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Understanding Genital Herpes: causes, symptoms and treatments

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Tiny sores, blisters and painful itches around the genitals can be very discomforting. But beyond the discomfort is the fact that these are almost always telltale signs you may have genital herpes.

Genital herpes is often a self-diagnosable sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is contagious. Persons with genital herpes usually have one or more painful blisters/sores around their rectum, mouth or private parts (penis or vagina).


  • Genital herpes is a self-diagnosable and contagious sexually transmitted infection characterized by sores, blisters, and itching around the genitals.
  • It is primarily caused by the Type 2 herpes simplex virus (HSV-2) and is transmitted through sexual activities such as intercourse, oral or anal sex, and kissing.
  • Symptoms include inflammation, itchiness, sores, shooting pains, fever, headaches, burning sensation during urination, change in vaginal discharge, and abdominal pain.
  • While there is no cure or vaccine for genital herpes, symptoms can be managed with antiviral medications, pain relievers, and proper hygiene.
  • Preventive measures include abstinence, condom use, and limiting sexual partners to reduce the risk of transmission.

Because Genital herpes is contagious, it can be transferred from one person to the other through sexual activities like kissing, intercourse, anal or oral sex. It becomes worse if the infected person has a weaker immune system and can even spread to other parts of the body like the thighs, eyes, chest, etc. when the fluid from the sores touches these other body parts.

What Causes Genital Herpes?

Being a common sexually transmitted infection, genital herpes is primarily caused by Type 2 herpes simplex virus (HSV-2).

Transmission of this virus is usually sexual as herpes is contracted through the exchange of fluids during sexual relations with an infected person via sexual intercourse (penetrative, oral and anal). It can also be transmitted through the exchange of saliva while kissing or other close body contact.

Symptoms of Genital Herpes


Signs of genital herpes can begin to show up from two to twenty days (2 – 20 days) after infection and can last for many weeks before it fades, and then resurfaces from time to time. After infection, the virus moves from skin cells to nerve cells.As earlier noted, among the most visible symptoms of genital herpes are;

In Men:

1) inflammation in the penis or penile area.

2) painful itchiness at the scrotum, penis, and anus

3) sores/blisters on or around the groin.

4) shooting pains in the legs, hips or buttocks.

5) fever and headaches.

In Women:

1) Burning sensation when passing out urine.

2) itchy sores and painful blisters on or around the vagina, cervix or vulva.

3) A change in vaginal discharge.

4) Flu and headaches.

5) Abdominal pain as a result of swollen glands in the pelvic area.

6) Uneven bumps around the vaginal or anal area.

Most of these symptoms described above are referred to as “outbreaks.” They are usually very pronounced the first time a person gets infected and may then become mild in subsequent times. Also note that some individuals infected with genital herpes are asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms that go unnoticed or are mistaken for another skin condition. When herpes does not show noticeable signs, it could be that the virus is still in its latent phase

For persons with visible symptoms, it is important to know that these symptoms can also come and go, but that doesn’t mean the infection goes away or that it can’t be spread to other people.

The fact remains that genital herpes are incurable which means that once a person contracts herpes, it stays in their body for life. But this is not the end of the world because thanks to advancements in medical science, genital herpes can be properly managed. Read further to learn ample ways to treat and manage it.

How can Genital Herpes be Treated?

There is currently no known cure for genital herpes nor is there a clinically approved vaccine for it. However, that’s not the end of the world as there are millions of people living with herpes today who go about their daily activities with little or no qualms.

What matters is the effective management of symptoms to avoid discomfort and suppress further spread.

Depending on how mild or severe one’s symptoms are, genital herpes can be managed or treated in the following ways:

Can Genital Herpes Be Prevented?

The surest way to avoid genital herpes is to practice abstinence from sexual intercourse.


Other ways include;

  • Appropriate use of condoms during penetrative sex and dental dams during oral sex.
  • Making sure to stick to one uninfected sexual partner to reduce the risk of herpes virus shedding in areas that are not covered by condoms.

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Chioma Okwara is an Anatomist and a health content writer. She specializes in topics related to public health, mental health and infertility. Chioma is a Volunteer for Whispering Hope Africa Initiative ( WHAiafrica) where she offers her services to helping the poor in the rural areas of the Nigeria.

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