Genital Herpes in America: What You Need to Know

The average genital herpes statistics can be somewhat of a surprise. About one out of six people in the United States aged 14-49 years have this virus, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention. And what’s even more surprising is that majority of those who are infected don’t know they have it. In this post, we will talk about what genital herpes is, how it is transmitted, what its complications are, and how it can be managed.


What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by two types of viruses: the herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and the herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2). HSV-2 is the main culprit of genital herpes, while the HSV-1 is the main cause of oral herpes. However, these days HSV-1 is being increasingly found to cause genital herpes as well, and vice versa.

How genital herpes is spread?

Herpes can be passed through direct skin-to-skin contact with someone who has the disease, such as kissing or having vaginal, oral, or anal sex. It is easily transmitted through contact with open sores. Herpes sores have fluid in them that is filled with virus, and contact with those fluids can cause infection. But you can also get the virus from an infected sex partner who doesn’t have a visible sore or who may not aware that he or she has it, as the virus can be released through the skin and spread the infection to others.

What are the symptoms of genital herpes?

Most people who are infected with genital herpes have no, or very mild symptoms. This is the very reason why most people who have herpes are not aware they are infected. But if symptoms do occur with the first outbreak, they can be painful and severe, particularly to people with weak immune systems.

The very first outbreak usually happens within 2 weeks of having sexual contact with an infected person, and the symptoms can include:

  • Fever and malaise symptoms
  • Itching or burning feeling in the genital area or anal region
  • Painful urination (dysuria)
  • Headaches and muscle aches
  • Enlarged, swollen lymph nodes in the groin area
  • Vaginal discharge in women

Within a few days or a couple of weeks, sores show up where the virus has entered, such as on the mouth or genital area. These sores are small red bumps that may turn into small blisters that eventually break open and produce painful sores. After a few days, the sores dry, form a scab, and heal over. Sometimes, after the first outbreak, second outbreak symptoms occur again, but usually they tend to be less severe and shorter in duration.

What are the potential complications of genital herpes?

The good news is that this virus, although quite annoying and depressing, will not kill you or cause any health problems later. Although the virus has a tendency to spread in other areas of the body, such as the brain, eyes, and lungs, and cause inflammation in some sensitive body parts, these cases are very rare and only happen without proper care. Most people with genital herpes still lead normal healthy lives without complications, other than of course, the annoyance of dealing with the symptoms that usually come and go.

However, it is very important to see your doctor regularly for testing and immediate treatment. Although there’s no cure for genital herpes, it is still important to get treatment from a qualified specialist. These medicines can be helpful to shorten or stop outbreaks from happening. Talking with your doctor will also help you deal with it effectively.

And for pregnant women with a history of genital herpes, it is really crucial to share this with your healthcare provider to reduce your risk of having the symptoms and avoid passing the disease to your baby.

The Bottom Line

While it’s true that genital herpes is an alarming and annoying disease, no one should allow it to control their lives. You may feel embarrassed and less attractive. You may even get so depressed and angry about life, especially with the person who infected you, but you need to learn to overcome them. Also, realize that herpes is a very common condition. Chances are one of your friends or one of the people you know has it, too. Yes, it’s really annoying, especially knowing that there’s no cure for it, but it’s certainly not the worst health condition to suffer from. Talk frankly with your doctor and your sex partner – they will be able to help.

If you’d like to know more information about herpes and how to deal with it, visit the Herpes Helper website.

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