Herpes, Genital

General Illness Information


Common Name:

Herpes, Genital

Medical Term: Genital Herpes

Description:

  • An infection of the genital or anal area caused by the Herpes simplex virus type 2, and occasionally type 1 Herpes simplex virus;
  • It can involve the penis, vagina, cervix, thighs and buttocks  and can affect both sexes, and all ages;
  • In women, genital herpes may increase the risk of cervical cancer;
  • Genital herpes is transmitted by sexual contact in most cases;
  • In children, herpes virus type 1 genital infection may be contracted by non-sexual means.

Causes:

  • Herpes Virus Type 2 (HSV-2). (95% of cases);
  • Herpes virus Type 1 (HSV-1) (5% of cases);
  • In many cases, the virus lies dormant inside infected cells until conditions for multiplication are right; then the infected cells grow and cause the typical skin lesions;
  • This results in recurrent outbreaks.

Prevention:

  • Avoid sexual intercourse if either partner has blisters or sores;
  • Use a condom during intercourse if either sex partner has inactive genital herpes (especially important if the infected partner has frequent recurrences);
  • Avoid oral sex with a partner who has cold sores on the mouth;
  • If you are pregnant, tell your doctor if you have had herpes or any genital lesions in the past. Precautions should be taken to prevent infection of the baby;
  • Active genital herpes infection in a pregnant woman in labor is a very serious condition for the baby, and may require Caesarian section;
  • Avoid stress where possible.

Signs & Symptoms

  • The outbreaks usually start with tingling, burning, itching and / or soreness. This is followed by red patches on the involved areas, followed in turn by the vesicles or blisters which are quite painful. These form shallow ulcers which join together and generally heal in 10 days, with scarring;
  • In women, the blisters may extend into the vagina to the cervix and urethra;
  • Difficult, painful urination;
  • Enlarged lymph glands;
  • Fever and a general ill feeling;
  • In patients with HIV infection, or other causes of reduced immunity, the lesions may persist for weeks or longer.

Risk Factors

  • Lowered resistance due to serious illness;
  • Immuno-compromised individuals, – HIV; immunosuppressive medications or anticancer drugs;
  • Other trigger factors include genital trauma, menstruation, sunbathing and pre-existing infection.

Diagnosis & Treatment

General Measures:

  • Diagnosis is usually determined by the appearance of the lesions, however, confirmation may by made by a laboratory study of fluid from the lesion;
  • Women should wear cotton underpants or pantyhose with a cotton crotch;
  • Consider life-style changes to avoid emotional stress;
  • Women should have an annual Pap smear and physical examination to rule out any complications.

Medications:

  • Specific antiviral medications such as acyclovir, famcyclovir, and others can reduce viral shedding during an outbreak;
  • As yet, there is no medication that will eliminate the virus.

Activity:

Not restricted.

Diet:

No restrictions.

Possible Complications:

  • Herpes simplex encephalitis;
  • Aseptic meningitis;
  • Generalized disease and death in immunosuppressed patients;
  • Generalized herpes in the newborn – transmitted during delivery from an infected mother;
  • Recurrent attacks of genital herpes.

Prognosis

  • Genital herpes is currently considered incurable, but symptoms can be relieved with treatment;
  • During symptom-free periods, the virus returns to its dormant state. Symptoms recur when the virus is reactivated. Recurrent symptoms are not new infections;
  • The discomfort varies from person to person and from time to time in the same person. The first herpes infection is much more uncomfortable than recurrences.

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