Welcome back to rejoining the health articles presented by the KMC Clinic, this week topic will continue to discuss the Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) series. Last week we discussed Gonorrhea and this week we will discuss Genital Herpes.
Genital herpes is a common and highly contagious infection usually spread through sex. This infection is usually caused by the herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) or the herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1), the virus usually responsible for cold sores.
Two types of herpes simplex virus infections can cause genital herpes:
Because the virus dies quickly outside of the body, it's nearly impossible to get the infection through contact with toilets, towels or other objects used by an infected person.
When present, symptoms may begin about two to 12 days after exposure to the virus. If you experience symptoms of genital herpes, they may include:
During an initial outbreak, you may have flu-like signs and symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes in your groin, headache, muscle aches and fever.
The suggestions for preventing genital herpes are the same as those for preventing other sexually transmitted infections: Abstain from sexual activity or limit sexual contact to only one person who is infection-free. Short of that, you can:
If you're pregnant and know you have genital herpes, tell your doctor. If you think you might have genital herpes, ask to be tested for it.
Your doctor may recommend that you start taking herpes antiviral medications late in pregnancy to try to prevent an outbreak around the time of delivery. If you're having an outbreak when you go into labor, your doctor will probably suggest a cesarean section to reduce the risk of passing the virus to your baby.
Treatment the first time you have genital herpes
You may be prescribed:
If you've had symptoms for more than 5 days before you go to a sexual health clinic, you can still get tested to find out the cause.
Treatment if the blisters come back
Go to your GP or a sexual health clinic if you've been diagnosed with genital herpes and need treatment for an outbreak.
Antiviral medicine may help shorten an outbreak by 1 or 2 days, if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear. But outbreaks usually settle by themselves, so you may not need treatment.
Recurrent outbreaks are usually milder than the first episode of genital herpes. Over time, outbreaks tend to happen less often and be less severe. Some people never have outbreaks.
Some people who have more than 6 outbreaks in a year may benefit from taking antiviral medicine for 6 to 12 months. If you still have outbreaks of genital herpes during this time, you may be referred to a specialist.
How to deal with outbreaks yourself
If you've been diagnosed with genital herpes and you're having an outbreak: