Millions of people are living with the herpes virus that causes genital herpes (herpes simplex virus [HSV]). Genital herpes can be caused by HSV-1 or HSV-2. You shouldn’t be embarrassed or delay seeking medical care if you experience symptoms. Most people get at least one sexually transmitted disease (STD) in their lifetime, and having herpes or STD is nothing to be ashamed of.
It is necessary to seek immediate medical treatment if you develop symptoms. Treatment can relieve the symptoms, alleviate outbreaks, and protect against the spread of infection to your sexual partner. Moreover, it is vital to inform your sexual partner if you have herpes virus. People who do not have any symptoms can also transmit the infection to their partner. Antiviral medications can help manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of transmission of HSV-2. With the right treatment and precautions, people with herpes can have relationships and live normal lives.
What is HSV-2?
HSV-2 is a type of herpes simplex virus (HSV) that causes genital herpes. Genital herpes is a contagious sexually transmitted infection (STI). People with genital herpes develop painful ulcers in the genital area. You may even notice ulcers in the anal region. Some people may not even experience any symptoms or have mild symptoms that may go unnoticed.
What are the types of herpes viruses?
Herpes is a group of contagious viruses that causes sores or ulcers. The most common herpes viruses include:
- HSV-1: This type of virus causes cold sores to form in the lips, gums, tongue, and inside the mouth. It can also cause genital herpes. HSV-1 spreads through the saliva when you kiss someone with an open sore. You can get HSV-1 by sharing items such as:
- Eating utensils
- HSV-2: This causes genital herpes.
- Herpes zoster: This causes chickenpox and shingles.
How does HSV-2 spread?
Herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) spreads through saliva, semen, and vaginal secretions. Because every person necessarily may not exhibit symptoms, you can get it from a symptomless (asymptomatic) person. Genital herpes can spread through:
- Intercourse including anal, vaginal–penile, and vaginal–vaginal.
- Oral sex (giving or receiving) with an infected person.
- Skin-to-skin touch without ejaculation.
- Touching open sores, including while breastfeeding.
- Childbirth by a mother who has an active infection.
- Sharing sex toys.
You will not get herpes from toilet seats.
What are the symptoms of genital herpes?
Some people may never develop any symptoms. They may be unaware of the fact that they are infected with the herpes virus. They may unknowingly even pass it to others. You may have the herpes virus for years and hardly have any symptoms. Therefore, it is hard to recollect when or from whom you got this symptom.
When symptoms show up, they are usually worse during the first outbreak. Some of the symptoms include:
- Flu-like symptoms, such as:
- Itching or irritation in the genital organs
- Painful genital ulcers or sores that break open
- Dysuria (painful urination)
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Tingling or shooting pain in the legs, hips, and buttocks
How is genital herpes treated?
You can ease the symptoms of genital herpes by following these measures:
- Apply an ice pack to the genitals.
- Always keep your genitals dry, especially after washing.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes.
- Soak in a warm bath.
- Take painkillers to relieve pain.
Your doctor may also prescribe antivirals to prevent outbreaks and shorten the duration of symptoms.
Some of the lifestyle changes are essential to prevent herpes, including:
- Avoid oral sex and sexual contact with your partner after sores appear.
- Use safe sex by using latex condoms. Condoms, however, do not guarantee complete protection from herpes.
- Follow monogamy (only have sex with someone who only has sex with you).
- Avoid sharing or using other’s personal items.
- Inform your sexual partners if you have genital herpes so that they can get tested.
- Wash your hands often if you have symptoms.
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