Genital herpes is usually a sexually transmitted viral infection. Many people infected with this virus never have symptoms, but can still pass on the infection to others. Genital herpes is an infection of the genitals (penis in men, vulva and vagina in women) and the surrounding area of skin. It is caused by the herpes simplex virus. The buttocks and anus may also be affected.
The first episode of symptoms can last 2-3 weeks but may be shorter. The virus remains in your body and can become active from time to time causing recurrent symptoms which are usually less severe than the first episode. Antiviral medication can ease symptoms when they develop.
Herpes is very contagious and passes to others through direct skin to skin contact such as sex. The virus passes easily through the moist membranes that line the genitals, mouth and anus. It can be passed on even when the person has no symptoms. However, if the infected person has sores, then it passes on more readily.
Most people who carry the virus are unaware that they have it. There are often no symptoms at the beginning, and they may not occur for months or years afterwards.
There is no cure for genital herpes but the symptoms can be managed with antiviral medications. Treatments we may prescribe if clinically appropriate:
Please see Common Treatments below for further information.
If you have greater than six outbreaks in a year or have particularly severe recurrent outbreaks, then you may benefit from taking long term antivirals for 6 to 12 months. This is called suppressive therapy for herpes.