Genital herpes is among the most common STDs and 1 in 6 people age 18-49 have genital herpes.. Most infected people do not even know they have contracted it. The most obvious sign of a herpes infection is the recurrent, painful genital and/or anal lesions, commonly known as herpes blisters. These lesions are often described as sores, blisters, vesicles or ulcers.
Causes of Herpes
Genital herpes is most commonly caused by the HSV-2 virus, commonly referred to as Herpes 2. However, as reported by the CDC: “Most genital herpes infections in the United States are caused by HSV-2; however genital HSV-1 infections are increasing among college students and other populations.” This trend is creating a higher need for testing for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 when genital herpes is suspected.
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How is Herpes Transmitted?
Herpes is most commonly transmitted through vaginal, anal and oral sex. The virus is present in the sores associated with herpes, contact with that fluid is the most common way that genital herpes is spread. The herpes virus can also be transmitted through the skin of persons that do not have outwards signs (blisters) of the HSV virus.
- Herpes can be transmitted through vaginal sex
- Herpes can be transmitted through oral sex
- Herpes can be transmitted through anal sex
- Herpes can be transmitted with the use of a condom.
What Are the Symptoms of Herpes?
Most people who have herpes have no, or very mild symptoms. You may not notice mild symptoms or you may mistake them for another skin condition, such as a pimple or ingrown hair. Because of this, most people who have herpes do not know it.
Genital herpes sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals, rectum or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take weeks to heal. These symptoms are sometimes called “having an outbreak.” The first time someone has an outbreak they may also have flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches, or swollen glands.
Repeat outbreaks of genital herpes are common, especially during the first year after infection. Repeat outbreaks are usually shorter and less severe than the first outbreak. Although the infection can stay in the body for the rest of your life, the number of outbreaks tends to decrease over a period of years.
How is Herpes Treated?
There is no cure for herpes but there are several medicines that can decrease the length and severity of outbreaks. This in turn decreases the risk of transferring herpes to a sexual partner. Herpes is an infection that can only be monitored and controlled, ridding your body completely of the infection is beyond modern medicine. However it is still important to know your herpes status to prevent unnecessary and unknowingly spreading of the disease.
How Does a Herpes Test Work?
HSV-1 and HSV-2 are different strains of the same virus. To test for the HSV virus, a blood sample is required, then tested for the presence of the antibodies that your body uses to combat the virus. The presence of these antibodies indicates that a HSV virus is present in your blood stream. The test further identifies which strain either HSV-1 or HSV-2 has infected your blood stream.
What is the Link between Genital Herpes and HIV?
Genital herpes can cause sores or breaks in the skin or lining of the mouth, vagina, and rectum. The genital sores caused by herpes can bleed easily. When the sores come into contact with the mouth, vagina, or rectum during sex, they increase the risk of giving or getting HIV if you or your partner has HIV.
What is the Link between Genital Herpes and Oral Herpes?
Oral herpes (such as cold sores or fever blisters on or around the mouth) is usually caused by HSV-1. Most people are infected with HSV-1 during childhood from non-sexual contact. For example, people can get infected from a kiss from a relative or friend with oral herpes. More than half of the population in the U.S. has HSV-1, even if they don’t show any signs or symptoms. HSV-1 can also be spread from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex. This is why some cases of genital herpes are caused by HSV-1.
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