Genital herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Around 20,000 cases are diagnosed in genitourinary medicine clinics in the UK every year, and more cases are seen in general practice and gynaecology clinics.
There are two strains of the herpes simplex virus – HSV-1 and HSV-2. Type 2 (HSV-2) causes venereal herpes (Genital herpes)
After an initial outbreak, genital herpes lies dormant in the body in between attacks. The virus is passed on during sexual contact, whether oral, vaginal or anal.
Within a week of contact with an infected person, a red, painful rash appears on the genitals or nearby. The rash soon blisters, and the blisters burst, releasing fluid. This is full of new virus particles, so this is the infectious stage of the illness, when it can be passed to another person. There is a risk of passing it on from when the rash appears through to when the last blister has burst, scabbed and dried.
During this active infection phase, the person usually feels feverish, unwell and exhausted. Lymph glands in the groin enlarge and become sore.
There is a range of antiviral drugs, taken as tablets, that will reduce the severity of an attack. Although there is not yet a cure.
The pain of genital herpes does not respond well to ordinary painkillers. This is because the pain is from irritation to the nerves that are affected by the virus. Other drugs, including the tricyclic antidepressants, or carbamazepine, used to treat epilepsy are often effective. These treatments are available from your GP or local genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic.
The main complication is pain. Difficulty urinating (passing water) may be bad enough to require a catheter (a narrow plastic tube) into the bladder to release the urine. A pregnant woman with active genital herpes at the time of childbirth may need a Caesarean section to prevent the infection being passed to the baby.
Recurrent attacks are not uncommon. The frequency of recurrences may be reduced by long-term treatment with anti-viral drugs.
source NHSDirect 151204