Articles on: STIs

Genital herpes 101

What is Genital Herpes?

Genital Herpes is a STI that causes herpetic sores around the mouth, anus and/or genital area, which are painful blisters (fluid-filled bumps) that can break open and ooze fluid.

There are two types of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) that cause genital herpes:

HSV-1 (Herpes Simplex Virus 1). This type usually causes cold sores around the mouth, however it can also cause herpes around the anus and genitalia.
HSV-2 (Herpes Simplex Virus 2). This type usually causes herpes around the anus and genitalia, but it can also cause cold sores around the mouth.

In 2016 the World Health Organization stated that in 2016 about 3.7 billion individuals under age 50 had HSV-1 and around 491 million individuals under age 50 had HSV-2.

How does a Genital Herpes infection occur?

Both forms of the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2) are highly contagious, and can be spread by sexual and non-sexual means such as kissing, sharing drinks or lip ice. HSV-1 and HSV-2 can be found in saliva, semen and vaginal secretions.

Once either of the viruses are inside, they incorporate themselves into your cells. Viruses, such as HSV-1 and HSV-2, multiply quickly and adapt to their environments with ease, which makes treating them difficult.

Therefore, Genital Herpes is spread through bodily fluids. The most common events that cause the spread of Genital Herpes are:

Unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex;
Mutual use or the sharing of sex toys with an infected person; or
Genital contact (even if there’s no penetration, orgasm, or ejaculation).

What are the symptoms of Genital Herpes?

Most individuals infected with HSV-1 or HSV-2 show no symptoms or have mild symptoms that go unnoticed or can be mistaken for another skin condition. Genital Herpes symptoms can occur at any time, from days to years after infection. Unfortunately Genital Herpes cannot be cured, only managed. There are two types of symptoms with Genital Herpes and its related to is the first/ initial episode or outbreak of Genital Herpes, which occurs 4 - 7 days after transmission, recurrent or flareups of Genital Herpes which for those who have contracted HSV-1 it is common to have a flare up once over a 12 month period and for those who have contracted HSV-2 it is common to have four or more flare ups over a 12 month period.

Initial outbreak of Genital Herpes

Flu-like symptoms, with muscle aches and fever typically lasting a week;
Pain in the genital area, buttocks, lower back, or legs;
Painful blisters in or on the anus, penis, vagina, genital area, buttocks and legs which burst to leave ulcers in/on the effected area(s) and can last up to 20 days;
Swollen and/or tender glands in the groin, usually on both sides;
Painful urination;
Unusual discharge from your vagina; or
Unusual discharge from your penis.

Recurrent outbreak of Genital Herpes

When a recurrent outbreak occurs, usually it recurs in the same area, and you may experience localized pain, burning, or tingling up to 2 days before blisters appear;
Painful blisters or ulcers in the anus or genital area, usually on one side, which typically harden or crust up and heal in around 10 days; or
Swollen and/or tender glands in the groin, usually on both sides.

It is estimated that 80% of women, and 80% of men will not have symptoms when they have a Genital Herpes infection. It is still possible to pass Genital Herpes on to others through the transmission methods mentioned above.

How is Genital Herpes treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure or available vaccine for HSV-1 or HSV-2. Over time and with treatment most people stop experiencing flare ups. a A short course of antivirals is administered to alleviate symptoms.

Contro's Partner Doctors are able to assist you with obtaining the correct antiviral treatment plan for Genital Herpes. Sign up here, book a private and affordable consultation and get your medication delivered free to your door in discreet packaging.

Do I have to finish my course of antivirals?

Yes, you must always take and finish your course of antivirals as prescribed by the attending doctor.

When should I get treatment for Genital Herpes?

If you or your partner(s) have any of the above symptoms, your partner tells you they have Genital Herpes or another STI, or you had unprotected sex with someone new, you should either get tested or seek treatment immediately. It can take up to 12 weeks from the time of exposure for Genital Herpes to be detected through testing.

Importantly, if you are pregnant or suspect you may be pregnant, and are concerned you may have Genital Herpes, you should should seek immediate attention and/or advice from a medical professional.
If you believe you have Genital Herpes you should either get tested or seek treatment immediately from a qualified medial professional.

What if I test positive for Genital Herpes?

If you test positive for Genital Herpes, you should seek treatment immediately. You must not engage in sexual activity (e.g. oral, vaginal, or anal sex, genital contact, or use sex toys). It’s important that your recent sexual partner(s) are also tested and treated. This includes anyone you are currently having sex with, anyone you’ve had sex with in the last 6 months, and your last sexual partner.

What if I don't treat a Genital Herpes?

If left untreated and unattended to, Genital Herpes has the ability to cause long-term health complications such as:

Neurological problems which may make it difficult for you to urinate;
You may develop aseptic meningitis, which is an infection of the brain and spinal cord;
The sores caused by Genital Herpes can be vulnerable to other infections caused by yeasts or bacteria;
The spread of HSV to other parts of the body, such as the mouth or eyes; or
Pregnancy complications.

For any further information related to Genital Herpes please book a consultation with one of our Partner Doctors who will be able to assist and provide you with the correct medical advice. For all non-medical queries you're welcome to contact us through our chat service or at between the hours of 9:00 to 18:00 Monday to Friday. Otherwise leave us a message and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.

Updated on: 21/02/2024

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