Genital herpes

Alternative Names

Herpes – genital; Herpes simplex – genital; Herpesvirus 2; HSV-2

Definition of Genital herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted viral infection affecting the skin or mucous membranes of the genitals.

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

Genital herpes is caused by two viruses:

Symptoms

Many people with HSV-2 infection never have sores, or they have very mild symptoms that they do not even notice or mistake for insect bites or another skin condition.

Signs and tests

Tests can be done on skin sores or blisters to diagnose herpes. These tests are most often done when someone has a first outbreak and when a pregnant women develops genital herpes symptoms.

Treatment

Genital herpes cannot be cured. However, antiviral medication can relieve pain and discomfort during an outbreak by healing the sores more quickly. These drugs appear to help during first attacks more than they do in later outbreaks. Medicines used to treat herpes include acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir.

Expectations (prognosis)

Once you are infected, the virus stays in your body for the rest of your life. Some people never have another episode, and others have frequent outbreaks.

Review

Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Redmond, WA; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 9/13/2009

Female reproductive anatomy

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

Article written by

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is an independent audit to verify that A.D.A.M. follows rigorous standards of quality and accountability.