Genital herpes, a viral infection by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), is transmitted during sexual contact with the mucous-covered linings of the mouth, vagina, or the genital skin. A typical outbreak begins with an itching or tingling sensation followed by redness of the skin and blister formation. The blisters and ulcers that form when the blisters break are painful to the touch, and last from 7 days to 2 weeks. Though there is no cure for herpes, there are ways to treat outbreaks.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Condoms do not necessarily prevent sexually
Genital herpes is a viral infection that can cause painful genital
sores and causes recurrent outbreaks.
Many people are infected with herpes virus and are not aware of the
The herpes virus is spread by direct person-to-person contact.
An infected person may transmit the virus to others even if no
symptoms are present.
There is no cure for genital herpes, but viral shedding and
outbreaks can be reduced with antiviral medications.
What are sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)?
Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are infections that can be
transferred from one person to another through any type of sexual contact. STDs
are sometimes referred to as sexually transmitted infections (STIs) since they
involve the transmission of a disease-causing microorganism from one person to
another during sexual activity. It is important to realize that sexual contact
includes more than just sexual intercourse (vaginal and anal). Sexual contact
includes kissing, oral-genital contact, and the use of sexual "toys," such as
vibrators. STDs probably have been around for thousands of years, but the most dangerous of these conditions, infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), was only recognized in recent decades.
Many STDs are treatable, but effective cures are lacking
for others caused by viruses, such as HIV, HPV, hepatitis B, and
hepatitis C. Even gonorrhea, once easily cured, has become resistant to many of the older traditional antibiotics. Many STDs can be present in, and spread by, people who do not have any symptoms of the condition and have not yet been diagnosed with an STD. Therefore, public awareness and education about these infections and the methods of preventing them is important.
There really is no such thing as "safe" sex. The only truly effective way to prevent STDs is abstinence. Sex in the context of a monogamous relationship wherein neither party is infected with a STD also is considered "safe." Most people think that kissing is
a safe activity. Unfortunately, syphilis, herpes, and other infections can be
contracted through this relatively simple and apparently harmless act. All other forms of sexual contact carry some risk.
Condoms are commonly thought to protect against STDs. Condoms are useful in decreasing the spread of certain infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea; however, they do not fully protect
against other infections such as genital herpes,
genital warts, syphilis, and
HIV. Prevention of the spread of STDs is dependent upon the counseling of
at-risk individuals and the early diagnosis and treatment of infections.
Reviewed by William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR on 12/2/2013
The symptoms of genital herpes vary among people. Most people infected with
HSV have no symptoms or have only mild symptoms, but some develop severe
symptoms. When symptoms do occur, the infected person usually develops one or
more painful blisters in the anal or genital areas that eventually ulcerate and
heal over a period of a few weeks.
of an initial infection can include: