There are two different types of herpes, HSV-1 and HSV-2. They can enter the body through the delicate, moist skin of the mouth, penis, vagina and rectum.
You can catch genital herpes through vaginal, anal or oral sex, and the virus stays in the body for life, lying dormant in nerves between outbreaks.
At sporadic times during a person’s life, it's reactivated causing an outbreak. After the first outbreak, following outbreaks are normally milder from thereon. Some people may choose to take medication to control them.
When a person has genital herpes, the virus lies dormant within the bundle of nerves at the base of the spine. When the virus reactivates, it will move through nerve paths to reach the skin’s surface, occasionally resulting in an outbreak.
The genitals, upper thighs and buttocks have nerves that are all connected and as such, an outbreak can happen in any of these areas. Specifically, the areas are the vagina or vulva, penis, scrotum or testicles, buttocks or anus, or thighs.
Both HSV-1 and HSV-2 herpes can cause the following symptoms:
- Cold sores on the mouth.
- Genital herpes.
- Pain when urine passes over the sores (genital herpes).
- Painful infections (called 'whitlows') on the fingers and hands.
It should be noted that genital herpes, irrespective of being type HSV-1 or HSV-2, does not cause symptoms on the mouth or face. Oral herpes is responsible for symptoms in those areas, causing blisters that will show up in or around the mouth (known as cold sores).
Currently, there is no available ‘cure’ for herpes or genital herpes, so those who have been infected with herpes will be aiming to manage the condition during ‘outbreaks’ and measures to avoid spreading the infection to others.
You should avoid sex entirely during outbreaks with active sores until the outbreak has cleared up. After this, sexual activity should be protected by using condoms and potential sexual partners should be informed that herpes can still be transmitted regardless of whether you have an active outbreak of blisters or sores.
Pregnant women will also have to be extra careful as herpes can be passed on to the baby and make him or her seriously ill.
Infections related to the herpes virus such as cold sores, shingles and genital herpes can be treated with Aciclovir 5% cream, either a prescription only 10g tube or an over the counter 2g version. Moreover, herpes can be treated with Valtrex/Valaciclovir, a prescription-only antiviral drug that slows the growth and spread of the herpes virus so that the body can fight off the infection. You can buy Valtrex online following an online consultation with one of our fully registered Prescribers.
It is also important for sexually active patients to be regularly tested for other sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, syphilis, Hepatitis B & C, etc. Remember, there is a severe risk of serious complications with any STI if left untreated.