Genital Herpes in Women

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Genital herpes in women facts

  • Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV).
  • HSV causes genital herpes by entering the skin or mucous membranes through microscopic breaks in the skin and mucous membranes.
  • 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, burning or tingling sensations in the skin and some individuals may develop fever, body aches and swollen lymph nodes; symptoms come and go over the person's lifetime.
  • Diagnosis is usually done by recognizing the skin changes in the genital area but viral cultures, genetic amplification of HSV genome material and other tests may be done.
  • There is no cure for genital herpes.
  • Antiviral medications are used to reduce the severity and frequency of genital herpes.
  • Some home remedies may help reduce symptom severity, but provide no cure.
  • Oral antiviral medications may be used in pregnancy; check with your OB/GYN doctor before taking any medications if you are pregnant.
  • The prognosis of genital herpes is fair; 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. Clothing that touches genital skin ulcers may transmit HSV to others that wear the clothing.

What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by an infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV. HSV-1 is most commonly associated with blistering lesions around the mouth known as cold sores. HSV-2 is associated with blistering lesions in genital areas that are exposed during sexual contact. However, both types of HSV can infect the mouth or the genital areas. After the initial outbreak of herpes, the virus travels through the nerves and resides in nerve tissue within the body. Reactivations, or repeat occurrences of the blisters, can occur throughout an individual's lifetime. Up to 50 million people in the U.S. are likely to have a genital herpes infection. Among people aged 14 to 49, an estimated 1 out of every 6 people have the infection.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/15/2013

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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.


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