Herpes – genital; Herpes simplex – genital; Herpesvirus 2; HSV-2
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted viral infection affecting the skin
of the genitals.
Herpes is caused by two viruses:
– Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1)
– Herpes simplex virus type 2
HSV-1, the virus responsible for common cold sores, can be transmitted
through fluids from the mouth. It is responsible for some cases of genital
herpes cases. HSV can spread from the mouth to the genitals during oral sex.
HSV-2 causes most of the genital herpes cases. HSV-2 can be spread through
secretions from the mouth or genitals.
Herpes simplex virus (HSV) is spread from one person to another by
skin-to-skin contact. The virus is shed from visible sores, blisters, or a rash
during outbreaks, but can also be shed from the affected area between outbreaks
HSV is transmitted to the area of skin with which it comes into contact.
There are also some cases by which other types of contact can spread HSV. For
example, a variant of herpes, known as herpes gladiatorum, can be passed on
during body contact sports, such as wrestling.
Because the virus is transmitted through secretions from the mouth or genital
tissue (mucosa), common sites of infection in men include:
– Inner thighs
– Shaft and head of the penis
Common sites of infection in women include:
– Inner thighs
The mouth can also be a site of infection in both sexes.
Research suggests that the virus can be transmitted even when there are no
symptoms present, so that a sexual partner without obvious genital herpes sores
can still transmit the illness. In fact, asymptomatic spread may actually
contribute more to the spread of genital herpes than do active sores.
For people with no prior contact with HSV-1 or HSV-2, initial infection
involves both whole body (systemic) and local symptoms.
Generalized symptoms include:
– Decreased appetite
– Muscle aches
Local symptoms include repeated eruptions of small, painful blisters filled
with clear, straw-colored fluid on the genitals, around the rectum, or covering
nearby areas of skin. Before these blisters appear, the person may experience
increased skin sensitivity, tingling, burning, itching, or pain at the site
where the blisters will appear.
When the blisters break, they leave shallow ulcers that are very painful.
These ulcers eventually crust over and slowly heal over 7 – 14 days.
Enlarged and tender lymph nodes in the groin may accompany an outbreak. Women
also may develop vaginal discharge and painful urination. Men can develop
painful urination if the lesion is near the opening of the urethra.
Once a person is infected, the virus hides within nerve cells, making it
difficult for the immune system to find and destroy it. Within the nerve cells,
the virus can remain dormant for a long period of time, which is called