Personal Health: Genital Herpes
What Is It?
Genital herpes symptoms include painful, fluid-filled sores on the rectum, genitals, and, potentially, on the mouth. Before these sores appear, men and women with the disease often experience a tingling sensation around the thighs, buttocks, and genitalia. The sores and accompanying symptoms come and go.
Genital herpes (HSV-2) is similar to oral herpes (HSV-1), but there are important differences as well. Both are caused by the herpes simplex virus. HSV-1 typically results in cold sores around the mouth, but can sometimes be spread to the genitals. HSV-2 is more often spread through sexual contact, though it can also be spread to the mouth. Both types of HSV are quite prevalent. In the US, as many as 90% of the adult population has HSV-1, and about one out of every six people between 14 and 49 years of age has HSV-2.
Is it Dangerous?
HSV-2 can increase the likelihood for other health risks to occur. Pregnant women with the condition should inform their doctors, as it presents several dangers to the child, including miscarriage, premature birth, and the spread from mother to child of a potentially deadly infection known as neonatal herpes. Additionally, because herpes sores can bleed easily, they increase the risk of spreading or contracting HIV if either sexual partner is HIV-positive.
What Should I Do?
Genital herpes cannot be cured. However there are ways to minimize the symptoms of the condition, as well as ways to reduce the risk of spreading the disorder to others. Talk to your doctor about your infection, and ask about medication that can shorten or even prevent outbreaks.
You can still be sexually active with an HSV-2 infection. It’s important to tell your partner, as well as the risks involved. Condoms reduce the risk of spreading HSV-2, but do not eliminate the risk, as uncovered body parts can still spread the virus. Although the risk of spreading HSV-2 increases during an outbreak, the disease can still be spread while it is dormant.