Genital Herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) that any sexually active person could get. Genital herpes is typically caused by the herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) or the herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1); HSV-1 is the virus that is usually responsible for causing cold sores. Once a person is infected with this virus, it lies dormant in the body and can reactivate many times a year. Genital herpes can cause pain, itching, and sores in the genital area. Some people do not show signs and symptoms of genital herpes. If you are infected with genital herpes, you could be contagious even if you don’t have visible sores. There is not currently a cure for genital herpes, but the symptoms can be treated with medications.
According to the CDC, genital herpes is common in the US and affects more than one out of every six people ages 14-49.
There are two types of viruses that can cause genital herpes:
You can get genital herpes by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone infected with the virus. You can get infected with the herpes virus if you come into contact with the virus through a person's sore, saliva, or genital secretions of an infected partner and from the skin in the oral or genital area of an infected partner. It is possible to become infected with genital herpes if you receive oral sex from a sexual partner with oral herpes. Because the virus dies so quickly outside of the body, it is virtually impossible to get herpes from toilet seats, bedding, swimming pools, or other objects around the house like silverware, soap, or towels used by an infected person.
Many people infected with genital herpes do not show symptoms or have extremely mild symptoms that could be confused for a different skin condition. When symptoms are present, they may begin around 2-12 days after contact with the virus. Symptoms of genital herpes could include:
During the initial outbreak, you may also have flu-like symptoms, including swollen lymph nodes in your groin, headache, muscle aches, and fever. Both men and women can develop sores on the buttocks, thighs, anus, mouth, and urethra. Women can also develop sores in or on the vaginal area, external genitals, or cervix. Men can also develop sores in or on the penis or scrotum.
A genital herpes infection can differ from person to person, and the symptoms could recur on and off for years. Some people infected with the virus experience many outbreaks every year; however, the outbreaks tend to become less frequent as time goes by. Signs of a recurrence before sores appear could include burning, tingling, and itching in the area that the infection first entered your body or pain in your lower back, buttocks, and legs. Recurrent outbreaks tend to be less painful than the initial outbreak, and sores tend to heal more quickly.
The only way to completely avoid genital herpes, and STDs in general, is not to have vaginal, anal, or oral sex. If you are sexually active, you can do these things to reduce your chances of getting genital herpes:
If you are in a relationship with a person who is known to be infected with genital herpes, you can lower your risk of getting genital herpes if:
If you are pregnant and have genital herpes, it is important to talk to your doctor. Some research has shown that genital herpes could lead to miscarriage, or it could increase your chances of delivering your baby too early. Herpes infection can be passed from you to your unborn child before birth, but it is much more common for you to pass it to your baby during delivery. If the virus is passed to your baby during delivery, it could lead to brain damage or eye problems. At the time of delivery, your doctor will examine you for any signs of herpes sores and may recommend a c-section to avoid passing the virus on to your baby during delivery.
A doctor can typically diagnose genital herpes after evaluating your symptoms and possibly doing a physical exam. There are also test available to help in diagnosing genital herpes.
There is not a cure for genital herpes. Genital Herpes can be treated with prescription antiviral medications. Treatment with this type of medication may:
The antiviral medications used to treat genital herpes include:
Treatment for genital herpes differs, whether it is your initial outbreak or a recurrence.
Because genital herpes can be diagnosed by a simple review of your medical history, sexual history, and symptoms, genital herpes can be diagnosed and treated by an online doctor.
Learning that you have genital herpes can be a shock and cause a variety of emotions. You may feel angry with your partner thinking they gave you the virus, or you may fear rejection by your partner or future partners. It is extremely normal to feel this way, and there are several healthy ways to cope with your diagnosis. It is critical to communicate with your partner and have open and honest conversations about how you feel. Trust your partner, and don’t play the blame game. Because genital herpes can lie dormant in your body for years, it is complicated to determine exactly when you became infected. It is important to educate yourself by talking with your doctor or other health care professional to learn how to live with it and what you can do to reduce your symptoms and risk of infecting others. It may also help to join a support group, such as Wisdo so that you can talk about your experience and emotions and learn from others going through the same thing. It may help seek out professional counseling or online therapy if you are having a difficult time coping with your condition or noticing signs of depression.
We have reviewed many online therapy providers, and one that we trust and highly recommend is Talkspace. Talkspace will connect you with a licensed therapist specializing in treating the symptoms you might be feeling, such as anxiety or shame caused by your having to live with herpes. They treat individuals, couples, and even teens dealing with the emotional effects of genital herpes.
We are all busy with many things on our plate, and dealing with a genital herpes outbreak is an unwanted interruption in life. Taking the first step can be difficult and uncomfortable, especially when it involves an awkward doctor's visit. With the advances in telemedicine, you can set up an appointment with an online doctor, and this provides you with discreet, convenient medical care, all from the comfort of your own home. Some online digital clinics can even ship your prescription treatment plan directly to your door in discreet packaging. Don’t let a herpes outbreak slow you down; check out our list of the top digital clinics so you can keep on living life to the fullest by getting treatment today.