Genital herpes is one of the common sexually transmitted infections or STIs. It is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). Genital herpes causes blisters or sores and can be passed on from one person to another through skin-to-skin contact, including genital contact.
Although genital herpes is commonly found on the genitals or mouth, blisters can occur on any other area of your skin as well. The infection can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.
Image Source: Allure
There are two kinds of HSV, HSV-1 and HSV-2. While HSV-1 causes cold sores, it is HSV-2 that is the cause of genital herpes.
The virus enters the body through the thin layers of tissue lining the openings of the body. These layers, also called mucous membranes, are found in the mouth, nose and genitals. Once the virus enters the body, they stay in the nerve cells of the pelvis. Both forms of the virus can be found in a person’s saliva, a man’s semen or a woman’s vaginal secretions.
Let’s understand how genital herpes is transmitted.
The HSV-1 virus that causes cold sores or blisters around the mouth is transmitted through skin contact.
It can also spread to the genital areas while performing oral sex. The possibility of recurrence of this type of infection is not as frequent as with HSV-2 infection.
HSV-2, which causes genital herpes spreads through sexual contact and also skin contact. It is very contagious and spreads whether you have open sores or not.
You cannot contract the infection through towels, use of common toilets or touching objects that the infected person has touched because the virus doesn’t survive for long outside the body.
Rush to the doctor if you experience the following genital herpes symptoms.
The infection manifests itself as small white blisters or red bumps within 2 to 12 days of contracting HSV.
Initial symptoms may be flu-like, with muscle aches, headaches and fever, apart from swollen lymph nodes in the groin area.
Sometimes, the symptoms can appear as late as 30 days after contracting HSV.
Pain and itching because of the blisters are common symptoms.
Tenderness in the genital area is also often a symptom of genital herpes.
Ulcers form after blisters ooze or rupture, making it painful while urinating.
Scabs formed after the ulcers are healed are also symptoms.
Recurrence of genital herpes is common and symptoms just before a recurrence include a burning or tingling sensation in the area where you first contracted it.
Pain in the lower back, legs and buttocks could also be a symptom of a recurrence.
Symptoms such as sores on the buttocks, thighs, mouth and anus, apart from fevers, muscle aches, tenderness in the groin, oozing of blisters and ulcers, among others mentioned earlier are genital herpes symptoms found commonly in both men and women.
Genital herpes men may have contracted manifests itself as blisters on the penis, scrotum and buttocks.
Genital herpes in women manifests itself as blisters in and around the vaginal area, cervix, anus and buttocks.
Babies who may contract genital herpes (following a delivery) also experience symptoms such as ulcers on the genitals, body and face.
In case of severe complications, babies may experience blindness or damage to the brain. In some cases, it could also be fatal.
The diagnosis is done by way of a physical examination of the sores. Other lab tests may not always be needed but your doctor may prescribe the tests for confirmation.
The blood test is among the most common methods used to diagnose the presence of HSV before you can actually experience an outbreak.
The other lab tests include taking tissue samples or scraping sores for examining the viral culture in the lab.
The polymerase chain reaction or PCR test is also used to copy DNA from a sample of your spinal fluid, sore, tissue or blood, which is then tested to determine the presence of HSV.
Genital herpes cure only involves treatment with antiviral medications that help heal the sores, lower the severity or frequency of symptoms. Some of the commonly used drugs for the treatment of genital herpes include acyclovir, famciclovir and valacyclovir, all available in the form of pills. For severe cases, the treatment is given intravenously and the drug acyclovir is administered.
Apart from these antiviral medications, genital herpes treatment involves certain hygienic practices. These include:
Using mild cleansers while showering.
Maintaining that the affected area is clean and dry.
Wearing loose-fitting cotton clothes.
Avoiding sexual intercourse if you or your partner has an outbreak.
It helps to remember that there is no genital herpes cure for the long term and ensuring these best practices will keep the infection at bay. A key factor to remember is that the disease can stay in a dormant form in the body for long and not show up by way of symptoms until there is a trigger for an outbreak.
These triggers include another sickness, fatigue or stress. Managing stress levels and ensuring good general health is an important aspect of controlling future outbreaks.
Since herpes can entail painful blisters and ulcers in the genital region, one might experience severe headache, body pain, and difficulty in passing urine. And these side effects make hospitalisation inevitable. However, fret not! Through Finserv MARKETS, you can seek health insurance coverage for medical check ups, hospitalisation, and pre-hospitalisation expenses after a policy year.
Some home remedies can manage genital herpes symptoms. They include:
A dry warm compress can be made by filling up an old sock with some rice and microwaving it for a few seconds. Applying a warm compress on a sore can lower swelling and pain. A cold compress can also lower a swelling caused because of genital herpes-related sores. An ice pack or ice cubes packed in a soft cloth helps manage swellings.
Application of baking soda paste with a cotton ball or a Q-tip can also relieve itching from sores and lesions. Alternatively, cornstarch can also be used.
A mixture made out of a fresh garlic clove and a few drops of olive oil can be applied on genital herpes sores thrice a day. Garlic is known to have antiviral qualities.
Application of honey for sores in the mouth helps remedy the pain.
Sexually transmitted infections such as genital herpes can not only be physically and emotionally draining but also affect your finances. Costs of doctor’s visits, medication and laboratory tests can also drain your resources. The condition needs you to maintain general good health to curb outbreaks as there is no long-term genital herpes cure. Steps for prevention include:
Limiting the number of sexual partners
Getting tested for STIs
Keeping your sexual partner in the loop if you have genital herpes
Using condoms and dental dams for oral sex
Use lubricants during intercourse to reduce friction which can be a trigger for an outbreak
Washing hands frequently if you have blisters or sores or if you are in the presence of someone with symptoms
Stay away from drugs or alcohol
Follow a healthy diet, sleep and exercise regimen
Eat a diet high in lysine, an amino acid, found in legumes, soy, dairy, eggs and fish
Coping with a health issue such as genital herpes can be both emotionally and physically draining, apart from the financial costs involved. Ensure that you are well prepared to deal with the medical issue by keeping a check on the symptoms and doing a timely medical check. By getting a comprehensive health insurance plan, you can have adequate coverage to tackle the medical costs. At Finserv MARKETS, you get access to a range of health insurance policies that cover you against expenses incurred due to medical conditions. Get your health insurance policy now!
Illness, stress, sunlight, and fatigue trigger herpes outbreak. Herpes may also be triggered by menstrual periods in women.
Keeping the herpes sores moist may worsen the condition. Hence, you must keep the area dry.
There is no cure for genital herpes. However, medicines can prevent and reduce the frequency of herpes outbreaks.
Yes. People diagnosed with herpes can have relationships and lead a normal life.
Yes, herpes stays in your body permanently. Certain triggers like stress and illness can cause an outbreak.
Yes. In most cases, health insurance policies offer coverage against expenses incurred in treating herpes.