Genital Herpes: The Facts You Need To Know

Genital Herpes

It is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex virus(HSV). It can cause pain, itching, and sores in your genital area. The initial symptoms of genital herbs are often painful and contagious, even if you have no visible sores.

Genital herpes can’t be cured but can ease your symptoms by reducing the risk of genital infection. In addition, the use of condoms can help you prevent genital herpes from spreading.

What Percentage Of Population Has Genital Herpes?

It is estimated that around two-thirds of the world population under the age of 50(3.7 billion people) are found infected with HSV-1, a herpes virus that causes cold sores.

Approximately 24 million men and women in the U.S are infected with genital herpes caused by HSV-2. It is estimated that 70% of the cases are caused by HSV-2; this indicates that 776,000 new cases of HSV-2 infection occur every year.

HSV-2 infection mainly occurs in women(around 1 out of 5 women) compared with men(around 1 out of 9 men), says the WHO. This can be because the virus gets transmitted more efficiently from male-to-female as compared to female-to-male transmission.

HSV-2 infection is mostly found in blacks(39.2%) when compared with whites(12.3%) because of the high rate of sexually transmitted disease(STD) prevalence in African-American communities.

As per a study conducted in March 2020, 5% of the world’s population which means 187 million people suffer from at least one episode of herpes. 

How Does Genital Herpes Make You Feel?

The genital herpes symptoms are often not noticeable and may begin about 2 to 12 days after getting exposed to the virus. Here are some experienced symptoms of genital herpes:-

  • Pain or itching: Sensation of pain and tenderness in the genital areas until the infection gets treated.
  • Small red bumps or tiny white blisters may appear around your genitals, such as the cervix(lower part of the womb) after a few days or a few weeks after getting infected.
  • Ulcers: The rupture of blisters causes an abscess and may give you pain while urinating.
  • Scabs, flu-like symptoms

The genital symptoms can go by themselves and become inactive in the body, and therefore it may come back; this is called recurrent outbreaks. However, it often becomes less severe and active as your body had an experience of fighting the infection in the past.

A tingling, burning sensation around the genitals or down your legs are the signs of the frequent herpes outbreak. Try not to have sexual intercourse if you are experiencing the herpes outbreak, as it can be more infectious in this situation.

At the initial stage of a herpes outbreak, people may also experience flu symptoms, swollen lymph nodes in the groin, headache, muscle aches, and fever.

Sore occurs when the infection enters the body by touching it and then rubbing your hands around the different parts of the body, including the eyes.

Both men and women develop soreness on:-

  • Buttocks and thighs
  • Anus
  • Mouth
  • Urethra 

Genital herpes women:-

  • Vaginal area
  • External genitals
  • Cervix

Genital herpes in men:-

  • Penis 
  • Scrotum

How Does Genital Herpes Begin?

Two types of herpes are responsible for the cause of genital herpes, which is as follows:-

  • HSV-1: It is responsible for the cause of cold sores or fever blisters around the mouth. It is often spread through skin-to-skin contact or sexual contact- oral sex. Recurrence is found less in the case of HSV-1 as compared to HSV-2 infection.
  • HSV-2: It is a type of herpes that causes genital herpes and spread through sexual contact, skin-to-skin contact, and is highly contagious irrespective of the presence of an open sore.

The virus cannot survive outside the body, and therefore it is impossible to get infected through the toilet, towels, or things used by an infected person.

Who Is At Risk For Getting Herpes?

There are some factors that can increase the risk of developing genital herpes infection, such as:-

  • The virus of genital herpes gets transmitted more easily from men to women than from women to men. Therefore, women are more likely to have genital herpes.
  • Having a multiple-sex partner will increase the risk of developing the virus that causes genital herpes.

Can Genital Herpes Cause Long-Term Health Problems?

Leaving genital herpes untreated can lead to the risk of developing the following health complications:-

  • Sexual Transmitted Infection(STI): Getting infected with genital herpes increases the risk of transmitting or contracting other sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS. Therefore it is recommended not to have any sexual contact if infected with genital herpes.
  • Newborn Infection: Newborn infants may get infected with genital herpes if the mother is exposed to genital infection. It may also result in brain damage, blindness, or death.
  • Bladder Problems: genital herpes causes sores that cause inflammation around a tube that delivers urine from the bladder to the urethra. The swelling may close the urethra requiring the insertion of a catheter to drain your bladder.
  • Meningitis: HSV infection causes inflammation of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
  • Rectal inflammation(proctitis): Genital herpes also results in inflammation of the rectum lining, particularly in men who have sex with men.

How Do Doctors Test For Genital Herpes?

The genital herpes tests depend on the prevailing physical conditions and the results of a few laboratory tests like:-

  • Viral Culture: It involves examining the tissue sample of the sores.
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction(PCR) Test: It is a test that examines the genital infection from the sample of DNA from the blood, It also signifies the presence of HSV and its type.
  • Blood Tests: It is performed to check the presence of HSV antibiotics to detect past herpes infections.

Can Genital Herpes Just Go Away?

There is no such specific kind of treatment for genital herpes; some antiviral medications may help you in the procedure. 

  • Heals sores during their initial stage
  • Decreases the severity and duration of symptoms in recurrent outbreaks.
  • Reduces the chance of recurrence
  • Minimizes the possibility of transmitting the infection

Medications used for treating genital herpes are:-

How To Prevent Yourself From Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes comes under the group of sexually transmitted diseases, and its preventive measures are the same as other sexually transmitted diseases, such as:-

  • Abstain from any sexual activity with an infected person.
  • Develop a habit of using latex condoms during sexual intercourse.
  • Avoid any sexual contact if either of the partners has an outbreak of herpes in the genital areas.

How Common Are Herpes Recurrences?

The risk of recurrence of genital herpes varies from person to person. The signs and symptoms may recur off and on for years and also experience numerous episodes every year. In some cases, the outbreaks are less frequent and may cause the following symptoms:-

  • Burning, tingling, and itching problems around the infected places in the body.
  • Pain in the lower back, buttocks, and legs. 

However, recurrences are often less painful than the original outbreak, and the sores generally heal quickly as your body becomes familiar with the way of dealing with the infection.


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Janet Fudge

Janet Fudge writes on general health topics for She holds a post-graduate diploma in Public Health with a major in epidemiology. During the outbreak of COVID-19, Janet actively volunteered in vaccination drives throughout the state of Iowa. She lives in Iowa with her husband and two children.