How do you know if you have genital herpes? And once diagnosed, what can you do to prevent outbreaks?
Genital herpes, caused by the herpes simplex virus, affects 1 out of every 5 women in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 49. It is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD) in the country.
There are two types of infections. Type 2 causes most genital herpes. Type 1 most commonly causes cold sores and mouth blisters, but it can also cause outbreaks on the genitals. Most people who are infected with herpes don’t know it, mainly because they have minimal to no noticeable symptoms.
How Is it Transmitted?
Genital herpes is transmitted mainly through sexual contact with an infected person. This may include vaginal, anal or oral sex, or any skin-to-skin contact with an open sore. However, it is possible to catch genital herpes from someone with no open sores. It can also be passed from the mother to the child during childbirth or breastfeeding, if the child has contact with an open sore.
What Are the Symptoms?
A few days after transmission, you may notice small red bumps on either your mouth or genitals. Eventually these sores crust over then heal, but outbreaks may continue to occur.
Additional symptoms include:
- Abdominal pressure
- Flu-like symptoms
- Itching or burning in the genital area
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Vaginal discharge
These symptoms typically show up within the first two weeks after infection. Symptoms usually are milder with each subsequent outbreak, but women with compromised immune systems, such as those infected with HIV, may have prolonged, severe symptoms.
How Is it Diagnosed?
If you suspect you have been infected, your first step is to visit your doctor. They will test fluid from the sore or blister, or take a blood sample. They may also be able to diagnose you just by looking at the sores, but lab tests can be performed if you do not have an outbreak.
How Is it Treated?
Sadly, there is no cure for genital herpes. However, in an effort to reduce outbreaks and their associated symptoms, your doctor can prescribe antiviral medication.
You can help your body heal by keeping sores clean and dry during an outbreak. Always wash your hands after touching the sores. Do not engage in any sexual contact until the sores have healed.
If You Have Genital Herpes …
If you’ve been diagnosed, follow these guidelines:
- Take all of your medication, even if your symptoms have gone away.
- Disclose your diagnosis with your sexual partner(s) so they can get the testing and treatment they need.
- During treatment or during an outbreak, do not have sex.
If you have any symptoms of genital herpes, call Rocky Mountain Women’s Health Center and set up an appointment. Get the personal care you need to take care of your body and reduce your discomfort during an outbreak. We are here for you.