Genital herpes, also known as herpes simplex virus (HSV), is a viralinfection that affects nearly 1,600,000 new individuals each year. Approximately45 million Americans are currently infected with genital herpes.
What are the symptoms of genital herpes?
In most cases there are usually no symptoms. Many people have herpesand do not know it. Some people experience painful blisters or soresaround the genital area (HSV-2).
Can genital herpes lead to other problems?
There is no cure for genital herpes, which means that once you contractit, it is a life-long infection. Genital herpes makes you more susceptibleto HIV. Some people will experience blisters or sores which come backthroughout the years. Genital herpes may be spread to a baby duringpregnancy or childbirth leading to serious health problems.
How is genital herpes transmitted?
Genital herpes is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact which in mostcases is through sexual activity including oral, anal, vaginal intercourse,and outercourse. Genital herpes may be transmitted even if someonedoes not have visible sores or blisters. HSV-1, the herpes virus thatnormally causes sores in the mouth or on the lips, may be spread fromthe mouth to the genital area through oral sex. There are primarilytwo different ways that genital herpes may be transmitted:
- Sexual activity which includes oral, anal, vaginal intercourse,and outercourse
- Mother to baby during pregnancy or birth
How is genital herpes diagnosed?
Genital herpes may be diagnosed by your healthcare provider. Genitalherpes is diagnosed by one of three ways:
- Pelvic exam
- Culture of blisters or sores if present
- Blood test (usually not done)
What is the treatment for genital herpes?
Currently there is no cure for genital herpes; however, there aremedications that may be used to manage the symptoms and decrease thefrequency of outbreaks.
Can genital herpes be prevented?
There are only two ways to prevent genital herpes. The first is torefrain from sexual contact of any kind. The second is to be in along-term monogamous relationship, such as marriage, with a personwho has not had any other sexual partners.
The use of condoms does reduce the risk of transmission of genitalherpes, but it does not prevent it. According to a study presentedat the 2002 National STD Prevention Conference, there is a 40% riskof reduction by using condoms.
Compiled using information from the following sources:
1 Wald, A, Langengerg, A., Kexl E,Izu AE, Ashely R, and Corey L, “Condoms protect men and women againstHerpes Simplex Virus Type 2, Abstract, 2002 National STD PreventionConference, San Diego, CA, March 4-7, 2002.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,http:// www.cdc.gov
Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Women. Faro, Sebastian, Ch. 9.