Genital Herpes Treatment

Order treatment for genital herpes online

With Dr Felix you can order Genital Herpes treatment without actually seeing a doctor, just by filling in a simple online questionnaire. We offer effective prescription medicine that quickly suppresses herpes outbreaks.


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Prices exclude a prescription fee. This treatment requires a quick online consultation, which a doctor will review to determine if a prescription is appropriate.

Information

Dr Samantha Miller

Reviewed by Dr Samantha Miller MB ChB
(2017, University of Glasgow)
GMC number: 7561464

Information last reviewed 23/01/2021

About

What is genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection. It often produces small blisters around the genitals or anus which then burst, leaving red sores. Symptoms typically appear within 2–14 days following after initial exposure; however the primary infection can also be completely asymptomatic. Once infected, the virus lies dormant inside your body and may produce visible symptoms of varying frequency.

How do you catch genital herpes?

Genital herpes is typically transmitted by sexual contact with a partner who is infected with genital herpes. Genital herpes is most often transmitted when there are visible sores present on the genitals, however, it can also be transmitted where there are no symptoms due to viral shedding.

What are the different types of herpes?

There are different strains of herpes virus. Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1) usually causes cold sores around the mouth and is generally passed on during kissing or close contact with someone with a visible cold sore. Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 (HSV-2) is the usual cause of genital herpes and is spread through sexual contact. However, both types can infect the genitals, causing similar sores.

Who should get tested for genital herpes?

Anyone with visible genital sores should get tested for herpes. The first instance of genital herpes may produce the following symptoms: 

  • Fluid-filled blisters around the genitals, anus, thighs or buttocks which typically burst within 1–2 days, leaving painful red sores that crust over and heal within a few days.
  • Discharge from the vagina 
  • Pain during urination 
  • Feeling generally unwell with flu-like symptoms such as fever and muscle aches

Genital herpes testing is carried out using a swab test from current genital sores.

What is shedding?

Shedding occurs when a virus has reproduced within infected cells and viral particles are released which can be spread to another person. Shedding can occur with or without visible symptoms.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Genital Herpes?

Genital herpes can be completely asymptomatic, or you may not get symptoms for months or years. Typical symptoms include: 

  • Fluid-filled blisters around the genitals, anus, thighs or buttocks which typically burst within 1–2 days, leaving painful red sores that crust over and heal within a few days.
  • Discharge from the vagina 
  • Painful urination 
  • Feeling generally unwell with flu-like symptoms such as fever and muscle aches

The sores will heal and disappear on their own but it's common to have recurrent outbreaks. The symptoms of an outbreak are slightly different from your first infection and tend to be milder. These symptoms include: 

  • Initial itching, burning or tingling sensation around the genitals before any visible signs appear
  • Fluid-filled blisters around the genitals, anus, thighs or buttocks which typically burst within 1–2 days, leaving painful red sores that crust over and heal within a few days.

Genital herpes vs Oral herpes

There are several types of the herpes virus which affect the genitals and the mouth. Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1) usually causes cold sores and is typically transmitted by kissing, sharing drinks or cutlery and general close contact with someone with an active cold sore. Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 (HSV-2) usually causes genital herpes and is generally passed on during sexual contact. Genital herpes can be caused by both HSV-1 and HSV-2, however oral herpes tends to be caused only by HSV-1.

What are the long term effects of genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a relatively harmless virus and rarely causes complications. It is a long term condition where the herpes virus lives inside your body, remaining dormant most of the time. Infected people may have no symptoms, or may have recurrent outbreaks several times a year. Some individuals may only experience symptoms once. 

Herpes infection can be dangerous for those who are immunocompromised, such as those with HIV infection. In these individuals, it can cause widespread problems such as encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) or keratitis (inflammation of the eye). 

Genital herpes can also be transmitted from mother-to-baby during childbirth and can cause a rare but serious condition called neonatal herpes. The risk of this occurring is highest if the mother has been exposed to herpes and developed symptoms for the first time during the pregnancy. If you think you may have genital herpes and you are pregnant, it is especially important to speak to your doctor, as medication may be recommended to reduce the chance of transmitting the virus to your baby during delivery.

Treatment

How is genital herpes treated?

Genital herpes does not always require treatment, as symptoms will usually subside on their own. However, treatment with antiviral tablets such as Aciclovir is recommended if this is the first time you have displayed symptoms of visible blisters or sores, as it reduces the duration and severity of symptoms, and reduces the risk of complications. Aciclovir can also be used to lessen the duration and severity of symptoms during outbreaks. Antiviral medication is most effective if taken within 48–72 hours of the onset of symptoms, and should be started within 5 days. Antiviral medication should be taken for a minimum of five days. 

