Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection which causes sores to develop in the genital area. The herpes simplex virus causes genital herpes, which is also responsible for the development of cold sores around the corners of the mouth.
Genital herpes is a lifelong condition with no cure and the virus will remain in the body forever. However, symptoms come and go and there are treatments available to ease these. The spread of genital herpes is by means of intimate contact and sexual intercourse, and the infection is spread most easily when sores are present.
Signs and Symptoms
Many sexually transmitted infections do not cause obvious symptoms and this is why regular testing is so important. On the other hand, most cases of genital herpes are easily diagnosed due to the presence of small red bumps or sores around the genital areas. Additional symptoms include vaginal discharge, high temperature, generally feeling unwell and pain urinating. In many cases, symptoms do not develop for a long period of time after contact with the virus, so if you think you may have genital herpes or you have had unprotected sex, it is a good idea to get tested just to be sure.
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The herpes simplex virus remains in the body for life and there is no cure for genital herpes. However, there are treatments that can ease symptoms and these tend to flare up occasionally – rather than an individual suffering from symptoms permanently. In the case of a primary infection (the first time you develop symptoms), a form of an antiviral medication called acyclovir is usually prescribed. In the case of recurrent infections, a longer course of acyclovir may be recommended and your doctor may also advise lifestyle changes and self-help techniques to reduce symptoms.
Preventing Genital Herpes
Many people focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies when they think of contraception – but it is equally important to think about your sexual health. The only way to prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections is to use condoms. Other methods such as the pill do not offer any protection against infections. The only real way of preventing genital herpes is to abstain from sex.
However, if you do wish to engage in sexual relationships and you have been diagnosed with genital herpes, ensure that you avoid sexual contact while you have sores or blisters. Regular sexual health tests are advisable for anyone having a sexual relationship. The tests are quick, simple and nothing to feel embarrassed or nervous about. Tests can be carried out for a range of infections and if the test result is positive, treatment can be arranged as quickly as possible, thus reducing the risk of complications and preventing the spread of the infection to others.