Symptoms of Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a contagious disease that is transmitted through sexual contact and affects the private parts of men or women. Herpes is an STD and this STD is very common in Asia. The cause is a herpes virus. This virus always stays in your body.

Almost everyone knows herpes on the lips: painful little blisters form, which, after some time, heal again, but can always come back. Herpes is caused by viruses. Once infected, they stay in the body for life and can cause cold sores again and again. Herpes can also occur in other parts of the body, especially in the genital and anal areas.

Genital Herpes – in a nutshell

  • Genital herpes is almost always transmitted through sexual intercourse, triggers are herpes viruses
  • The disease manifests with tingling, pain and blisters on the vagina, penis, outer genital area of the woman and thighs
  • Genital herpes can also be without discomfort
  • The herpesviruses remain in the body and can be reactivated by certain factors
  • The therapy usually consists in the administration of viral inhibitors

Symptoms of genital herpes

Genital herpes can express itself with typical signs, such as cold sores in the genital area. Genital herpes can also go without symptoms.

Typical symptoms of genital herpes

  • Tingling and pain in the genital area
  • Itching / painful blisters that open and crust
  • Pain when urinating (women)
  • Increased discharge (women)
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Affected areas in the female are usually the outer genital area with large and small labia, but also the vagina and the cervix, in man glans, foreskin and / or penis shaft. Also in the anal area, in the testicle region, at the buttocks or thigh complaints or blisters or crusts may appear.

The affected areas begin to tingle, hurt and itch. They redden and swell often. It forms small, liquid-filled bubbles, which can also burn and itch. The contents of the bubbles become cloudy, after one to two days they break in and crust. Women may also experience increased vaginal discharge, as well as urinary problems and pain.

In addition to these limited to the intimate area complaints affected feel at the beginning often flu-like symptoms such as head and limb pain and fever. In most cases, the lymph nodes in the groin area swell, which can then be felt as small nodules.

Important: If the partner suffers from genital herpes complaints, he or she must visit a doctor and be treated if necessary.

Recurring genital herpes infection: Symptoms often milder or absent

Herpes simplex viruses tend to be reactivated under favorable conditions. The first relapse often occurs in the first year after the first infection. It usually runs milder, with about a quarter of those affected even without them noticing something of it. There are fewer viruses and less infectious.

Doctors distinguish between a so-called first infection with herpes simplex viruses and recurrent infections. In the first infection man or woman have been infected with the pathogen. It may come a short time later to typical symptoms, but does not have to. Despite initial contact with the virus, the infection can quite often go completely symptom-free. Signs of genital herpes may then appear for the first time in a recurrent infection, but they do not have to. Duration and intensity of symptoms vary from person to person. Often they are the worst at the first appearance.

Genital herpes incubation period, course, duration

The incubation period, ie the time between infection and first symptoms, usually takes between a few days to three weeks for the first infection. The symptoms can last for two to three weeks. Recurring infections are often milder and shorter.

Genital herpes first infection: take virus-inhibiting agents

In particular, a first-time infection with genital herpes can cause discomfort and get drawn. The active substances aciclovir, famciclovir and valaciclovir prevent the viruses from multiplying. As a result, the remedies relieve the symptoms and shorten the disease duration. It is important to take the medication early after the onset of the first symptoms, ideally within the first three days – the sooner the better. The funds are subject to prescription, which is why sufferers should quickly go to the doctor in case of suspected infection with herpes viruses.

If therapy starts early enough, the spread of viruses from the nerves can be reduced. Recurring infections occur less frequently.

The genital herpes inhibiting agents are usually well tolerated, but can cause fatigue, drowsiness, gastrointestinal problems, inflamed mucosa and headache. How often and how long the patient has to take the medication, they discuss with the attending physician.

Genital herpes external treatment an alternative?

Based on current knowledge, topical treatment with ointments, creams or gels alone is not helpful.

Genital herpes therapy for recurrent infection

If the herpes re-appears with symptoms, the rapid ingestion of the virus-inhibiting agents can stem the infection. Therapy should begin within the first 24 hours after symptoms have resolved. If you feel only slight signs, you do not necessarily have to take medication.

Genital herpes long-term therapy: For whom?

Women or men very often fight with relapses, they have strong complaints or feel the constant infections as very stressful, then a long-term therapy is in question. Long-term use of acyclovir, famciclovir or valaciclovir can reduce the incidence of re-infection, at least in some of those affected.

Genital herpes supportive measures

Do not wear tight underwear during an acute infection and keep the genital area dry. Women who have problems and pain when urinating, can help a “covering” therapy, for example, with zinc ointment preparations. Those who suffer from flu-like symptoms or have pain can take a painkiller for a short time. Do not touch the skin or wash your hands with soap each time. After the complaints have subsided, wash underwear, nightdress and bath towels at 60 degrees.

Genital herpes therapy during pregnancy

If there is a risk that a pregnant female infected with genital herpes will transmit the virus to her child during pregnancy or childbirth, an infusion treatment will be carried out with an antiviral agent.

Prevention of genital herpes: use condoms, no sex in case of acute infection

Who acutely has a genital herpes infection with symptoms should not have sex, no anal or oral sex. Even in the weeks after the symptoms have resolved, the patient may be even more infectious. Therefore, better abstain from sexual intercourse or use condoms In general, condoms significantly reduce the risk of contracting genital herpes

Recurring genital herpes infections can put a lot of psychological strain on and often have a negative impact on the sex life and the relationship. Therefore, it is important – even if it costs overcoming – to talk openly with the partner about the disease. Even if you get to know a new partner, you should address the topic at an early stage. If necessary, a couple counseling helps. In consultation with the physician, as described in the section Therapy, a long-term therapy with a virus-inhibiting drug in question.

About the author – Dr. H.S. Hermanides
Dr. H.S. Hermanides obtained a PhD for her research on HIV in the Caribbean. She is currently working as a specialist in infectious diseases at the Red Cross Hospital in Beverwijk, The Netherlands.