- Seeking information about genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease (STD)
- Genital herpes is caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV-1 or HSV-2).
- Genital herpes is the most common STD. Close to 50 million persons in the United States have genital herpes.
- There is no cure for genital herpes; however, there are medications that can reduce the severity and duration of the symptoms.
- Painful, fluid-filled blisters that usually are grouped in clusters. They occur anywhere around the opening of the vagina or on the penis. Blisters dry out, crust over and heal in 7-10 days.
- The symptoms are worst during the first episode of genital herpes.
- Recurrences of genital herpes can occur and often are less painful and of shorter duration.
- People can have genital herpes and have no symptoms at all (asymptomatic).
- Genital herpes is spread by sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal) or any direct contact with the genitals of a person who has an active herpes infection (initial episode or recurrence).
- Many people do not know that they have genital herpes. A person can have no symptoms and still transmit the virus. As a result, most cases of transmission occur with neither sexual partners knowing that it is occurring.
- Oral herpes (fever blisters) also can be spread to the partner's genitals during oral sex.
How long does it usually take for symptoms to appear once one is exposed?
- The incubation period is 2 days to 2 weeks.
How can I get tested for herpes?
- Genital herpes can be diagnosed with a specimen taken from a blister or by blood testing.
Is there treatment for genital herpes?
- First episode - There are antiviral medications that can be used for genital herpes. Medication doesn't cure the disease, but can shorten the duration of symptoms. Speak with your physician.
- Recurrent episodes - Antiviral medications can reduce and shorten the duration of symptoms. Speak with your physician.
I have genital herpes. How can I protect my sexual partner from getting herpes?
- Inform your sexual partner that you have herpes.
- Abstain from sexual activity with uninfected sexual partners whenever you have the herpes sores or feel them coming on.
- Remember that you can transmit herpes even when you have no symptoms.
- A latex condom can reduce the chance of transmission, if used correctly and if the condom covers the herpes sores.
STD National Hotline
- The CDC National STD Hotline provides information on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, HPV/genital warts, herpes, and HIV/AIDS. Specialists can provide general information, referrals to local clinics, and written materials about STDs and disease prevention.
- Toll-free number (English): (800) 227-8922
- Toll-free number (Spanish): (800) 344-7432
- Their website is at: http://www.ashastd.org
Pregnancy test, when in doubt:
- If there is any possibility of pregnancy, obtain and use a urine pregnancy test from the local drug store.
- Follow the instructions included in the package.
Call Your Doctor If:
- Pregnancy test is positive or if you have difficulties with the home pregnancy test.
- Discharge from penis or unusual vaginal discharge
- You become worse