Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a highly contagious sexually transmitted infection caused by a strain of herpes simplex virus (HSV). Symptoms of genital herpes include pain, itch and sores in the genital area. There is no cure for infection that recurs and this may cause embarrassment and emotional distress. The spread of HSV can be prevented by taking steps to protect oneself and his/her sexual partner.

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​Genital herpes is common sexually transmitted infection affecting both men and women.

The virus primarily spreads through sexual contact. The infection does not spread through contact with toilet bowls, towels or other objects used by an infected person because the virus dies quickly outside of the body.

Persons infected with HSV may not be aware that they are infected because they may have mild symptoms or no symptoms.

The initial symptom of genital herpes usually is pain or itch in the genital area after exposure to an infected sexual partner.

Small, red blisters appear in the genital area which rupture becoming ulcers that ooze or bleed. Eventually, scabs form and the ulcers heal.

Causes

Two types of herpes simplex virus infections include:
  • ​HSV type 1 (HSV-1) that usually causes cold sores or blisters around the mouth which can be spread to the genital area through oral sex.
  • HSV type 2 (HSV-2) that commonly causes genital herpes which spreads through sexual contact and skin-to-skin contact.

Symptoms

The symptoms include:​
  • Small, red bumps, blisters or open sores (ulcers) in the genital, anal and sorrounding areas
  • Pain or itch around the genital area, buttocks or inner thighs
  • Pain while passing urine
  • Flu like symptoms such as headache, muscle aches and fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the groin.
In women, sores can erupt in the vaginal area, external genitals, buttocks, anus or cervix.

In men, sores can appear on the penis, scrotum, buttocks, anus or thighs.

Recurrences

The signs and symptoms may recur for years. While some may experience numerous episodes each year, the outbreaks usually get less frequent as time passes.

Outbreaks may be triggered by:
  • Stress
  • Menstruation
  • Illness
  • Surgery
  • Immune system suppression, from medications such as steroids or chemotherapy, or due to infections such as HIV/AIDS

Tests and diagnosis

These include:
  • Clinical examination
  • Tissue sampling from the blisters/early ulcers
  • Blood tests to confirm diagnosis.
  • Complications
  • Increased risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea andHIV/AIDS.
  • Newborn infection. A mother with open sores can spread the infection to her newborn as the baby passes through the birth passage during birth resulting in brain damage, blindness or death for the newborn.

Treatment

There is no cure for genital herpes.

However, oral antiviral medications are prescribed to help heal the sores and reduce the frequency of recurrences.

Prevention

The best way to prevent infection is to practice abstinence and to limit sexual contact to only one partner who is infection-free.

Other precautions include:​
  • Using a condom during each sexual contact.
  • Limiting the number of sex partners.
  • Avoiding intercourse if either partner has an outbreak of herpes in the genital area or anywhere else.
If you have an active infection:
  • Avoid having sex.
  • Keep the sores clean and dry.
  • Avoid touching the sores and wash your hands after contact with sores.
  • If you are pregnant, see your doctor immediately for further advice.
  • If you think you may have an STI, you can go for sexual health screening or HIV screening at:
DSC (Department of STI Control) Clinic
31 Kelantan Lane
#01-16, Singapore 200031
Tel: 6293 9648
Fax: 6299 4335
Website: www.dsc-clinic.sg

You can also get yourself tested for STIs or HIV/AIDS at Polyclinics, Private Clinics and hospitals.​

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