Genital herpes is an extremely contagious sexually transmitted infection.
Definition: what is genital herpes?
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) localised in the genital organs. It starts with an eruption of painful vesicles (pus filled cysts).
Genital herpes is one form of herpes along with herpes labialis, or cold sores. It is caused by the herpes simplex type 2 virus or HSV-2 which is responsible for infections in the lower regions of the body. In rare cases, herpes simplex type 1 virus or HVS-1 (responsible for cold sores) may to attributed to oral sex
It is a chronic infection, develops quickly and is generally known for being a recurring disease. It is estimated that between 15 to 25% of the population suffer from herpes in the world.
Symptoms: how to recognise genital herpes
The first infection by the virus most commonly has no symptoms and goes unnoticed. The virus settles in the organism and becomes dormant. When it reactivates, it causes surges of symptoms: which is why it is a recurring infection. It generally lasts between 5 to 10 days and starts with a cluster of small transparent vesicles that will break and then form a crust. These lesions can be found, in men, around the penis, scrotum or all along the anal region, and in women can occur around the vagina, the vulva, the cervix or all along the anal region.
Some early warning signs can appear one or two days before the surges of symptoms and start with skin rashes, tingling or burning sensations, numbness or pain.
Causes of genital herpes
Herpes is a very contagious infection. In the majority of cases, genital herpes travels by direct contact between two people, most commonly during vaginal or anal sex. The risk of transmitting the infection is higher towards the beginning of a herpes outbreak, when the vesicles are present, because the liquid inside these vesicles contain the virus.
However, transmission is impossible by indirect contact via contaminated objects because the HVS-2 virus dies quickly outside of the body.
Treatment: how to treat genital herpes
Taking oral, antiviral medication can treat these surges by reducing symptoms and by accelerating recovery. The earlier the treatment is started, the more effective it will be and therefore, doesn’t eliminate the dormant part of the virus and heal indefinitely.
In case of frequent reoccurrences (more than six recurrences per year), or a sexual partner being at risk, it is advised to take the treatment for longer as a precautionary measure.
It is inadvisable to apply a cream or an ointment based treatment because it can aggravate the lesions and delay the wounds healing. It is recommended to regularly wash the lesions and to expose them to the open air without surgical dressing.