Genital Herpes

Genital Herpes Image

Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and yet, most people infected with the disease aren’t aware they’re carrying the virus.

Genital herpes symptoms may include pain, itching and sores in the genital area. Sometimes, the blisters and sores also occur around the anus and down the buttocks and thighs. However, many people have no obvious symptoms, which is why so many people don’t know they have the virus.

Cause of Herpes

The cause of herpes is the herpes simplex virus (HSV). This virus is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, and it’s easily transmitted during sex.

The herpes simplex 2 virus (HSV-2) is the most common cause of genital herpes. However, the herpes simplex 1 virus (HSV-1), which typically causes cold sores around the mouth, can occasionally cause genital herpes, usually as a result of oral-genital contact.

Genital herpes statistics are significant: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2010), more than 16 percent of the U.S. population between the ages of 14 and 49 has the HSV-2 infection.

Treatment for Genital Herpes

Genital herpes has no cure, but you can manage outbreaks and reduce the risk of transmitting this STD to your partner using herpes treatments.

Prescription oral medications for herpes include acyclovir (Zovirax®), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex®). Acyclovir is also available as a topical medication. Treatment may be episodic (meaning when an outbreak occurs) or suppressive (meaning taking daily medication to eliminate outbreaks).

Some sources promote natural remedies to treat genital herpes, such as stress management, adequate rest and good nutrition. Some people find getting support helpful, while others find the condition very personal.

Complications of the Herpes Virus

Although complications of the herpes virus don’t generally occur in otherwise healthy people, herpes does increase the risk of getting other sexually transmitted diseases (including the AIDS virus). A pregnant woman can transmit the herpes virus to her baby. The herpes virus can also cause urinary problems and inflammation of the rectum.

Preventing Genital Herpes

A lack of awareness about HSV increases the chances of contracting genital herpes, or even of identifying an existing infection. The virus goes through a cycle of dormancy and activity, often several times a year, and spreads whenever the virus is active.

Herpes prevention starts with practicing safe sex, including using a condom. Do not have sex if you are experiencing an outbreak of herpes; however, realize that you can spread the virus even if you are not having symptoms.

Until herpes research provides a vaccine, the only sure way to prevent herpes, or any STD, is to abstain from sex or only have sex with a monogamous partner who has been tested for STDs.


American Social Health Association. (n.d.). Learn about herpes. Retrieved August 18, 2010, from

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2010). Genital herpes – CDC Fact Sheet. Retrieved August 18, 2010, from

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Genital herpes. Retrieved August 18, 2010, from