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Genital herpes: Treatment, symptoms, advice and help

About genital herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease, which is caused by virus Herpes simplex-1 and Herpes simplex-2. Genital herpes is highly infectious and can be transmitted from person to person.

Genital herpes: Incidence, age and sex

Genital herpes is one of the common sexually transmitted conditions. It is more common in young adults who are sexually active, with a higher frequency in women as compared to men.

Signs and symptoms of genital herpes: Diagnosis

The clinical features of genital herpes may appear within 2 weeks after exposure (history of sexual contact) and characterised by small and painful blisters over the genital area. These blisters are filled with clear fluid and seen on the penis, or the scrotum in men and on outer lips of the vagina, or the cervix in women. Blisters may also occur around the anal region, the thighs and the buttocks in both men and women. These blisters may later dry up and form crusts which heal within a few weeks. Affected individuals may experience pain during micturition and women may complain of vaginal discharge. Other features are generalised and include fever, body ache and decreased appetite.

The herpes virus cannot be completely eliminated from the body and remains dormant after treatment. It can be activated later due to physical trauma, mental stress and exhaustion. This phenomenon can result in multiple outbreaks of infection.

A detailed physical examination of the affected individual usually reveals swollen and inflamed lymph nodes in the inguinal region. Fluid from blisters can be cultured to isolate the organism and establish the diagnosis.

Causes and prevention of genital herpes

Genital herpes is caused by virus Herpes simplex-1 and Herpes simplex-2 out of which Herpes simplex-2 is most common. This infection is transmitted through sexual contact. It can spread even in absence of symptoms.

Some preventive measures like using condom during sexual intercourse, avoidance of oral sex and multiple partners may diminish the spread of herpes infection.

Genital herpes: Complications

Genital herpes is a grave infection which can spread to other body parts like brain, liver and eyes in individuals who have a weak immune system or in whom the infection has not been timely managed. This viral infection can be secondarily infected with bacteria. Genital herpes in pregnant women can result in premature birth and spread of infection to the baby. However it is seldom encountered.

Genital herpes: Treatment

Unfortunately, genital herpes cannot be effectively cured since no medications are available to completely eliminate the virus from body. Antiviral medications like Acyclovir, Famciclovir and Valacyclovir may be prescribed which helps in pain relief and prevents further outbreaks. These drugs can also be given to pregnant women who are afflicted with genital herpes. Caesarean section is preferred over vaginal delivery in such cases to prevent spread of genital herpes to the baby. Topical antibiotic ointment may help in preventing secondary bacterial infection. Genital herpes is a long lasting infection with periods of remission and relapse.