What is genital herpes?
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD). This STD causes herpetic sores, which are painful blisters (fluid-filled bumps) that can break open and ooze fluid. About 16 percentTrusted Source of people between the ages of 14 and 49 have this STD.
Causes of genital herpes
Two types of herpes simplex virus cause genital herpes: HSV-1 (which usually causes cold sores) and HSV-2 (which usually causes genital herpes).
The viruses get into your body through your mucous membranes. Your mucous membranes are the thin layers of tissue that line the openings of your body. They can be found in your nose, mouth, and genitals.
Once the viruses are inside your body, they incorporate themselves into your cells and then stay in the nerve cells of your pelvis. Viruses tend to multiply or adapt to their environments very easily, which makes treating them difficult.
HSV-1 or HSV-2 can be found in infected people’s bodily fluids, including:
- vaginal secretions
Recognizing the symptoms of genital herpes
The appearance of blisters is known as an outbreak. Your first outbreak will appear as early as two days after you contracted the virus, or as late as 30 days afterward.
General symptoms for males include blisters on the penis, scrotum, or buttocks (near or around the anus).
General symptoms for females include blisters around or near the vagina, anus, and buttocks.
General symptoms for both males and females include the following:
- Blisters may appear in your mouth and on your lips, face, and anywhere else that came into contact with the infected areas.
- The infected site often starts to itch, or tingle, before the actual appearance of blisters.
- The blisters may become ulcerated (open sores) and ooze fluid.
- A crust may appear over the sores within a week of the outbreak.
- Your lymph glands may become swollen. Lymph glands fight infection and inflammation in the body.
- You may have headaches, body aches, and fever.
General symptoms for a baby born with herpes (received through a vaginal delivery) may include ulcers on the face, body, and genitals. Babies who are born with genital herpes can develop very severe complications and experience:
- brain damage
It’s very important that you tell your doctor that you have genital herpes if you’re pregnant. They will take precautions to prevent the virus from being transmitted to your baby during delivery, with one likely method being that your baby would be delivered via cesarean rather than routine vaginal delivery.
Differences in symptom location
Sores appear where the infection entered your body. You can spread the infection by touching a sore and then rubbing or scratching another area of your body, including your eyes.
Men and women can develop sores on the:
- Buttocks and thighs
- Urethra (the tube that allows urine to drain from the bladder to the outside)
Women can also develop sores in or on the:
- Vaginal area
- External genitals
Men can also develop sores in or on the:
Recurrences are common
Genital herpes is different for each person. The signs and symptoms may recur, off and on, for years. Some people experience numerous episodes each year. For many people, however, the outbreaks are less frequent as time passes.
During a recurrence, shortly before sores appear, you may feel:
- Burning, tingling and itching where the infection first entered your body
- Pain in your lower back, buttocks and legs
However, recurrences are generally less painful than the original outbreak, and sores generally heal more quickly.
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