How to recognise, diagnose and cure genital herpes: from the early symptoms to the most recent drugs

  STI Treatment

What is Genital Herpes?

Genital Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV). It is closely related to the viral strains which cause chickenpox, shingles, and cold sores. While some people like to a make a firm distinction between HSV-1 (which typically affects an individual orally) and HSV-2 (which is more commonly seen around the genitals and anus) both types can spread to either location, meaning that it isn’t strictly relevant which of the two strains an individual comes into contact with. Roughly 10% of Australian adults have Genital Herpes.


Diagnosing Genital Herpes

Many individuals who are infected with Genital Herpes show no signs or symptoms, and may not even be aware that they are at risk of passing this condition along to sexual partners! When symptoms do appear, it is usually shortly after the initial infection and women are much more likely than men to develop the characteristic blisters which healthcare providers typically assess to diagnose the condition.

In mild cases the painful, fluid-filled blisters may be completely absent and there may be a general itchiness or redness of the genitalia which is easily misdiagnosed as a yeast infection. Unfortunately the most common yeast infection treatment – which often consists of an antifungal cream – may actually moisten the area and increase the risk of a full-blown Herpes outbreak, which is then more contagious.

Genital Herpes outbreaks may occur several times per year, though typically this only happens when the body is adjusting to a new infection or the patient has a compromised immune system. Other people never show a single sign or symptom. Most people go several months or even years in between outbreaks, and when they occur they are usually brought on by menstruation, childbirth, a temporarily compromised immune system, or irritation to the genitals which results in broken skin.


Genital Herpes Treatments

In the midst of a painful outbreak, it is best to keep the affected area clean and dry. This means washing thoroughly, using a clean towel (and then laundering it!) and if possible, getting some airflow to the genitals in order to dry the sores out as quickly as possible. Using a hairdryer on the ‘cool’ setting can work wonders. Those with bathtubs may want to consider soaking in a salt bath, while others may find it helpful to take a swim in the ocean.

If the sores are very painful, a numbing cream such as Orajel may help (applied while wearing gloves). Women who find urination painful may seek relief by holding a ball of toilet paper against their urethra while relieving themselves in order to prevent their urine’s ammonia from further irritating their sores. Luckily for men, they typically do not develop sores and when they do, it is generally on their outer skin and not the delicate mucous membranes.

Physicians will often prescribe Acyclovir to manage an outbreak, and in some cases to prevent against future outbreaks if they occur frequently or there is a sexual relationship where one individual has the infection and the other does not. Valacyclovir, while more expensive, is much more effective and taking a Valtrex pill creates a level of antiviral protection only matched by intravenous injection of Acyclovir, so for those who can afford the price difference it is certainly worth looking into.


Safer Sex with Herpes

Unlike Chlamydia or Gonorrhea, Genital Herpes is not present only within bodily fluids, because it may also be spread by skin-to-skin contact. This means that even using a condom will not offer complete protection, especially if there are sores present on the skin of the groin, abdomen, or thighs.

Even when no sores are present, an infected individual may be doing ‘asymptomatic shedding’ and still pass on HSV to their partner.

Since the Herpes virus can reside in either the mouth or the genitals, even oral sex can spread this STI from one person to another. For that reason, it is advisable to use condoms or dental dams when one person is affected by Herpes and the other is not.

8 thoughts on “How to recognise, diagnose and cure genital herpes: from the early symptoms to the most recent drugs

  1. My best friend has genital herpes. The first time she told me that she had them I was grossed out. She told me she wasn’t sure where or whom she had got them from, but she had had them for years. I know that it bothers her so much. My friend has not been with a guy since she found out. It pains me to see her so lonely due to this issue.

  2. That kind of knowledge can allow some patients to use the medication to abort an outbreak. The medication will stop an outbreak cold (often) and when it does not, it can shorten a milder outbreak than they might have had otherwise.

  3. My best friend got genital herpes from her boyfriend. He’s a concert junkie, so he had been sleeping around with people after shows. So now, they both have herpes, and they are basically stuck with each other. I feel so bad for her. Like, my heart literally breaks for her. She is going to struggle with genital herpes and the reminder that a man, whom she loves, cheated on her.

  4. I caught genital herpes from a girlfriend when I was in my late teens. At first I didn’t know what was going on. I had a few open sores on my penis that were painful and a bit itchy too. I ran a low grade fever and just overall did not feel well. My girlfriend admitted to me that she had sores on and off for about one year but had no idea what they were and never went to a doctor

  5. Once I learned I had herpes I mentally went over every person I’d slept with. I ended up having to let them know so they could get tested. Since then, those who were my friends have stopped talking to me. Not one has come forward to tell me he is the one who had it. It’s a thought that stays with me…

  6. i have been seeing this girl i met on tinder and she’s been amazing so far so it made sense that we’d be sleeping together by now. i’m seriously considering asking her to be my girlfriend but i think she gave me an STD. After some time i started itching my groin a lot, it got unbearable so i decided to go get checked, turns out i have herpes. This really puts a damper on our relationship as i don’t know what to do next.

  7. I was just 20 when my boyfriend gave me Genital Herpes through transmission from his mouth. When I discovered that I had it, my boyfriend accused me of cheating on him! I ended up having a chronic case of Genital Herpes, which requires daily ongoing treatment of acyclovir for the rest of my life.

  8. I got Genital Herpes in college. I was so mad at myself and didn’t tell anybody. I knew other people had it but still felt in my own world. It took me a while to start thinking about how to treat it and at least make it more tolerable.

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