Genital Herpes

A virus related to the same one that causes cold sores of the mouth causes herpes infections. They produce a similar complex of symptoms, such as local skin or mucous membrane irritation followed by crops of painful blisters that rupture and leave painful, shallow ulcers. The sores can become infected or persist for weeks. The distinction is this herpes infection affects the genital area and is spread through unprotected sexual contact, including oral sex.

The first or primary infection is usually rather severe, with more persistent sores, fever, malaise and other generalized symptoms. As with cold sores, the virus lies dormant in nerve cells between outbreaks, only to recur weeks, months or years later. It is most contagious during an active outbreak, but there is evidence it can be spread during a dormant period as well.

There are now medications that can control the symptoms, particularly if started early.

Home Care for Genital Herpes

  • Since this is a sexually transmitted disease, all efforts at prevention are very important.

  • Avoid intercourse during outbreaks, use condoms and avoid high-risk sexual activity.

  • If the diagnosis of genital herpes is doubtful or not yet confirmed, you may be treated as though you have the condition since early treatment is most effective. Medications are generally very safe, even if it is not herpes. We will call you to confirm any positive test results. You may also call us back in 5 days for the final test report if you do not hear from us.

  • Protect the sores by wearing loose fitting lightweight cotton underwear. Your provider may prescribe some pain relieving topical medication. Do not use for more than 3 days as it can produce local skin sensitivity and irritation. Women sometimes find that urinating in the shower or bath reduces the pain associated with this activity.

  • Take your medication as directed. Sometimes this can be up to 5 times per day. It will not cure the disease, but can significantly reduce the symptoms. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also be taken as pain relievers if you are not sensitive to them.

  • Follow up with your personal physician for further care and advice. Women should be sure to get regular PAP exams, as there may be an association between herpes virus infections and certain cancers of the cervix.


Call or Return If Any of the Following Occur:

  • You develop a significant or persistent fever

  • Swelling and pain become more severe despite adequate treatment

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