Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2).

What are the symptoms of genital Herpes?

Primary infection

The symptoms of genital herpes for the first time include:

  • small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around your genitals, rectum (back passage), thighs and buttocks
  • blisters and ulcers on the cervix (lower part of the womb) in women
  • vaginal discharge in women
  • pain when you pass urine
  • a general feeling of being unwell, with aches, pains and flu-like symptoms

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

Recurrent infections

although the initial symptoms of genital herpes clear up, the virus remains dormant (inactive) in a nearby nerve. The virus may be reactivated from time to time, travelling back down the nerve to your skin and causing recurrent outbreaks.

Symptoms of a recurrent outbreak may include:

  • A tingling, burning or itching sensation around your genitals, and sometimes down your leg, before blisters appear 
  • Painful red blisters that soon burst to leave sores around your genitals, rectum (back passage), thighs and buttocks
  • Blisters and ulcers on the cervix (lower part of the womb) in women

What are the complications of Genital Herpes?

Ulcers: Genital herpes causes painful genital ulcers in many adults that can be severe. Can be persistent in persons with suppressed immune systems, such as someone infected with HIV.

Other results: Can also cause rare but serious complications such as blindness, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), and aseptic meningitis (inflammation of the linings of the brain).

When should I get tested for Genital Herpes?

1-2 months after a potential exposure, waiting this long to get tested ensures the reliability of results. 

How is Genital Herpes diagnosed?

Blood tests and cell culture sample from a sore are the most common tests. Blood tests are more reliable as they can give results even if you do not have symptoms. 

What is the treatment for Genital Herpes?

There is no cure for herpes. Antiviral medications can however, prevent or shorten outbreaks during the period of time the person takes the medication. In addition, daily suppressive therapy (i.e. daily use of antiviral medication) for herpes can reduce the likelihood of transmission to partners.