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What is Genital Herpes?


Life and relationships aren’t always rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes, we need to have difficult and challenging conversations with our partners. And chances are if you, If or someone you’re intimate with, has genital herpes, you’re searching for answers about living life with genital herpes.

What causes genital herpes?

Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection that’s caused by Herpes Simplex Virus type 2 (HSV-2) and Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 (HSV-1). HSV-2 is the most frequent cause; however, HSV-1 also commonly causes genital herpes. One of the more startling facts about genital herpes is there can be a transmission with no physical symptoms on the skin or genital mucosa (1). It’s also important to note that genital herpes is passed along by skin to skin contact like sex, so communication with your partner becomes even more critical. 

How common is genital herpes?

According to an estimation by the CDC, there are 776,000 new cases of genital herpes each year in the U.S, making it a very common STI. Twelve percent of the U.S population (aged 14–49) is living with HSV-2, the most prevalent virus that causes genital herpes. 

What are the symptoms of genital herpes?

Although genital herpes is a common STI, the good news is that outbreaks are uncommon. Most people with genital herpes will hardly, and sometimes never, encounter outbreaks, so many will go untreated. The physical symptoms of an outbreak can include ulcers or open sores found on the genital areas as well as the anal region. Swollen lymph nodes, fever, and body aches can also occur, but usually only during the primary outbreak (2). After the initial outbreak, subsequent outbreaks usually aren’t as intense, and usually, only include skin ulcers and pain. 

Although the transmission of genital herpes can happen with no physical symptoms, it’s important to note that during an active outbreak, the chances of transmitting it to others are the greatest. 

What is the treatment for genital herpes?

There may not be a cure for genital herpes, but there are ways to limit or contain outbreaks. The most well-known treatments are acyclovir, famciclovir, and valacyclovir. These antiviral medicines are outstanding treatments for genital herpes. And these treatments may stop or lessen the severity of an occurrence when taken at the earliest sign of an outbreak. They can also be taken daily to decrease the frequency of outbreaks(3). If you believe you have symptoms and need treatment for genital herpes, talk to your doctor about safe treatment options for you.


1. STD Facts – Genital Herpes (Detailed version). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Published January 31, 2017. Accessed April 4, 2019.
2. Herpes simplex virus. World Health Organization. Published January 31, 2017. Accessed March 18, 2019.
3. WHO Guidelines for the Treatment of Genital Herpes Simplex Virus. Published 2016. Accessed April 4, 2019.