What is Genital Herpes ?
Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections with around 20,000 cases diagnosed in genitourinary medicine clinics in the UK every year. It is caused by a virus called herpes simplex which can spread if you have vaginal, anal or oral sex. The condition can be stressful and painful so effective and early treatment is important. There are two types of the virus, known as herpes simplex virus one and two - which are found on the mouth, nose, eyes, fingers, hands, and on the genital and anal area.
The first episode tends to be more severe than recurrent episodes. Often there are warning signs like tingling, although some people may have no symptoms, but once you have the virus it can remain in the body.
Symptoms of Genital Herpes
It can take from two days, to several weeks or longer, after coming in contact with the virus before signs and symptoms appear. In most people it takes 3 - 4 days.
Many people will have no symptoms, or not aware of them.
Those who do have symptoms may have the following:
- small, fluid-filled blisters anywhere in the genital or anal area which quickly burst leaving small red sores which can be painful.
Other symptoms that may occur:
- stinging, tingling, or itching in the genital area
- feeling generally unwell with flu-like symptoms such as fever, tiredness, headache, swollen glands, aches and pains in the lower back legs and groin
- pain passing urine
Testing for Genital Herpes
In most cases the Doctor can tell if you have herpes simplex just by looking, a swab is used to collect a sample of fluid from the infected area and the Doctor may need to break a blister gently to get a sample of the fluid inside. It only takes a few seconds.
Treatment for Genital Herpes
There is a range of antiviral drugs, taken as tablets, that will reduce the severity of an attack. Although there is not yet a cure, early treatment may give fast relief,
as the first episode of genital herpes can be quite severe. Genital herpes is caused by a virus and not bacteria so antibiotics will not help.
There are several things that can ease the discomfort and speed up the healing process:
- A cool shower may help to sooth the sores.
- Bathing in a warm, salted water can also help.
- Drink extra fluids
- Wear loose clothing
- Take mild painkillers if needed, or as recommended by the Doctor.
There are no treatments to treat genital herpes available without prescription. If pregnant, or trying to become pregnant, tell the Doctor.
Prevention of Genital Herpes
Different people find different triggers bring on an episode, if you notice a pattern, there may be something you can do about it.
Common triggers can be:
- being ill, run down, tired stressed
- a particular time in the menstrual cycle
- friction from sex
- ultraviolet light on the affected skin area
- sunbathing, tight clothing, nylon or Lycra underwear
- alcohol or smoking.
Recurrences may eventually stop but could take several years. If you have genital herpes you may want to discuss it with your current partner. If you do not tell future partners,
be sure to protect them from contact with the part of the body affected when the symptoms are there or you can feel them starting.
Complications of Genital Herpes
If the first episode of genital herpes occurs in the first three months of pregnancy, there is a very small risk of miscarriage. Having the first episode when the baby is due can be serious, because in a small number of cases the virus can be passed on to the baby during vaginal delivery. This can cause severe problems for the baby. In cases like these a caesarean birth is recommended.
Recurrent attacks are not uncommon. The frequency of recurrences may be reduced by long-term treatment with anti-viral drugs.
Occasionally severe discomfort passing urine during an episode makes some people stop passing urine, this may cause retention of urine. Inform your doctor as a catheter is sometimes needed to relieve this problem.
I May Have Genital Herpes
If you have any concerns relating to this condition, or any conditions described on this website, please contact the Sunshine Clinic
by telephone to arrange an appointment with Dr Sood,
on 0845 505 0552
or use the contact form