Please also see Genital Herpes.

Genital Herpes is an infection of the genito-anal area with genital Herpes simplex virus (HSV) type 1 or type 2, a DNA virus of the Herpesviridae family. Genital herpes is usually caused by herpes simplex type II virus but can be due to herpes simplex type I virus which is more commonly associated with cold sores around the mouth. The incubation period of genital herpes is three to nine days if symptoms occur. However, up to 90% of primary infections may be asymptomatic.

The first attack of genital herpes, called primary infection, is associated with generalised illness which can be severe. The external genital skin becomes red and painful and there are typical blisters called vesicles.

Genital Herpes Pictures:

Early genital herpes

Genital Herpes Picture 1

This picture shows an example of the early stages of the herpes rash. The cluster of vesicles all appear to be on the same red base. This is different from the rash of chicken pox which has an individual vesicle on a red base.

 Genital Herpes - Cluster of vesicles

Genital Herpes Picture 2

Genital herpes sores may be clear, fluid-filled blisters that develop in an area of redness. The herpes virus is active, and transmission is likely.

Genital Herpes - Vesicles

Genital Herpes Picture 3

The clear fluid in the sores eventually becomes cloudy and yellow as pus forms. The genital herpes virus is active, and transmission is again likely.

Genital Herpes - vesicles develop pus

Genital Herpes Picture 4

This picture shows typical genital herpes lesions on a penis, including vesicles and ulceration. Because the number of lesions is extensive this may be a first outbreak of genital herpes for this person. Typically, the first genital herpes outbreak is worse than recurrent outbreaks.

Genital Herpes on a penis

Genital Herpes Picture 5

A further picture of herpes lesions in the later stages of healing. There is some crusting.

Genital herpes on the vulva

Genital Herpes Picture 6

Genital Herpes on the Vulva

When the blisters open they become painful ulcers. Blood and viral culture tests are usually undertaken to confirm the diagnosis which is usually apparent to the doctor who will often commence treatment with an antiviral agent (e.g. acyclovir - Zovirax - Glaxo) before awaiting laboratory confirmation. At times the infection may be so painful, the illness so weakening or bladder emptying so difficult that admission to hospital is required.

Repeat attacks, called secondary herpes, are less severe than primary infections. They last for between five and ten days if left untreated. There may be symptoms of impending problems 12-72 hours before vesicle eruption, with tingling or burning sensations. Attacks are thought to be more common at times of stress. Treatment with an antiviral agent at the onset of warning symptoms will lessen or prevent attacks. Sufferers should abstain from sexual intercourse during attacks to save the partner from infection. Whilst individual attacks can be thwarted, there is no long-term cure. When attacks occur more frequently than six times in a year, there may be understandable depression. For the minority with such frequent attacks there is a place for regular twice daily acyclovir tablets.

If there is active genital herpes around the time of childbirth, the baby can be infected with severe consequences. It is believed that this is more dangerous with the primary infection. If there is evidence of genital herpes around the time of delivery, Caesarean section reduces the risks.  

Please also see Genital Herpes.

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