpes symptoms include:
- Painful blisters in or around your vagina, vulva (the outer part of your genitals), penis or anus that burst and leave sores that are small, shallow and firm to touch
- Flu-like symptoms such as headache, tiredness and muscle aches before an outbreak occurs
How is it treated?
There are a number of treatments for genital herpes.
If you have symptoms and want to treat them, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medication or recommend that you take over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). You can also try applying ice packs or cold compresses to the affected area to help ease the pain.
If you’re experiencing an outbreak, try staying away from spicy foods and alcohol since they can irritate the sores. Avoiding stress is also important–stress can make outbreaks worse because it triggers flare-ups in people who already have genital herpes.
If these methods don’t work, talk with your doctor about getting prescription medications like Valtrex or Acyclovir which will help ease symptoms within 48 hours of taking them.
How can you prevent getting the virus?
To avoid getting genital herpes, you should:
- Avoid sexual contact when symptoms are present. If you do have sex, use a condom or dental dam every time.
- Get tested for STIs regularly (at least once a year). This includes getting tested if your partner has an outbreak and you haven’t had sex yet, if they tell you they’ve been diagnosed with genital herpes, or if they have symptoms of another STI like syphilis or chlamydia that could be passed through skin-to-skin contact during sex.
If you know that someone has genital herpes, avoid having sex during outbreaks so that there is no risk of spreading it to other parts of their body where there may be open sores or blisters (for example: inside the mouth).
Genital herpes can be treated and prevented
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, including vaginal, anal or oral sex. There is no cure for genital herpes but it can be treated with antiviral medications. These drugs will help to reduce the symptoms of your outbreak and speed up healing time.
There are two types of antiviral medications available: acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex). These are taken as tablets or capsules once daily during an active outbreak to reduce pain and discomfort as well as shorten the length of each outbreak by about one day on average compared with placebo treatment during clinical trials in people who have recurrent infections.[i]
Antiviral drugs also prevent new outbreaks from occurring by lowering your body’s viral load – that’s how many viruses are present in your system at any given time – which means there may be fewer opportunities for transmission from someone else who has an active infection.[ii]
Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted infection that can be treated and prevented. If you think you may have been exposed to genital herpes, see your doctor as soon as possible so they can test for the virus.