Genital Herpes

What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that causes puss oozing blisters near the genitals in both men and women. Women may see herpes blisters on their buttocks too. Herpes blisters are different from pimples and it is fairly simple to differentiate. Pimples too are pus filled (after a few days of showing up) but you can see little greasy fat like stuff coming out. Pimples don’t come up in clusters. Whereas in the case of genital herpes blisters, you can see clear liquid coming out and they usually come up in clusters.

Genital herpes is caused by Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV)

Herpes Simplex Virus is a viral infection (obviously) that causes genital or oral herpes. HSV is categorized into two:

HSV-1

This type causes oral herpes. Oral herpes shows up as sores and blisters around the mouth and sometimes on different parts of the face.

HSV-2

This is the type that causes genital herpes. Genital herpes causes sores and blisters to occur around the genitals (vagina and penis), anus, buttocks and inner thighs. In some cases, herpes sores can develop inside the vagina.

Either oral herpes or genital herpes, both are highly transmissible and get passed on with oral or genital contact. As of today, we don’t have a cure for any viral infection and that includes HSV. 

Oral herpes is more prevalent than genital herpes due to the fact that during sexual intercourse, mouth to mouth and mouth to genital contact is most often unprotected than genital to genital contact. Herpes Simplex Virus is present in saliva, semen, vaginal secretions and in the liquids that come out through the sores.

Genital herpes symptoms

The nature of viruses in general is that they don’t show any symptoms until it’s too late. Some people with HSV infection may not show any symptoms for many weeks to months. Appearance of blisters is called an outbreak. As long as the virus is present in the body, episodes of outbreak can be expected. In people who show symptoms, the first outbreak may be expected in an average time of 4 days. If you have had unprotected sex with an unfamiliar person and waiting for symptoms to show up, you can wait ideally for 14 days to see something, if you are infected. (We don’t recommend waiting that long ideally; if you are worried about HIV infection, HIV can be prevented within 72 hours after having unprotected sex. Check out the Post Exposure Protocol to prevent HIV article to know more.)

 

Genital herpes symptoms in men

Blisters around penis, on the scrotum, around the anus and on the buttocks.

 

Genital herpes symptoms in women

Blisters around the vagina, anus and on the buttocks

 

Other general symptoms of Genital herpes infection include:

  1. Blisters may form around the mouth or on the face, if the contact made with the infected area was with the mouth. Blisters may develop around the penis or vagina too.  Before the blisters develop, the area may feel itchy. Note – If you shaved your private area before your sexual encounter, it is common that you will have an itch in the area when new hair starts growing. You may want to wait if the actual blisters show up to confirm the infection. 
  2. Blisters may pop and ooze fluids.
  3. Swollen lymph nodes is another common symptom
  4. Some may experience headaches, body pains and fever.

 

Once any kind of viral infection takes over the body, fever and swelling of lymph nodes is a very common symptom. Virus keeps multiplying inside the body very rapidly after finding a new host and when the infection reaches the lymph nodes, more white blood cells rush to fight the infection. The lymph nodes swell during the process.

 

Herpes infection during pregnancy

Herpes infection during pregnancy can be very bad for the baby. It can lead to blindness, brain damage or even death of the baby. It may sound like fun to have unprotected sex during pregnancy but you may want to think over it when doing it with someone else other than your regular partner.

How prevalent is genital herpes?

Over half a billion people in the world have genital herpes. This is way over and above the number of HIV infected people. 

What to do if you see symptoms of Genital Herpes?

Don’t panic. See a good gynaecologist or a male sexologist if you see any of the symptoms of genital herpes. You may have to undergo blood tests before confirming the infection and once the report is ready, your doctor may start planning on the treatment for genital herpes. We suggest you not to go with a testing kit (if one is available in any drug store) but to give your blood sample at a doctor’s place or testing lab.

Genital herpes treatment

Viral infection is not curable, at least as of today!

You will be given medication that can help in reducing the outbreaks. Medicines will be given that help you in:

  1. Controlling the itch
  2. Reducing the outbreak episodes

How genital herpes spread?

All of the sexually transmitted infections including herpes, spread through exchange of bodily fluids during sexual encounter. Herpes can spread through just oral contact with an infected person. Oral to genital contact, vaginal or anal sex with an infected person can transmit herpes in just one encounter. In some cases, skin to skin contact is enough to spread the infection.