GENITAL HERPES - Watsons Health

GENITAL HERPES

Genital herpes is a common sexually-transmitted disease caused by a virus that infects genital areas.  It is caused by herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) through sexual contact.  After the initial infection, the virus lies dormant in your body and can reactivate several times a year.

There is no cure for genital herpes, but medications are available that can treat outbreaks, minimize the symptoms, and decrease recurrences.

Genital herpes facts:

  • There is no “safe” sex.
  • Condoms do not necessarily prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Many people are infected with herpes virus and are not aware of the infection.
  • The herpes virus is spread by direct person-to-person contact.
  • An infected person may transmit the virus to others even if no symptoms are present.

Most people who’ve been infected with HIV don’t know they have the infection because they have no signs or symptoms or because their signs and symptoms are so mild.

When present, the symptoms of genital herpes include:

  • Cracked, raw, or red areas around your genitals without pain, itching, or tingling.
  • Itching or tingling around your genitals or your anal region.
  • Small blisters that break open and cause painful sores. These may be on or around your genitals (penis or vagina) or on your buttocks, thighs, or rectal area. More rarely, blisters may occur inside the urethra — the tube urine passes through on its way out of your body.
  • Pain from urine passing over the sores — this is especially a problem in women.
  • Headaches
  • Backaches
  • Flu-like symptoms, including fever, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue.

DIAGNOSIS

Your doctor may be able to diagnose genital herpes from your medical history and a physical exam, especially if the herpes sores are typical in appearance.  Additionally, they can perform the following tests:

  • Viral culture. This test involves taking a tissue sample or scraping of the sores for examination in the laboratory.
  • Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test. PCR is used to copy your DNA from a sample of your blood, tissue from a sore or spinal fluid. The DNA can then be tested to establish the presence of HSV and determine which type of HSV you have.
  • Blood test. This test analyzes a sample of your blood for the presence of HSV antibodies to detect a past herpes infection.

 

RECOMMENDED MEDICATIONS

Antiviral medicines are the recommended treatment for genital herpes. They can relieve the pain and discomfort of blisters and sores and speed healing.

These medicines also decrease the number of days you can spread the virus (are contagious).

Medicine choices

  • Antiviral medicines, such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), and valacyclovir (Valtrex), are recommended for treating primary genital herpes outbreaks. This medicine can be taken when an outbreak occurs. It can also be taken every day to help prevent outbreaks.
  • Nonprescription medicines, such as ibuprofen (Advil) and acetaminophen (Tylenol), may reduce the pain and fever from genital herpes.

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