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Genital Herpes Definition, Risks, Symptoms, Prevention and Consult Doctor

Definition of genital herpes

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease or STD that is transmitted during vaginal sex, anal or buccogénital. Genital herpes is caused by viruses called herpes simplex virus (HSV) in which there are two types (HSV1 and HSV2). This virus affects the mucous membranes and skin, causing mostly benign manifestations. Some forms of herpes can be severe and widespread in frail patients (newborns, pregnant women, immunocompromised). Once the virus contracted genital herpes, there is life in the body and symptoms may appear periodically: this is called "herpes outbreaks."

Risks and consequences of genital herpes

Genital herpes now affects 2 million people in France. The impact on the sexual life and quality of life can be important when extensive or frequent recurrences (four to five outbreaks a year). In addition, herpes lesions favor the transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases. The health challenge is to minimize the transmission of genital herpes.

Women are the first victims of genital herpes which 60-80% of cases are related to the HSV2 virus.

Symptoms and origins of genital herpes

The development of genital herpes requires two phases:

The primary herpetic infection phase

This phase infects cells of the skin or mucosa after sexual contact, for example. The virus replicates and infects other cells.

The reactivation phase or recurrence

The virus can remain dormant for many years and reactivate with more or less significant symptoms (burning, itching, lesions ...).

Two types of virus are involved, but HSV2 is usually responsible for genital herpes, while HSV-1 is found in the herpes labialis infections or "cold sore".

What are the symptoms of genital herpes?

The symptoms of genital herpes vary from one person to another. The primary infection may be asymptomatic (no symptoms) or be accompanied by signs such as pain or itching before the appearance of lesions. Lesions are in the region of the vagina, anus or penis and begin with a rash with vesicles (small transparent bubbles).

Subsequent outbreaks occur at varying rates but can be disabling. The symptoms are the same as those of the initial thrust and last 7 to 10 days. A tingling sensation may precede the rash.

With what he does not confuse genital herpes?

The cold sore or fever blister is associated with a virus from the same family, the HSV1. However, both viruses can indifferently achieve the genitals (genital herpes) and the face (herpes labialis). Thus, a patient with a cold sore may well infect her partner during a buccogénital sex.
Other causes of genital ulcers or lesions require medical care: any genital lesion so requires consultation and diagnosis (syphilis, HPV ...).

Does it possible to prevent genital herpes?

The only prevention is to avoid transmission of the virus. We must therefore abstain from genital sex, anal or oral sex with someone who has lesions, as they are not completely healed. Condom use does not completely protect the transmission of the virus (all contaminating areas are not covered). There is no vaccine against the virus of genital herpes.

If herpes outbreak with lesions and blisters, some steps may decrease or relieve symptoms: dry the affected areas, wear loose clothing, avoid touching the lesions and hand washing in all cases, not apply ointments without medical advice ...

When to consult?

Herpesvirus infections may be symptom-free or discreet: only a routine screening will put in evidence.
In general, any occurrence of genital warts or lesions should motivate a consultation with a doctor or dermatologist.

What does the doctor?

If lesions (primary infection or recurrence), the doctor can visually establish a presumptive diagnosis. When in doubt or confirm the diagnosis, blood tests and / or removal of lesions or vesicles with a swab, used to verify the presence of HSV1 or HSV2.

No treatment cure herpes, but antiviral drugs (local and systemic) can accelerate the cure of a herpes outbreak in some patients. The doctor will decide whether to prescribe or during a flare, long-term, prevention of relapses in patients with frequent recurrences and disabling.
The physician's role is also to support the pain, evaluating the triggering factors or circumstances suggest a psychological care if necessary and then recommend measures to reduce transmission (condom use during flare-ups in particular).

How to prepare my next appointment?

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