Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by a virus that produces painful sores in the genital area.
The first herpes episode is usually the most severe and may occur 2-21 days after sex with an infected partner. Small red bumps may appear in the genital area, which later turn into blisters, open up, crust over and heal. The sores may be preceded by a burning sensation, pain in the legs, buttocks or genital area, vaginal discharge or a feeling of pressure in the abdomen. Other symptoms include painful urination, swollen glands and flu-like symptoms, such as body aches. A first outbreak of herpes can last for about three weeks. Some people with herpes will experience repeated outbreaks, although, the frequency and severity of these recurrences varies from person to person. There may be a tingling or burning sensation (prodromal symptoms) before the herpes reappears. These outbreaks usually last a shorter period of time and have less severe symptoms.
In order to make an accurate diagnosis, it is important to be examined before the blisters heal.
There is no cure for herpes, but the severity and duration of an outbreak may be lessened with medicine. You can also help control the severity of an outbreak by keeping the infected area clean. Getting enough rest and exercise, eating well, and lowering your stress level may help control the frequency of outbreaks.
Not having sex is the only sure way to prevent genital herpes. However, for those who are sexually active, correct use of condoms can help. If either you or your partner has herpes, to lessen the risk of transmitting it, you should not have sexual relations from the start of any prodromal symptoms until the blisters have cleared. In addition, oral herpes (cold sores) can cause genital herpes and vice versa, so oral-genital contact should be avoided during an outbreak. Although rare, it is also possible to transmission to take place between outbreaks. Therefore, the use of condoms is strongly recommended anytime you have sex.