Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause sores and other symptoms in the genital area or on the mouth and lips. It is caused by an infection of either type 1 or type 2 of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2).
In almost all cases, genital herpes is spread sexually, either by vaginal, oral or anal sex. In the case of oral sex, genital herpes can be spread from the genitals to the mouth and lips in some instances.
Symptoms of Herpes Simplex
Many who are infected with the herpes virus are not even aware that they have the disease. They may not have any symptoms at all, or only mild symptoms that can be mistaken for another skin infection. When genital herpes does show symptoms, however, it is usually in the form of red blisters that appear around the genitals or the mouth and lips. These blisters can be painful, break open and take several weeks to heal. Upon a first outbreak of genital herpes symptoms, an individual might also experience achiness, fever and other flu-like symptoms.
Once a person is infected with genital herpes, the blisters typically reoccur, on average about four to five times each year. The disease is also most commonly spread from person to person through an active herpes infection, though it can also be spread when the skin does not appear to be having an outbreak.
Treatment and Prevention
There is no cure for genital herpes, but there are several anti-viral medications that can help treat it. These fall into two categories. One type of herpes drug can be taken when you have a herpes outbreak in order to reduce the symptoms and shorten the duration of the disease. The other type of drug can be taken more regularly to help prevent outbreaks from occurring in the first place.
The best way to prevent the spread of herpes is through abstinence, monogamous sex with a partner who you know is uninfected or the use of condoms during sex.
SOURCES: WomensHealth.gov; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.