Genital herpes is a very common STI caused by the virus Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). It affects 1 in 8 Australians.
There are two types of the virus – HSV-1 and HSV-2. Both types can cause genital herpes. HSV-2 more commonly causes genital herpes but HSV-1 can cause genital herpes, spread via oral sex. HSV-1 most commonly causes cold sores.
HSV is spread by skin-to-skin contact during genital and oral sex. Unfortunately, using a condom does not guarantee complete protection against acquiring genital herpes.
The symptoms of genital herpes usually consist of painful blisters on the genital area – vulva (lips of the vagina), vagina, penis and anus – but sometimes on the buttocks, groin, inner thigh and perineum (the part between the genitals and the anus). The blisters burst and become painful ulcers which usually heal within 7 – 10 days.
Symptoms occur intermittently as outbreaks.
Unfortunately genital herpes symptoms may present differently in different people, from severe symptoms to none at all. Other symptoms of genital herpes include tingling, itching, redness, and cracks or splits in the skin.
Genital herpes is diagnosed by a swab, taken at the time of symptoms.
A blood test is available, however it is not very accurate and is not routinely performed.
Unfortunately, herpes cannot currently be cured. However, there is very effective medication to control and treat outbreaks (episodic treatment) and even prevent outbreaks from happening in the first place (suppressive treatment).
Genital herpes is usually passed on to sexual partners at and around the time of an outbreak, however rarely it can be passed on even when no symptoms are present, via what is known as asymptomatic shedding.
Unfortunately, having genital herpes usually causes much anxiety and worry. It is advisable to see your Doctor at Northside Clinic to have a thorough discussion about it’s treatment and spread, or if you have genital herpes and are pregnant.
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