Woman's Health Centers

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Genital Herpes

What Is It?

An infection caused by the virus called herpes simplex.

How Can I Get It?

Sexual contact (vaginal, oral or anal) or skin to skin contact with someone who has herpes. It can be passed even when no sores are present.

What Are the Symptoms?

Painful blisters that break into open sores usually appear on or near the mouth, vagina or anus. They may be found on a woman’s cervix (inside the vagina) where she may not notice them. Sores will dry up and disappear in 5-21 days. Outbreaks may reoccur, but can be managed.

How Can I Know For Sure?

Medical examination or fluid may be taken from a sore and sent to a laboratory. Blood tests may be taken.

How Is It Treated?

Once infected, the virus stays in your body - there is no known cure for herpes. Pills or creams may speed the healing of sores, pills may help prevent future symptoms.

What Can Happen If I Don’t Take Care Of It?

The sores will go away, but they can return, often when you are ill or under stress. Herpes sores at the time of child birth can pass onto the baby and spread infection to sexual partner(s) even when sores are not present.

Left untreated, the first outbreak of herpes can last up to three weeks. Most people experience repeated, or recurrent outbreaks. The frequency and severity of herpes outbreaks vary from person to person.

Some people report a tingling, itching or burning sensation just before an outbreak. Others report flu-like symptoms, including a headache or fever.

Once infected with the herpes virus, it remains with you the rest of your life. Anyone who is sexually active can get herpes. Not having sex is the only sure way to protect yourself. However, the correct use of a condom, everytime you have sex may help prevent the spread of herpes and other sexually transmitted diseases.