Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is spread through physical contact with damp areas of the skin, particularly through sexual activity. It is estimated that 572,000 new infections occur each year in the United States alone. Although there is no cure for genital herpes, medications can be used to control outbreaks and reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to others. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of genital herpes. The most common symptom of genital herpes is an outbreak of blisters or sores in the genital area.
These sores may be itchy, burning, or tingling around the mouth, lips, or tongue. Other symptoms may include fever, swollen lymph nodes, and body aches. If you experience any of these symptoms, it is important to see a doctor or sexual health clinic for diagnosis and treatment. A doctor may request a test to determine if you have genital herpes. False-negative tests can occur if the samples are not taken properly, if there is a long time of transportation between the clinic and the laboratory, or if the cultures were done at the end of the evolution of the lesions.
Once a person has been diagnosed with genital herpes, they are likely to have more outbreaks because the virus never completely goes away. Taking antiviral medications can help reduce the risk of transmitting genital herpes to your sexual partners. These medications can also prevent or shorten outbreaks and help control symptoms. People who have recently been diagnosed with herpes should also be tested for HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections.
Having herpes can make it easier to get HIV because the sores allow HIV to enter your body. If a person has a weakened immune system and has genital herpes, there is rarely an increased risk of developing inflammation of the brain, eyes, esophagus, lungs, or liver, as well as a generalized infection. Although there is no cure for genital herpes, daily use of antiviral medications can prevent or shorten outbreaks and reduce your chance of infecting it to others. Treatment from a sexual health clinic can also help manage symptoms and reduce the risk of transmission. If you have been diagnosed with genital herpes and need treatment for an outbreak, see a primary care doctor or sexual health clinic.