What is Genital Herpes?
Genital herpes is a highly contagious viral infection often referred to as a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), the virus usually responsible for cold sores, which can be characterised by painful blisters and can affect any mucous membrane including the genital area and mouth.
How do I get Genital Herpes?
The virus is transferred from one person to another through direct physical contact with the blisters on the infected area or can be sexually transmitted if you have sex with an infected person.
What are the symptoms?
Eight out of ten people infected with the virus will not have any symptoms. However, those that exhibit symptoms can have:
- Small blisters that eventually burst and leave red, open sores around your
genitals, rectum, thighs and buttocks.
- In women - blisters and ulcers around the cervix and vaginal discharge
- Pain on urination
- General aches, pains and feeling unwell.
These symptoms can lasts up to 20 days.
Symptoms for subsequent outbreaks are usually milder as your body produces antibodies to the virus. After the first episode some people may experience warning signs that an outbreak is coming. If you experience these symptoms you should seek treatment immediately.
Warning signs may include a tingling, burning or itching sensation around the genital area or sometimes down
your leg. Following this blisters may appear that are red and painful and soon burst, leaving open sores.
Women may also get blisters and ulcers around the cervix.
How do I treat Genital Herpes?
Genital herpes is a long-term condition with no cure. Once you have had the infection, it can stay dormant in your body for years and be activated at any time, causing another outbreak. Aciclovir and Valaciclovir are antiviral medicines that can help to control the outbreaks by reducing the pain, severity and duration of genital herpes episodes. The longer you have the virus, it will activate less frequently and each outbreak will be less severe.
Valaciclovir is converted to Aciclovir in the body. Valaciclovir has a longer duration of action than Aciclovir, so less
frequent dosing is required. Both medications should be taken for 5 days to treat an outbreak.
Suppression therapy should be reassessed every 6 to 12 months.