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What is genital herpes?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Both genital herpes and oral herpes are the result of a virus, the herpes simplex virus. Herpes simplex virus type 1 causes oral herpes, or cold sores, while herpes simplex virus type 2 causes genital herpes. In the case of genital herpes, small blisters or sores develop in the genital area, including the genitals, inner thighs, and buttocks. Genital herpes is almost always the result of sexual contact.

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by two types of viruses, herpes simplex type 1 and herpes simplex type 2. People get genital herpes by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the disease. The sores usually appear as one or more blisters on or around the genitals as well as the rectum or mouth. The blisters break and leave painful sores that may take weeks to heal. People may also have flu-like symptoms such as fever, body aches or swollen glands. Though there is no cure, there are antiviral medications that reduce the number of outbreaks and help them heal faster. People with type 2 herpes may have recurrent outbreaks four to six times per year. People with type 1 herpes in the genitals typically have outbreaks less than once yearly. People who have genital herpes, can ask their healthcare provider to do a blood test to find out which type they have.

This content originally appeared on HealthyWomen.org.

Genital herpes is a virus infection that causes painful blisters or open sores on the genital area. Symptoms will disappear within a few weeks, but the virus remains in the body for life. Samples from the blisters or sores are used for diagnosis. There is no cure for genital herpes. Antiviral drugs/creams are used to decrease the severity of the symptoms. Suppressive antiviral therapy is used to prevent occurrences and perhaps transmission.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.