Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a herpes simplex virus (HSV). It can cause sores on your genital or rectal area, buttocks, and thighs. You can get it from having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has it. The virus can spread even when sores are not present. Mothers can also infect their babies during childbirth.
Symptoms of herpes are called outbreaks. You usually get sores near the area where the virus has entered the body. The sores are blisters which break and become painful, and then heal. Sometimes people do not know they have herpes because they have no symptoms or very mild symptoms. The virus can be more serious in newborn babies or in people with weak immune systems.
Repeat outbreaks are common, especially during the first year. Over time, you get them less often and the symptoms become milder. The virus stays in your body for life.
There are tests that can diagnose genital herpes. There is no cure. However, medicines can help lessen symptoms, decrease outbreaks, and lower the risk of passing the virus to others. Correct usage of latex condoms can reduce, but not eliminate, the risk of catching or spreading herpes. If your or your partner is allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms. The most reliable way to avoid infection is to not have anal, vaginal, or oral sex.
- Genital Herpes (VisualDX)
- ClinicalTrials.gov: Herpes Genitalis (National Institutes of Health)
Journal Articles References and abstracts from MEDLINE/PubMed (National Library of Medicine)
- Genital Herpes (Nemours Foundation)
- Condom Fact Sheet in Brief (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) - PDF Also in Spanish
- Genital herpes (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Genital Herpes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Genital herpes - self-care (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Herpes viral culture of lesion (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish
- Serum herpes simplex antibodies (Medical Encyclopedia) Also in Spanish