Genital Herpes in Women

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

Learn the symptoms of genital herpes.

Genital Herpes Symptoms

Genital herpes is a common condition affecting around 45 million people in the U.S. The herpes viruses responsible for genital herpes (herpes simplex virus type 2, or HSV-2; and, less commonly, herpes simplex virus type 1 or HSV-1) are transmitted through close personal contact such as sexual contact.

Quick GuideSexually Transmitted Diseases: HPV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Herpes, HIV

Sexually Transmitted Diseases: HPV, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, Herpes, HIV

Genital herpes in women facts

  • Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).
  • Herpes simplex virus causes genital herpes by entering the skin or mucous membranes through microscopic breaks in the skin and mucous membranes.
  • There are 2 types of HSV:
    • Herpes simples virus-1, that typically causes cold sores, and
    • Herpes simples virus-2, that typically causes genital herpes.
    • Either herpes simplex virus type can cause sores on the genital areas.
  • Genital herpes is transmitted by any type of sexual contact with the genital area.
  • When symptoms are present, they may include
    • painful blisters and/or ulcers in the genital area,
    • itching, and
    • burning or tingling sensations in the skin.
  • With the initial (first) genital herpes infection some individuals may develop symptoms of
  • Genital herpes symptoms come and go over the person's lifetime due to reactivations of the virus.
  • Diagnosis is usually done by recognizing the skin changes in the genital area but viral cultures, genetic amplification of herpes simplex virus genome material and other tests may be done.
  • There is no cure for genital herpes, but there are medications to make living with genital herpes more manageable.
  • Antiviral medications are used to reduce the severity and frequency of genital herpes.
  • Genital herpes symptoms usually develop about four days after exposure to an infected person.
  • Some natural and home remedies may help relieve and soothe symptoms severity, but provide no cure.
  • Oral antiviral medications may be used in pregnancy. Check with your OB/GYN before taking any medications if you are pregnant.
  • The prognosis of genital herpes is variable: there is no cure, and the recurrent outbreaks may vary in frequency and severity.
  • Genital herpes prevention is difficult. Condoms may prevent the disease spread during sex, but not in areas of skin not covered by a condom or during oral to genital contact.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/25/2016

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