Genital Herpes

What is it?

Genital Herpes is a viral infection that lives in your skin. It can cause small, painful blisters on and around the mouth, groin, vagina, penis, or anal area. These blisters usually heal within a few weeks, though you may have new blister outbreaks later on. Genital herpes is very common – about 1 in 6 people in Canada have genital herpes, though many don’t know they are infected.

How can you get it?

  • You can get herpes through oral, vaginal, or anal sex with a partner who has herpes. The infection is transmitted when your mouth, vagina, or anus comes into contact with the skin or your partner’s mouth, vagina, or anus.
  • You are more likely to pass herpes to another person when you have an outbreak of blisters. However, herpes can also be transmitted when you are not having a blister outbreak.

How do you know if you have it?

Most people who have herpes don’t have any symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they may include:

  • Tingling or itching in the genital area
  • A cluster of small, painful tiny blisters on or around your mouth, vagina, penis, anus, or groin.
  • A tingling or itching feeling on or in your mouth or genitals.
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever and headache. Many people develop flu-like symptoms before their first outbreak of herpes blisters.

How is it treated?

There is no cure for herpes. However, there are medications that can help decrease both the number and duration of blister outbreaks.

How can you test for it?

Genital herpes is difficult to test for unless you have a blister outbreak. While there is a blood test that screens for genital herpes and cold sores, the test can’t tell which of the two infections you’ve been exposed to. This isn’t very helpful, since most people have been exposed to cold sores as children. If you do have a blister outbreak, a healthcare professional will take a swab and test it for genital herpes.

How can you help prevent them?

You can reduce your risk of getting genital herpes by using barriers such as condoms and dental dams during sex. If you have genital herpes, it’s a good idea to avoid sexual activity during a blister outbreak.

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