If you have more than six outbreaks of herpes a year, or if outbreaks are causing significant distress, long-term, daily suppressive treatment with Aciclovir may be recommended. Suppressive therapy is taken every day and should be continued for at least 6–12 months. 

For mild symptoms and occasional outbreaks, self-care measures may be sufficient to relieve symptoms. The affected area should be kept clean. An ice pack or cold flannel may be used to soothe painful sores. If it is painful to urinate, increasing drinking more water and applying petroleum jelly to the blisters may help ease the pain. A topical local anaesthetic cream can also be used to relieve genital pain.

Is genital herpes curable?

There is no cure for genital herpes, but outbreaks should subside, especially with the help of antiviral medication. Genital herpes is a long term condition, in which the virus lies dormant in the body the majority of the time, between outbreaks. If your symptoms are severe or frequent, suppressive medication is recommended.

What are the risks if genital herpes is left undiagnosed and untreated?

Genital herpes left untreated, rarely leads to complications and the body will usually heal itself. However active genital herpes is more likely to spread and infect other people and untreated genital herpes can result in more severe and prolonged symptoms. In people with weakened immune systems, the virus can spread to other areas of the body such as the brain or organs, causing complications. 

Genital herpes can also be transmitted from mother-to-baby during childbirth and can cause a rare but serious condition called neonatal herpes. The risk of this occurring is highest if the mother has been exposed to herpes and developed symptoms for the first time during the pregnancy. If you think you may have genital herpes and you are pregnant, it is especially important to speak to your doctor, as medication may be recommended to reduce the chance of transmitting the virus to your baby during delivery.

How effective are condoms at preventing spreading herpes?

Condoms and dental dams reduce the risk of transmitting herpes to a sexual partner, however, these barriers do not cover the whole genital area, so if the virus is present in these uncovered areas, you can still pass it on. Therefore if you have an outbreak of genital herpes, it is recommended that you abstain from sexual contact until all the sores have healed. While genital herpes is much more likely to be transmitted to a sexual partner during an outbreak, it can be passed on by direct skin-to-skin contact even when you don’t have active symptoms, blisters or sores. It is estimated that a person infected with HSV-2 but with no symptoms, is contagious approximately 10% of the time.

Q&A

Can genital herpes cause nerve damage?

It is very rare for genital herpes to cause complications or long-term damage. However in rare cases, the virus can cause damage to the body, including damage to the nervous system such as meningitis and encephalitis. These complications are more likely to occur in those with compromised immune systems.

How can we safely conceive a child if one of us has herpes?

It is recommended to abstain from sexual contact during an outbreak of genital herpes symptoms to avoid transmission to sexual partners. Genital herpes can be transmitted from mother-to-baby during pregnancy and childbirth and can cause a rare but serious condition called neonatal herpes. The risk of this occurring is highest if the mother contracts genital herpes during the last six weeks of pregnancy, or has an outbreak around the time of birth. The risk of passing the virus onto the baby if it is contracted by the mother around conception is low, around 1%. 

If your male partner has active herpes symptoms and you are looking to conceive, it is recommended to abstain from sexual contact until all lesions have healed, and it would be advisable for your partner to speak to their doctor to discuss if suppressive therapy is recommended to reduce the risk of transmission. 

If you have a personal history of genital herpes infection and are pregnant, or hoping to conceive, it is important to disclose this to your doctor or midwife, as you may be recommended suppressive therapy to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to your baby during the pregnancy and birth.

When is the best time to get tested?

You should get tested for genital herpes as soon as you notice any visible symptoms. You can only be tested for herpes during an outbreak of blisters or sores.

Can you contract genital herpes by any other means than sex?

Genital herpes is transmitted via sexual contact. This includes contact with the skin and mucosa of the genitals, and any means whereby bodily fluids are exchanged, including vaginal, anal and oral sex. Genital herpes can be transmitted even when no symptoms are present, through the process of shedding. Genital herpes can also be transmitted from one person’s genitals to another via hands or sex toys. 

You cannot contract genital herpes from kissing, hugging, toilet seats, clothing, baths or swimming pools. However, you can contract oral herpes (cold sores) through kissing another person affected with cold sores, or through oral sex with someone with genital herpes, although this is rare.

Is herpes an STI?

Yes, genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) that is passed on via sexual contact. Other types of herpes e.g. oral herpes is not usually transmitted via sexual contact.

Who is most at risk of genital herpes?

Having many sexual partners and having sex without using a condom are the greatest risk factors for contracting genital herpes. Genital herpes is also more readily transmitted from men to women than from women to men.

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