Guide to Genital Herpes: Signs and Therapy
Genital herpes is commonly referred to viral diseases and sexually transmitted illnesses. It is one of the most widespread STDs in the world that can be transmitted both to men and women despite their age, race and sexual preferences. According to current statistics, about 20% of the entire adult population of our planet have genital herpes, about 5% do not even know about having this disorder. Genital herpes can happen after any kind of sexual contact, when the herpes bacteria enter a body through mucous, as well as through blood transfusions, microcrackles of skin around genitalia or via uterine canals.
What is genital herpes and how does it affect a healthy body?
Only one of eight types referred to herpes viruses can come in a body via sexual organs. It has two forms - HSV-1, HSV-2. The first visual signs of genital herpes in widespread rash in the area of vagina, penis, anus or perineum.
After entering the body of an uninfected person herpes virus starts acting on a similar pattern as the human papillomavirus embedded in the structure of nerve cells. However, the good immune system of a healthy person can suppress the virus, so the infection can be inactive for a long time (and sometimes for whole life) without being revealed.
Interesting fact: About 80% of infected with genital herpes people will never have the symptoms of the virus, but can be the carriers for infecting other people. Herpes virus that is an inactive mode is called primary, while the active form of genital herpes is called secondary.
Causes of genital herpes’ development (after entering a body):
- Temperature changes (hypothermia or overheating of a body);
- Colds or other infectious diseases that can decrease immune system;
- Vitamin deficiency;
- Stress, fatigue and emotional instability;
- Smoking, the frequent use of alcohol and caffeine;
- Irregular menstrual cycles.
Symptoms of genital herpes in men and women
Primary form of genital herpes can pass without symptoms. In the case when the disease comes in the secondary type the first symptoms start to reveal. The first signs appear after 1-10 days from the beginning of secondary herpes type and they are revealed via:
- Burning, itching and swelling in the area of skin eruptions - where the virus entered a body (genital area). There can be no other signs of genital herpes so if you notice these first symptoms, immediately visit a doctor;
- Rash on genital mucosal surfaces, as well as other areas of the skin nearby. Rash looks like small bubbles with characteristic redness around them;
- Ulceration after few days later (2-4 days after rash development) when the content of bubbles comes out;
- Swollen lymph nodes in the groin area, sometimes accompanied by weakness and fever.
In the case of the onset of symptoms the primary period of genital herpes can last from 2 to 5 weeks. In the presence of the correct treatment at this stage genital herpes can be treated with 1-3 weeks. However, symptoms may disappear by themselves and then the disease goes into the next, more serious stage.
The forms of ongoing genital herpes
There are different types of genital herpes that impact the stages of the virus’ development.
- Recurrent genital herpes form is most often seen in more than half of infected patients (and occurs a few weeks after the onset of the virus
During this form the symptoms are expressed more weakly than during the first acute phase of genital herpes: there is no temperature, malaise, rash on the skin and mucous is less and the blisters disappear faster (about 7-10 days).
- The atypical form of genital herpes
This type of genital herpes is mostly common among women. This form is characterized by the absence of lesions (bubbles) or erosive rashes, but a healthcare specialist may notice chronic inflammation of the genital organs that is also the sign of developing genital herpes. In addition, painful skin cracks can appear in the infected area.
For the success of subsequent treatment of genital herpes when at least one of the described symptoms appears a person should consult a doctor: urologist or gynecologist. You can also appeal to Canadian Health&Care Mall experts anonymously online to get the answers to any questions related to the symptoms and visual manifestation of genital area.
The risks of untreated genital herpes
Not detected and untreated timely genital herpes in about the third of all cases can cause the amount of complications affecting joints, nervous system, as well as pelvic organs, leading to far more serious complications, including infertility.
Also visual manifestations of genital herpes may adversely affect the sexual life of a patient: in the end it leads to psychological and neurological disorders, which may require the separate treatment.
Prevention of genital herpes
The main method of protection against genital herpes is to use a condom during any sexual contact. However, even this method of contraception doesn’t give 100% guarantee. Therefore, during the exacerbation of genital herpes you need completely give up sex life to avoid the development of the infection and further spread of the disease to your sexual partners.
In addition to a condom for preventive purposes you can use antiviral drugs not allowing sexually transmitted infections to enter a body. The use of antiviral drugs is possible only after recommendation given by a doctor.
Within a few hours after a sexual intercourse to prevent sexual organs can be treated with an antiseptic (also recommended by a doctor), which also help to minimize the risk of virus infection.
Above we have mentioned the category of antiviral pills that can prevent the early development of genital herpes (you can take them as a single maximum dose after an unprotected sex).
Acyclovir (brand title Zovirax), Famciclovir (Famvir) and Valacyclovir (Valtrex) are 3 major antiviral drugs for the treatment of genital herpes. All of them are quite effective, but compared to Famciclovir Valacyclovir is better absorbed with a stomach, and Valtrex can be taken less frequently than Acyclovir. Antiviral drugs are often taken by mouth (orally), but in the severe cases of genital herpes with the frequent episodes of recurrence these drugs can be administered intravenously.
Interesting fact: Keep in mind that the most common form of acyclovir ( Zovirax ointment) is not very effective for the treatment of genital herpes and it is usually not recommended for this purpose. CHCM experts recommend to buy only orally taken pills to treat genital herpes from inside then topically outside.
All antiviral drugs can significantly reduce the severity of genital herpes outbreaks and reduce the amount of time required for the disappearance of symptoms. The drugs also reduce the number of days required to overcome painful symptoms of genital herpes during the first stage.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following treatment plans for treating the primary outbreak of genital herpes infections:
- Acyclovir or Zovirax must be used in 400 mg pills orally (the dose must be taken in 3 equal doses (each 400mg) during 24 hrs) from 7 to 10 days.
- Famciclovir in 250 mg pills must be taken orally (three times a day – no more than 750mg per 24 hrs) during 7 to 10 days.
- 1 g of Valacyclovir applied orally a person with genital herpes must take two times a day (no more than 2g per 24 hrs) during 7 to 10 days.
For treating the repeated outbreaks of genital herpes you must continue to take any of the antiviral drugs (do not take them simultaneously!) during 5-7 days more.
NB: In addition to all genital herpes’ forms, antiviral drugs stop the development of herpes simplex virus (HSV) that commonly appears on lips.
Who can take antiviral drugs for treating genital herpes?
- People who have noticed the signs of the primary outbreak of genital herpes;
- Who experience frequent repeated outbreaks of genital herpes (approximately 6 or more times per year);
- Who want to reduce the severity of the repeated outbreaks;
- Who want to reduce the risks of inadvertent transmission of the genital herpes virus;
- Who have the weakened immune systems and frequent recurrences of genital herpes.
- Pregnant women who noticed the primary outbreak of genital herpes;
- Pregnant women during the last month of pregnancy, during which there are frequent recurrences of genital herpes.