What is genital herpes?
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a virus spread during sex with an infected partner.
Who can get genital herpes?
- Anyone can become infected but your risk is increased by having multiple sex partners or by having another STD.
- It is a lifelong infection with symptoms that can come and go throughout life.
What are the symptoms of genital herpes infection?
- Symptoms for males and females include burning or tingling in the genital area, usually followed by small red bumps or clear blisters. These can become open sores (ulcers), which then crust over and heal over two to three weeks.
- Blisters and sores are usually very painful.
- Other possible symptoms include vaginal discharge (females), burning with urination, fever and enlarged, tender lymph nodes.
How can I be tested for genital herpes?
- Your healthcare provider can use a cotton swab to collect fluid and skin cells from the herpes blister or sore, and then send them to a lab to look for evidence of the herpes virus. If there is no blister or open sore to swab, then you cannot test for active infection.
How do you treat genital herpes?
- There is no cure for genital herpes. The virus lives in nerve cells in your body. Periodically, the virus comes to the surface and causes symptoms.
- There are medications you can take to shorten the healing time by a few days.
- There are also medications to help reduce the number of episodes you have over time once you have been infected.
- The best way to prevent spreading the infection is to avoid sex until the sores have completely healed. Because the virus can be active without any sores present, it is important to use condoms or other barrier contraceptives even when you have no symptoms.
What if I don't get treated for my herpes infection?
- The sores will still heal up, even without medication.
- Having sores from genital herpes increases your chances of getting other STDs, including HIV infection.
- Women can spread genital herpes to their newborn babies, causing serious infections in the baby.
To learn about appointment times and locations with CHOP's Division of Adolescent Medicine, see appointments or call 215-590-3537.