Genital herpes is sexually transmitted infection passed on through vaginal, anal and oral sex.
Symptoms of herpes can clear up on their own but they can come back. Treatment from a sexual health clinic can help but there is no cure for herpes.
Signs and Symptoms
The most common symptoms of herpes is small blisters that burst to leave red, open sores around your genitals, anus, thighs or bottom.
Other signs and symptoms include tingling, burning or itching around your genitals. Pain when you pee. Unusual vaginal discharge can be experienced by women.
How is it Transmitted?
Genital herpes is very contagious and can be passed on from the first tingling or itching to when sores have fully healed. You may also be able to pass on the virus even if you do not have any symptoms.
You can get herpes from:
- Skin-to-skin contact with the infected area
- If a cold sore touches your genitals
- By transferring the infection on fingers from someone else to your genitals
- By sharing sex toys
You can reduce the chance of getting or passing on herpes by:
- Using a condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex
- Avoiding vaginal, anal or oral sex if you are or partner has blisters or sores
- By not sharing sex toys
Symptoms can clear up by themselves but there is no cure. An outbreak or recurrence can happen at any time.
The first time you are diagnoses with herpes you may be prescribed:
- Antiviral medicine to stop the symptoms getting worse
- Cream for the pain
If blisters come back
If you have an outbreak of herpes, antiviral medicine may help shorten it by 1 or 2 days if you start taking it as soon as symptoms appear.
Outbreaks usually settle by themselves and over time tend to happen less often and become less severe.
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Contacting a sexual health service for the first time can be a little daunting, so here are some easy answers to many of the questions you may have.
Why does genital herpes come back?
Once the genital herpes virus is in your body it stays in a nearby nerve and causes blisters in the same area. Things can trigger your herpes symptoms including smoking, drinking alcohol, being unwell, stress, menstrual cycle etc.
What to do if you think you have herpes?
Call our helpline or go to a sexual health clinic as soon as possible if you think you have herpes. They’ll often get test results quicker than GP practices and you do not have to pay a prescription fee for treatment.
How do I deal with an outbreak at home?
Keep the area clean using clean or salty water. Apply an ice pack wrapped in a flannel to soothe pain. Apply petroleum jelly or painkilling cream to reduce pain when you pee. Pee while pouring water over your genitals to ease the pain.