Herpes is the name of a virus that can cause flare-ups of painful sores and blisters. There are three main types of herpes virus. Genital Herpes causes sores and blisters around the genital area, the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV) causes cold sores around the mouth and Herpes Zoster is the virus that causes shingles and chicken pox. Each different type of herpes virus is uncomfortable for the sufferer and the first two cannot be cured.
The Genital Herpes virus is a contagious disease that is passed on through both vaginal and anal intercourse and oral sex. It first emerged on a substantial level during the 1970s and it is thought that around 30,000 people a year are newly infected with the disease. Whilst most Genital Herpes infections are mild they can also be quite severe. The signs and symptoms of Genital Herpes include:
• A dark or red patch on the anus or the genitals which is replaced with one or more ‘straw-coloured’ blisters.
• Swelling in the groin glands.
• A tingling or burning feeling in the genitals.
• Pain when urinating.
• Flu like symptoms
• Discharge (in women)
Genital Herpes treatment consists of creams and medication in tablet form. These help to soothe the pain in the area and speed up the healing time of the sores and blisters. Unfortunately, there is no known Genital Herpes cure and the disease is likely to flare up from time to time, especially when you are stressed. The attacks do reduce in severity as time goes on and your doctor can give you anti-viral medication to keep the disease under control.
Although you should be aware that whilst you can always pass herpes on, you are most contagious just after experiencing the symptoms – this is called the ‘shedding’ stage and is when the virus is present in bodily fluids.
Herpes Simplex Virus
The Herpes Simplex virus attacks the mucous membranes in the mouth and the skin. There are two different strains of this virus:
• HSV 1 usually appears on the lips and mouth in the form of cold sores. This is the most common type.
• HSV 2 affects the genitals.
Around 1 in 9 adults in the USA are currently infected with the Herpes Simplex virus and herpes virus prevention is only possible if you practice safe sex. If you have had herpes at any time in your life it is important to let your partner know and use condoms during all forms of sexual activity.