Genital herpes is a highly contagious virus that can cause painful sores and blisters in the genital area. Unfortunately, there is no cure for genital herpes, but there are treatments available to help manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of transmission. Medications such as antivirals can be used to control outbreaks and reduce the risk of infecting others. Self-care measures such as avoiding sexual contact during an outbreak and using condoms can also help reduce the risk of transmission.
Additionally, research suggests that taking antiviral medications every day for longer periods of time can significantly reduce the risk of transmitting genital herpes to a partner. Oral herpes is mainly caused by HSV-1, although it's also possible to have an HSV-2 infection around the mouth. Although several clinical trials have tested vaccines against genital herpes, there is currently no vaccine available to prevent infection. Pregnant women with genital herpes should discuss this with their antenatal care provider, as herpes infection can be transmitted to the baby during pregnancy and delivery and cause serious illness.
When a person experiences a prodrome and suspects that a recurrence will occur, they begin taking antiherpetic medications that reduce symptoms and shorten the duration of the outbreak. Herpes medications may not work as well in patients who are very immunosuppressed and have been treated with these medications for a long time. Remember that herpes transmission can occur when there are symptoms (such as a sore or blister), but it can also occur even if there are no genital symptoms due to asymptomatic viral spread. The herpes virus is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact and can be transmitted during vaginal, oral, or anal sex. If you are starting a new relationship and you know that you have a herpes simplex infection, you should let your partner know before having sex.
Because a person may not have symptoms even if they have herpes, it can be difficult to know when to see a doctor for diagnosis and treatment. Recurrent genital herpes is most common in the first year after the initial infection and decreases as time goes on.