About genital herpes in women

What is genital herpes in women?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV).

  • HSV causes genital herpes by entering the skin or mucous membranes through microscopic breaks in the skin and mucous membranes.
  • Genital herpes is transmitted by any type of sexual contact with the genital area.
  • When symptoms are present, they may include painful blisters and/or ulcers in the genital area, itching, burning or tingling sensations in the skin and some individuals may develop fever, body aches and swollen lymph nodes: symptoms come and go over the person's lifetime.
  • Diagnosis is usually done by recognizing the skin changes in the genital area but viral cultures, genetic amplification of HSV genome material and other tests may be done.
  • There is no cure for genital herpes.
  • Antiviral medications are used to reduce the severity and frequency of genital herpes.
  • Some home remedies may help reduce symptom severity, but provide no cure.
  • Oral antiviral medications may be used in pregnancy: check with your OB/GYN before taking any medications if you are pregnant.
  • The prognosis of genital herpes is variable: there is no cure, and the recurrent outbreaks may vary in frequency and severity.
  • Genital herpes prevention is difficult. Condoms may prevent the disease spread during sex, but not in areas of skin not covered by a condom or during oral to genital contact. Clothing that touches genital skin ulcers may transmit HSV to others that wear the clothing.

What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by an infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV. HSV-1 is most commonly associated with blistering lesions around the mouth known as cold sores. HSV-2 is associated with blistering lesions in genital areas that are exposed during sexual contact. However, both types of HSV can infect the mouth or the genital areas. After the initial outbreak of herpes, the virus travels through the nerves and resides in nerve tissue within the body. Reactivations, or repeat occurrences of the blisters, can occur throughout an individual's lifetime. Among people aged 14 to 49, an estimated 1 out of every 6 people have the infection.

What are the symptoms for genital herpes in women?

Body aches symptom was found in the genital herpes in women condition

Early symptoms tend to happen around 2 to 12 days after infection. There are two phases, latent and prodrome.

  • Latent phase: Infection has occurred, but there are no symptoms.
  • Prodrome (outbreak) phase: At first, the symptoms of a genital herpes outbreak are typically mild. As the outbreak progresses, the symptoms become more severe. The sores will typically heal within 3 to 7 days.

What to expect

You may feel a light itchiness or tingling around your genitals or notice some tiny, firm red or white bumps that are uneven or jagged in shape.

These bumps may also be itchy or painful. If you scratch them, they can open up and ooze white, cloudy fluid. This can leave painful ulcers behind that can be irritated by clothing or other materials than come into contact with your skin.

These blisters can show up anywhere around the genitals and the surrounding areas, including the:

  • vulva
  • vaginal opening
  • cervix
  • butt
  • upper thighs
  • anus
  • urethra

What are the causes for genital herpes in women?

Two types of herpes simplex virus infections can cause genital herpes:

  • HSV-1. This is the type that usually causes cold sores or fever blisters around your mouth. HSV-1 is often spread through skin-to-skin contact, though it can be spread to your genital area during oral sex. Recurrences are much less frequent than they are with HSV-2 infection.
  • HSV-2. This is the type that commonly causes genital herpes. The virus spreads through sexual contact and skin-to-skin contact. HSV-2 is very common and highly contagious, whether or not you have an open sore.

Because the virus dies quickly outside of the body, it's nearly impossible to get the infection through contact with toilets, towels or other objects used by an infected person.

What are the treatments for genital herpes in women?

Antiviral medications are available that can help manage the severity and duration of outbreaks, if taken immediately prior to (when there are tingling or unusual skin sensations but no blisters) or within 24 hours of an outbreak. The medications typically used are acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), or valacyclovir (Valtrex). These are all typically taken orally. In severe cases of viral infection, antiviral medications may be given intravenously, but this is not typically done for genital herpes. Topical medications that are applied directly to the sores are also available, but these are less effective than oral medications and are not generally used.

All of these medications may also be given as suppressive therapy to decrease the number of outbreaks in people who have frequent outbreaks (more than six outbreaks per year).

What are the risk factors for genital herpes in women?

Your risk of becoming infected with genital herpes may increase if you:

  • Are a woman. Women are more likely to have genital herpes than are men. The virus is sexually transmitted more easily from men to women than it is from women to men.
  • Have multiple sexual partners. Each additional sexual partner raises your risk of being exposed to the virus that causes genital herpes.

Is there a cure/medications for genital herpes in women?

There is no cure for genital herpes in women. However, there are medications that can help manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of spreading the disease to others.

  • The first thing to do if you suspect that you might have genital herpes is to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis. They will perform a physical exam, take a swab of tissue from your sore, and/or order blood tests.
  • If you're diagnosed with a herpes infection, your doctor will likely recommend starting antiviral medication as soon as possible.
  • There are medications that can help manage the symptoms and reduce the risk of transmission to others. Some of these include:
  • Acyclovir (Zovirax) is an antiviral medication that can help reduce the symptoms of genital herpes. It works by preventing your body from producing new viruses, which helps to shorten the length of an outbreak. Acyclovir is available as a prescription drug and can be taken once or twice a day for up to 10 days.
  • Famciclovir - This is an oral antiviral medication that treats both types of herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 and HSV-2). It is also not approved by the FDA for use on genital herpes, but doctors may prescribe it off-label to treat outbreaks. It also helps reduce the amount of time a person has active symptoms and reduces the risk of spreading the virus to others.
  • Valacyclovir - Valacyclovir (Valtrex) is another antiviral medication that can also help reduce the symptoms associated with genital herpes in women. Like acyclovir, it works by preventing your body from producing new viruses, which helps to shorten the length of an outbreak.

Discharge from the vagina or urethra that has a strong odor,Bleeding after sex or during urination,Burning sensation while urinating,Discomfort while urinating
Pain, itching and sores in your genital area

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