Genital herpes is a very contagious disease, that is normally transmitted through unprotected sex, when there’s direct contact with the liquid released by blisters from the herpes virus. The best way to prevent developing herpes is to avoid having sex with someone that presents herpes blisters and to use a condom, since it protects against skin-to-skin contact.
Before the blisters appear, some people can develop warning symptoms such as discomfort or burning pain when urinating, or even a mild itching or tenderness in the genital region. These warning symptoms do not always happen, but when they do, they may develop a few hours or even days before the blisters appear.
Photos of genital herpes
The main symptoms of genital herpes arise between 10 and 15 days after unprotected sex:
- Small groupings of blisters and wounds in the genital area, giving rise to small sore areas;
- Redness in the area;
- Itching and discomfort;
- Burning when urinating if the blisters are near the urethra;
- Burning and pain when you defecate, if the blisters are near the anus;
- Lumps in the groin.
In addition to these symptoms, other, more general, flu-like symptoms such as low fever, chills, headache, general malaise, loss of appetite, muscle pain and tiredness may be more common in the first bout of genital herpes or in severe cases where the blisters appear in great quantity, severely affecting the region of the genitals.
Genital herpes sores can also arise in the penis and vulva, and in the vagina, perianal region or anus, urethra or even in the cervix.
The diagnosis of genital herpes is carried out by the doctor on an assessment of symptoms presented, the appearance of blisters and painful, itchy patches in the genital area also being indicative of herpes. For the diagnosis to be confirmed, the doctor may ask for a serology test to be carried out in order to identify the virus, or a scrape of the infected area for laboratory analysis.
Genital herpes should be treated under the guidance of your gynecologist, urologist or general practitioner, and it is recommended you use antiviral drugs such as acyclovir or valacyclovir pills or ointments to relieve symptoms, prevent complications, decrease the rate of replication of the virus in the body and, consequently, reduce the risk of transmission to other people.
Since herpes blisters in the genital area can be quite painful, to help you get through the bout the doctor may also recommend using local anesthetic ointments or gels, such as lidocaine or xylocaine, which can help to moisturize your skin and anesthetize the affected area, therefore relieving pain and discomfort.
As the virus cannot be completely eliminated from your body, it is important for you to wash your hands thoroughly, not puncture the blisters and to use condoms in all sexual relationships, as this can prevent contamination of other people.