Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection which affects the skin of the genitals. Genital herpes can be caused by two viruses named Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). Most cases of genital herpes are caused by the HSV-2 virus; however the HSV-1 virus can spread from the mouth to the genitals through oral sex.
Scientifically speaking, Herpes simplex 1 (HSV-1) is identical to Herpes simplex 2 (HSV-2) when observed under a microscope. The main difference between the viruses is that one is socially acceptable and the other is considered not to be socially acceptable; however, according to http://www.herpesonline.org/hsv1vs2.html there is no good or bad herpes virus. The main difference between the two viruses is that HSV-1 prefers to live in the mouth and on the lips, while HSV-2 prefers to live on the genitals. HSV-1 is usually spread by the mouth and lips, while HSV-2 is usually spread by contact with the genitals.
In general, either of the herpes viruses can be passed on through skin contact of an infected person. The infected person may or may not have rashes, blisters or sores, because the herpes viruses can be passed on from the skin, saliva and other bodily fluids of infected people who don’t have any visible symptoms at all.
Symptoms of genital herpes
Many people having HSV-2 infection really don’t have any symptoms that can be noticed by someone else. You may never know if the person you are having sex with has herpes or not.
If there are any symptoms, they may occur within the first two weeks of being infected. Common symptoms can include fever, decrease of appetite and pain in lower back, thighs, knees or buttocks. There may be an appearance of painful and small blisters filled with colored fluid in the area that had contact with the virus. Other symptoms may include painful urination, enlarged lymph nodes in the groin, vaginal discharge, fatigue, menstruation, trauma, genital irritation and emotional stress.
To diagnose herpes, the doctor may need to do a culture of any sores or blisters that are on the skin or mucous membranes. Testing will be done when a patient comes to his/her doctor with symptoms. Herpes simplex can be detected in the culture within 2-3 days. A test called PCR (polymerase chain reaction) may be done on the fluid taken from a sore or blister. The PCR test tests the DNA for the presence of the virus. It’s the most reliable test to confirm the presence of the herpes virus in a lesion. Blood tests can be done to check antibody levels for the herpes virus. These blood tests can determine if someone has ever been infected with herpes virus.
There is no cure for genital herpes; though, there are antiviral medicines that can minimize the discomfort of breakouts and help to quickly heal the sores that break out. Medicines used in treating herpes include acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir. Individuals having many outbreaks will likely need to be treated with one of these types of medications to help prevent the severity of breakouts.
Medicines Possible side effects
The possible side effects of herpes medicines include headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, tremor, rash and seizures.
The surest way to prevent genital herpes is abstain from all sexual contact. Other than abstinence, condoms are the next best way to protect against the spread of genital herpes.