What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a common type of sexually transmitted disease marked by outbreaks of blisters and lesions in the genital area. Genital herpes is caused by infection of the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2).

HSV-2 is the most common cause of genital herpes. About one out of six people 14 to 49 years of age has genital herpes caused by the HSV-2 infection, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (Source: CDC).

Genital herpes is not curable, but it is preventable and controllable in many cases. Genital herpes is diagnosed by testing a small sample of cells or drainage taken from the suspected herpes blister or lesion. A blood test can also check for the specific antibodies that are produced by the immune system in response to a genital herpes infection.

Any person who engages in sexual activity can contract and pass on a genital herpes infection. This includes heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual men and women. The more sexual partners a person has, the greater the risk of catching a genital herpes infection. Genital herpes can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during vaginal delivery and result in serious complications.

In some cases, genital herpes can lead to serious complications, such as meningitis and death of a newborn that was exposed to the disease during pregnancy or delivery. People who have impaired immune systems are also at risk for serious complications, such as the herpes virus spreading throughout the body. Using safer sex practices, seeking regular medical care, and seeking early, regular prenatal care can help reduce the risk of serious complications of genital herpes.


What are the symptoms of genital herpes?

Symptoms of genital herpes infection vary among individuals. Both men and women with genital herpes may have vague or mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. Many, but not all, people with genital herpes have recurring outbreaks of symptoms during a period of months to years. Recurrences are generally milder in nature and do not last as long as the initial outbreak.

Early symptoms of... Read more about genital herpessymptoms


What causes genital herpes?

Genital herpes is caused by infection of the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-2 is the most common cause of genital herpes.

Genital herpes viruses are passed from one person to another during sexual contact that involves touching of the genitals or vaginal or anal sex. Less commonly, oral sex can pass on genital herpes caused by the herpes simplex virus type... Read more about genital herpescauses


How is genital herpes treated?

Genital herpes is not curable, but prompt diagnosis and treatment can help to reduce or delay the onset of serious complications, improve the quality of life, and minimize the spread of the disease to others. You can best manage genital herpes by consistently following your treatment plan. Treatment plans generally include medications and other treatments.

Antiretroviral medic... Read more about genital herpestreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.