Genital herpes is a fairly common sexually transmitted disease. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), at least 45 million people over the age of twelve have had an infection caused by the herpes simplex. There are two types of the herpes simplex -- HSV-1 and HSV-2, 2 being more common than 1. HSV-2 is more common in women, which may indicate that it is easier for males to pass the disease to women than it is for women to pass it to men.
Herpes tends to be hard to detect at first, because some sufferers have either no or only minimal signs of infection. When symptoms do surface it is usually two weeks after infection and they occur in the form of a blister or blisters on or near the genital or anal area. These blisters will rupture, causing painful sores that can take between 2 weeks and one month to heal.
Other outbreaks can occur (usually 4 or 5 a year initially), but are typically less severe and shorter than the first, with outbreaks decreasing over the years. Unfortunately, the disease can stay within the body for an indefinite amount of time, which can result in years of outbreaks, or being a carrier without knowing.
The herpes simplex (both types) is found in the sores caused by the virus and can also be released between outbreaks by someone who does not know they are infected. HSV-2 is usually transmitted by sexual contact with someone who has a genital infection during an outbreak, but it is possible to contract it while there is no visible infection. HSV-1 is more commonly found in the mouth and lips, but can be transmitted by oral or genital contact with someone who has an HSV-1 infection.
Genital infections occur less frequently in those with HSV-1 than those with HSV-2. Apart from the pain and suffering of the outbreaks, there can also be other problems. Patients with genital herpes typically suffer from psychological trauma upon knowing they are infected. Genital herpes can also cause life-threatening infections in babies, especially if herpes is contracted during pregnancy, and women who must deliver during an outbreak are usually given a cesarean delivery.
Herpes can also make an individual more vulnerable to HIV, as well as making those with HIV already more likely to transmit it. Currently, there is no treatment for herpes and the most absolute to prevent genital herpes is to abstain from sexual contact, or to confine sexual contact to monogamous partners known to be uninfected. There are antiviral medications that can suppress outbreaks as well as make it less likely for sufferers to pass the disease to a partner.
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