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Genital Herpes
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by viral infection. Patients can be infected with either the herpes simplex virus type 1, also known as HSV-1 or herpes simplex virus type 2, or HSV-2. There are currently over 50 million people infected with genital herpes in the United States. Because the symptoms of herpes are often mild, people may be unaware that they have the infection or mistake it for something else. This long-term infection often causes sores or blisters on the mouth, lips, genitals or rectum.

Causes of Genital Herpes


Genital herpes is transmitted by engaging in oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner. Genital herpes is spread by exposure to an affected area of skin with or without lesions or secretions.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes


Most patients affected with genital herpes experience little to no symptoms from this condition. When symptoms do occur, they often involve one or more blisters on or around the mouth or genital area. These outbreaks usually come and go over the course of many months or years, but the infection remains present in the body. Symptoms of genital herpes may include:

  • Sores on the mouth or lips

  • Sores or blisters on the genitals or anus

  • Fever

  • Body aches

  • Infection of the eye

  • Headache

  • Swollen glands


Outbreaks of genital herpes may occur four to five times during the first year of infection, but tend to decrease in frequency and severity over time.

Diagnosis of Genital Herpes


A doctor can diagnose genital herpes by examining active sores and taking a small sample to be analyzed in a lab. If patients are not experiencing any symptoms or are in between outbreaks, a diagnostic blood test or viral culture may be performed to confirm diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Genital Herpes


A doctor can diagnose genital herpes by examining active sores and taking a small sample to be analyzed in a lab. If patients are not experiencing any symptoms or are in between outbreaks, a diagnostic blood test or viral culture may be performed to confirm diagnosis.

Prevention of Genital Herpes


Prevention of genital herpes may be achieved through:

  • Abstaining from sexual activity

  • Using condoms

  • Remaining in a monogamous relationship


Both male and female condoms can reduce the risk of developing herpes, but are not a prevention method. It is important to notify any sexual partners of a genital herpes infection in order to prevent infecting others, and all sexual activity should be avoided during an outbreak. Open communication with a partner is an effective way to maintain a healthy sex life.

For most patients, genital herpes does not lead to any serious conditions, and instead remains a long-term manageable condition.