What is Herpes

Being told that you have genital herpes may sound like the end of the world – but it isn’t. Genital herpes is surprisingly common and millions of people live perfectly normal lives with it every day.

Genital herpes is a common infection caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV). It causes painful blisters on the genitals and the surrounding areas. Herpes is a chronic condition which means that the virus remains in your body and can become active from time to time. The average rate of recurrence is four to five times in the first two years after being infected. However, over time genital herpes becomes active less frequently and each outbreak becomes less severe.

How can you catch Herpes?

Herpes is a sexually transmitted disease passed on through intimate sexual contact. Blisters on the mouth, commonly called cold sores, are another form of Herpes which can be passed on by kissing.

Herpes the tell-tale signs

Herpes symptoms vary from person to person but include:

  • painful red blisters that appear around your genitals, rectum, thighs and buttocks
  • blisters and ulcers on the cervix in women
  • vaginal discharge in women
  • pain when you pass urine
  • a high temperature
  • a general feeling of being unwell, with aches and pains

Herpes symptoms may last up to 20 days. However, the sores will eventually scab and heal without scarring.

What to do

At the first signs of genital herpes, make an appointment to see your doctor or visit a sexually transmitted diseases facility. You should also stop taking part in any sexual activity until the blisters have fully healed. You should also avoid sharing towels or flannels with others to ensure that you do not spread the virus.

Herpes treatment

Like flu, Herpes will get better by itself, and outbreaks will often clear up even if no treatment is given. However, if the symptoms are severe you should see your doctor to be on the safe side.

If your doctor decides treatment is required it will depend on whether you have the infection for the first time (a primary infection) or your symptoms keep coming back (a recurrent outbreak).

For primary infections doctors often prescribe antiviral tablets which prevent the virus multiplying. While with recurrent outbreaks where the symptoms are mild, your doctor may suggest things you can do at home, like cleaning the infected area with salt water or applying antiseptic cream.

There are also a number of herpes creams on the market which sooth discomfort and help stop blisters forming. Again, your Doctor can advise you on herpes cream treatment.

Don't let Herpes rule your life

In the vast majority of cases, genital herpes sounds a lot worse than it turns out to be. Millions of people live with it every day, taking the necessary precautions allows them not to let it ruin their lives, or those of their loved ones.

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