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Genital herpes

What is genital herpes?

It is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the herpes simplex viruses type 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2). 

How is genital herpes spread?

It is transmitted through sexual contact of any type with a person who has the disease. In particular, it is transmitted through contact with a herpes lesion on the skin, with saliva (when herpes labialis is present) and with genital secretions. Rarely, herpes can be spread even when there is no visible skin damage. However, it is not transmitted from toilets, bed linen, towels or swimming pools.

How can the possibility of transmission of genital herpes be reduced?

If one of the two partners has a history of genital herpes, the chances of transmission are reduced by avoiding contact during the phase with symptoms of active infection. The correct use of a condom during contact helps to limit transmission. Of course, the virus can be transmitted from areas that are either not covered by the condom.

What are the symptoms?

Usually the first infection with the herpes virus manifests itself with painful blisters in the genital area, which break, form a crust and subside in about a week. There may be swelling and pain in the lymph nodes in the area. The infection often recurs, at an unpredictable time, usually with no or very mild symptoms. The virus remains in the body for life, but sometimes relapses decrease with time.

How is the diagnosis made?

The diagnosis is clinical, however, it can sometimes be confirmed by examination of fluid from the blisters and/or a blood test for antibodies to the herpes virus.

Is sexual intercourse allowed?

The possibility of transmission of the virus is high when there are symptoms of active infection. Rarely, transmission can also occur when the person does not have active herpes. It's a good idea to use a condom, as it can reduce the chance of transmission.

What is the treatment of genital herpes?

In extensive cases, herpes infection is treated with the use of antiviral drugs that reduce its intensity and duration, as well as with the simultaneous administration of local treatment. In mild cases, only topical treatment is sufficient to relieve symptoms. In the case of very frequent recurrences (more than 5-6/year), the dermatologist may suggest a suppressive treatment where the patient receives daily a small dose of antiherpetic medicine for several months.

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