Prevention & support for sexual health

Genital Herpes

Genital Herpes (HSV)



What is Genital Herpes ?

Herpes is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV).

There are two types of herpes virus, both of which affect the mouth, lips, genital organs and anus: herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex type 2 (HSV-2).

Cold sores are generally caused by the HSV-1 virus, whereas genital herpes sores are caused by the HSV-2 virus. However, if a person has a cold sore, the herpes virus can be transmitted to his or her partner’s genital organs during oral sex. Conversely, the herpes virus can be transmitted from the genital organs to the lips during oral sex.

Relapses or recurrences are characteristic of both types of the herpes simplex virus.

How do you get Herpes ?

  • From sexual relations with or without penetration of the penis in the vagina or anus;
  • From oral sex;
  • When sex toys are shared;
  • An infected pregnant person can transmit the bacteria to her baby during pregnancy or delivery;
  • From intimate contact (skin-to-skin) with an infected person (who may or may not have sores or blisters).

What are the symptoms of Herpes ?

Often there are no symptoms.

First infection


Person with vagina Person with penis
  • Sores inside or near the vagina, the vulva, the cervix, on the external genitals, near the anus or on the thighs or buttocks
  • Tender lumps in the groin
  • Some women may develop recurrent outbreaks before or during their menstrual cycles
  • Fever, headaches and muscular pain
  • Sores on the penis, around the testicles, near the anus or on the thighs or buttocks
  • Tender lumps in the groin
  • Anal pain or discharge
  • Fever, headaches and muscular pain

The first outbreak of the infection may produce very severe and intense symptoms in some patients and go undetected in others.

Recurrence of symptoms

A recurrence of symptoms may be preceded by warning signs (e.g. a rash). It is believed that stress can play a role in the frequency and severity of outbreaks.

  • An initial tingling sensation in the affected area (the herpes blisters usually reappear in the same areas).
  • The appearance of a slight redness and/or swelling at the infected area(s).
  • A cluster of fragile blisters may appear very quickly (within hours or days). These blisters can burst, leaving painful sores sensitive to the touch.
  • Within a few days, these sores will form a scab and heal.

A recurrence will typically last from five to seven days, but may take up to several weeks to resolve.

What is the treatment for Herpes ?

There is no effective treatment that can fully cure this infection.

However, medication may be taken:

  • To decrease the severity of symptoms;
  • To reduce the duration and frequency of outbreaks.

Medication may also be taken daily to prevent frequent recurrences, thereby reducing the risk of transmission.

Here are some home remedies that can help relieve the symptoms of herpes:

  • Ice compresses on the affected areas;
  • Long baths and careful drying of the blisters with a hair dryer;
  • Pain medication for the first few painful days of the outbreak;
  • Avoiding contact with the sores in order not to spread the virus.

If you suffer from painful urination, you can make the process less painful by urinating in a shower or bath.

Wash and dry the affected areas well. Wash towels before reusing them.

After a bath, use a hair dryer or gently towel dry the affected areas.

Try to wear loose-fitting clothing made of natural fibres, such as cotton.

Additional information

Genital herpes:

  • Is very widespread in the general population.
  • May spread even if there are no visible lesions.
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