Disease: Genital Herpes in Women

    Genital herpes in women facts

    • Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV).
    • HSV causes genital herpes by entering the skin or mucous membranes through microscopic breaks in the skin and mucous membranes.
    • Genital herpes is transmitted by any type of sexual contact with the genital area.
    • When symptoms are present, they may include painful blisters and/or ulcers in the genital area, itching, burning or tingling sensations in the skin and some individuals may develop fever, body aches and swollen lymph nodes: symptoms come and go over the person's lifetime.
    • Diagnosis is usually done by recognizing the skin changes in the genital area but viral cultures, genetic amplification of HSV genome material and other tests may be done.
    • There is no cure for genital herpes.
    • Antiviral medications are used to reduce the severity and frequency of genital herpes.
    • Some home remedies may help reduce symptom severity, but provide no cure.
    • Oral antiviral medications may be used in pregnancy: check with your OB/GYN before taking any medications if you are pregnant.
    • The prognosis of genital herpes is variable: there is no cure, and the recurrent outbreaks may vary in frequency and severity.
    • Genital herpes prevention is difficult. Condoms may prevent the disease spread during sex, but not in areas of skin not covered by a condom or during oral to genital contact. Clothing that touches genital skin ulcers may transmit HSV to others that wear the clothing.

    What is genital herpes?

    Genital herpes is a common sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by an infection with the herpes simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of HSV. HSV-1 is most commonly associated with blistering lesions around the mouth known as cold sores. HSV-2 is associated with blistering lesions in genital areas that are exposed during sexual contact. However, both types of HSV can infect the mouth or the genital areas. After the initial outbreak of herpes, the virus travels through the nerves and resides in nerve tissue within the body. Reactivations, or repeat occurrences of the blisters, can occur throughout an individual's lifetime. Among people aged 14 to 49, an estimated 1 out of every 6 people have the infection.

    What causes genital herpes?

    The herpes viruses enter the skin or mucous membrane through tiny, even microscopic, breaks in the tissue. Because an infected person may transmit the disease even when he or she does not have signs or symptoms of herpes, avoiding sexual contact with someone with active blisters does not guarantee protection against the infection.

    Individual outbreaks of herpes vary among affected people in terms of their frequency and severity. Outbreaks can be related to the function of the immune system and are typically worse in cases in which the immune system is suppressed. For example, at times of physical or emotional stress, during illness, or when you are taking certain medications.

    How is genital herpes transmitted?

    HSV infection is transmitted by direct person-to-person contact. Genital herpes is acquired through sexual contact of any type that involves contact with the genital areas. Genital herpes can also be caused by mouth to genital contact with a person who has cold sores or herpes infection of the mouth. Transmission from an infected male to a female partner is more likely than transmission from an infected woman to a male partner.

    What are the signs and symptoms of genital herpes?

    Many people infected with genital herpes have mild symptoms or symptoms that are mistaken for another condition. It is also possible to be infected and have no symptoms, so not everyone who is infected may be aware of the infection. When symptoms are present, they consist of typically painful blisters around the genital or rectal area. The blisters break open, form ulcers, and take 2 to 4 weeks to heal. With the first outbreak of genital herpes, a person may also experience flu-like symptoms including fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Immediately prior to an outbreak, there may be an itching, burning, or tingling sensation of the skin.

    In women, genital herpes usually causes blistering lesions on the vulva and around the vaginal opening that progress to ulcer formation. The infection spreads to involve the cervix in most cases, leading to cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix). In some women, cervicitis may be the only sign of genital herpes infection. Infection and inflammation of the urethra accompanies the infection in some women, leading to pain on urination.

    After the initial infection, a person may or may not have outbreaks later in life.

    How is genital herpes diagnosed?

    In most cases where the characteristic signs and symptoms are present, they are sufficient to establish a diagnosis of genital herpes infection, although some evidence exists that because of atypical presentations, missed clinical diagnoses can be high. Laboratory tests, such as viral culture and nucleic acid amplification tests to detect the genetic material of the virus, are also available. Immunologic tests to identify antibodies to genital herpes are other possible tests to establish whether infection has occurred.

    Can genital herpes be cured?

    There is no cure for genital herpes, and once a person is infected with genital herpes, the infection persists throughout the individual's life, with the potential for recurrent outbreaks. However, there are medications that can reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks and treatments to manage the symptoms.

    What is the treatment for genital herpes?

