backup og meta

What is Genital Herpes and How is it Treated?: What You Should Know

Medically reviewed by Mary Rani Cadiz, MD · Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Maridol Ranoa-Bismark · Updated Mar 15, 2021

What is Genital Herpes and How is it Treated?: What You Should Know

What is genital herpes and how is it treated? Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that arises from herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). It has effects on the skin and nervous system. 

It is passed mainly through sexual activity. This means that it is not transmitted through contact with toilet seats, chairs and similar objects an infected person might have has used. The virus has short survival outside the body, although it can survive a little longer in warm, damp areas.  It quickly vanishes once it comes in contact with air.  

Once a person is infected, the virus stays dormant in the body. Its effects show up again many times in a year.

In the Philippines, there were already 977 patients seen and treated for herpes in Philippine Dermatological Society institutions from 2011 to 2018.

4 Fast Facts About STDs in the Philippines

What is Genital Herpes and How is it Treated?

A lot of genital herpes patients do not know they have the disease, because they do not show genital herpes symptoms. He adds that patients usually shed the HSV virus in the genital tract, such as vaginal discharges in women.

Sometimes, mild symptoms appear, 2 to 12 days after one gets the virus. These include:

  • Pain or itching. Your genital area feels painful and tender until the infection is gone. 
  • Small red bumps or tiny white blisters. These may be seen a few days or weeks after exposure. 
  • Ulcers. These may crop up when blisters rupture, ooze, or bleed. Ulcers make urination painful.
  • Scabs. The skin will form crusts or scabs once the ulcers start healing.

At the first outbreak, genital herpes symptoms may include flu-like symptoms, like swollen lymph nodes in the groin. Your head and muscles may ache, and you may run a fever. 

what is genital herpes and how is it treated

Where are the Signs Found? 

Herpes sores can be found on the: 

  • Buttocks and thighs
  • Anus
  • Mouth
  • Urethra (the tube that lets urine flow from the bladder then out of the person’s body)

Genital herpes in women may manifest as:

  • Sores in vaginal area
  • Lesions or sores on external genitals
  • Sores on cervix

Genital herpes in men may manifest as:

  • Sores on the penis
  • Sores on the scrotum

Differences in symptom location

Sores grow in the area of the body where the infection began. Infection can be spread by touching a sore, and rubbing or scratching another area of your body, including your eyes.

How Do You Prevent Genital Herpes?

As in all sexually transmitted infections, you must

  • Refrain from sexual contact or limit it to one uninfected person 
  • Wear, or have your partner wear a latex  condom during every sexual  contact. The virus can still be released (shed) from parts of the skin where the herpes sore might not be immediately visible. A condom is not a guarantee against herpes.

The Best Safe Sex Tips to Prevent STDs

Pregnancy Practices

If you contract genital herpes during pregnancy, be open with your doctor. Ask for screening tests.

Your physician may prescribe antiviral medicine for genital herpes towards the last part of your pregnancy. This aims to check an outbreak when you’re about to give birth. If the outbreak occurs while you’re in labor, your physician may recommend a cesarean section to protect your baby from the virus. 

How Does One Get Genital Herpes?

People get infected when:

  • They engage in vaginal or anal sex with an infected person (even in the absence of sores).
  • They touch a herpes sore, then do the same with their genitals.
  • Their genitals come in contact with the genital area of an infected person (even in the absence of  sores).

Genital herpes can spread even in the absence of  sores since the virus stays in the body.

How is the Disease Diagnosed?

Health care practitioners conduct tests on:

  • Fluid taken from a sore
  • Blood (in the absence of sores)

Infected persons must discuss recent, current, and future sex partners. Someone may not show gential herpes symptoms even months or years after infection. 

What are the Risk Factors of Genital Herpes?

Your risk of becoming infected with genital herpes rises if you:

  • Are a woman. Women are more likely to have the genital herpes infection compared to men. The virus is more easily transmitted from men to women, compared to women to men.
  • Have multiple sexual partners. Every new sexual partner raises your risk of being exposed to the virus.

What are the Complications of Genital Herpes? 

  • Other sexually transmitted infections. Having genital sores increases the risk of spreading or contracting other STIs, including AIDS.
  • Newborn infection. Babies born to infected mothers can be exposed to the virus during childbirth. The consequences may include brain damage, blindness or death for the baby.
  • Bladder problems. Sores due to genital herpes may cause inflammation around the urethra. The swelling can result in needing a catheter.
  • Meningitis. In rare instances, the infection can lead to inflammation of the membranes and cerebrospinal fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord.
  • Rectal inflammation (proctitis). In some cases, inflammation of the rectum can result from genital herpes. 

How is Genital Herpes Treated?

Scientists have yet to find a cure for genital herpes. But health care professionals can prescribe medicine to:

  • Halt outbreaks, reduce them, and lessen their severity
  • Decrease the risk of infecting others with genital herpes 

What if Genital Herpes Recurs?

Recurrence over time is common. But genital herpes symptoms differ from one person to the next. Signs and symptoms may recur over years. Some may have many outbreaks within a year. Others may have reduced attacks over time.

Symptoms of recurrence include: 

  • Burning, tingling and itching where the virus first hit your body
  • Pain in the lower back, buttocks, and legs

Most often, recurrences are not as painful as the first outbreak, and sores usually generally heal faster.

Key Takeaways

Genital herpes is incurable, but preventable. Watching out for genital herpes symptoms can help people identify the disease, and manage and treat it as soon as it is diagnosed.

Learn more about Sexual Wellness, here.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Medically reviewed by

Mary Rani Cadiz, MD

Obstetrics and Gynecology

Written by Maridol Ranoa-Bismark · Updated Mar 15, 2021

advertisement iconadvertisement

Was this article helpful?

advertisement iconadvertisement
advertisement iconadvertisement