    Antiviral medications are available that can help manage the severity and duration of outbreaks, if taken immediately prior to (when there are tingling or unusual skin sensations but no blisters) or within 24 hours of an outbreak. The medications typically used are acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), or valacyclovir (Valtrex). These are all typically taken orally. In severe cases of viral infection, antiviral medications may be given intravenously, but this is not typically done for genital herpes. Topical medications that are applied directly to the sores are also available, but these are less effective than oral medications and are not generally used.

    All of these medications may also be given as suppressive therapy to decrease the number of outbreaks in people who have frequent outbreaks (more than six outbreaks per year).

    What causes genital herpes?

    The herpes viruses enter the skin or mucous membrane through tiny, even microscopic, breaks in the tissue. Because an infected person may transmit the disease even when he or she does not have signs or symptoms of herpes, avoiding sexual contact with someone with active blisters does not guarantee protection against the infection.

    Individual outbreaks of herpes vary among affected people in terms of their frequency and severity. Outbreaks can be related to the function of the immune system and are typically worse in cases in which the immune system is suppressed. For example, at times of physical or emotional stress, during illness, or when you are taking certain medications.

    How is genital herpes transmitted?

    HSV infection is transmitted by direct person-to-person contact. Genital herpes is acquired through sexual contact of any type that involves contact with the genital areas. Genital herpes can also be caused by mouth to genital contact with a person who has cold sores or herpes infection of the mouth. Transmission from an infected male to a female partner is more likely than transmission from an infected woman to a male partner.

    What are the signs and symptoms of genital herpes?

    Many people infected with genital herpes have mild symptoms or symptoms that are mistaken for another condition. It is also possible to be infected and have no symptoms, so not everyone who is infected may be aware of the infection. When symptoms are present, they consist of typically painful blisters around the genital or rectal area. The blisters break open, form ulcers, and take 2 to 4 weeks to heal. With the first outbreak of genital herpes, a person may also experience flu-like symptoms including fever, body aches, and swollen lymph nodes. Immediately prior to an outbreak, there may be an itching, burning, or tingling sensation of the skin.

    In women, genital herpes usually causes blistering lesions on the vulva and around the vaginal opening that progress to ulcer formation. The infection spreads to involve the cervix in most cases, leading to cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix). In some women, cervicitis may be the only sign of genital herpes infection. Infection and inflammation of the urethra accompanies the infection in some women, leading to pain on urination.

    After the initial infection, a person may or may not have outbreaks later in life.

    How is genital herpes diagnosed?

    In most cases where the characteristic signs and symptoms are present, they are sufficient to establish a diagnosis of genital herpes infection, although some evidence exists that because of atypical presentations, missed clinical diagnoses can be high. Laboratory tests, such as viral culture and nucleic acid amplification tests to detect the genetic material of the virus, are also available. Immunologic tests to identify antibodies to genital herpes are other possible tests to establish whether infection has occurred.

    Can genital herpes be cured?

    There is no cure for genital herpes, and once a person is infected with genital herpes, the infection persists throughout the individual's life, with the potential for recurrent outbreaks. However, there are medications that can reduce the severity and frequency of outbreaks and treatments to manage the symptoms.

    What is the treatment for genital herpes?

    Antiviral medications are available that can help manage the severity and duration of outbreaks, if taken immediately prior to (when there are tingling or unusual skin sensations but no blisters) or within 24 hours of an outbreak. The medications typically used are acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), or valacyclovir (Valtrex). These are all typically taken orally. In severe cases of viral infection, antiviral medications may be given intravenously, but this is not typically done for genital herpes. Topical medications that are applied directly to the sores are also available, but these are less effective than oral medications and are not generally used.

    All of these medications may also be given as suppressive therapy to decrease the number of outbreaks in people who have frequent outbreaks (more than six outbreaks per year).

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

    Antiviral medications are available that can help manage the severity and duration of outbreaks, if taken immediately prior to (when there are tingling or unusual skin sensations but no blisters) or within 24 hours of an outbreak. The medications typically used are acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir), or valacyclovir (Valtrex). These are all typically taken orally. In severe cases of viral infection, antiviral medications may be given intravenously, but this is not typically done for genital herpes. Topical medications that are applied directly to the sores are also available, but these are less effective than oral medications and are not generally used.

    All of these medications may also be given as suppressive therapy to decrease the number of outbreaks in people who have frequent outbreaks (more than six outbreaks per year).

    Source: http://www.rxlist.com

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