Genital herpes is a common contagious illness caused by the Herpes simplex virus (HSV). It affects 16 percent of the population aged 14 to 49 years.
Genital herpes is an infectious blistering inflammation of the genital area, around the anus, and the upper part of the thighs. The virus in the body can cause primary and recurrent disease. The latter is also called herpes episodes.
Genital Herpes is Highly Contagious
Because you have a fair chance to get infected with the herpes virus, I advocate regular home tests, even if you don’t have the symptoms yet. It is fast, painless, straightforward, and confidential.
The reason for a test is that it’s entirely possible that no signs of the illness may be present. Many people are not aware of their infection and pass the virus on their partner.
On the other hand, symptoms die down within 10 to 13 days, but infectivity persists in the next 10-12 days. That is the so-called asymptomatic virus emission period that gives infected people a chance to pass on the infection accidentally.
Therefore, you can acquire genital herpes from a person who does not show clinical symptoms.
The spread of the virus is assisted by the fact that those who have once got HSV can become infectious at any time. Due to a prolonged symptom-free period, some forgot that they carry the virus, so they can inadvertently transmit it.
What causes genital herpes
Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted disease that comes from a sexual partner who has the infection. The cause of genital herpes is Herpes simplex II. (Herpes simplex genital) virus. The virus can enter the body via small mucosal lesions.
The gate of infection in women is the vulva, the vagina and the uterus, and the skin of the buttocks, the throat, and the penis in men. Viruses are reactivated at times and come back to the skin surface causing dermatitis.
When the virus once entered the body, it will remain there throughout a lifetime.
The antibodies eliminate dermatitis itself, but they are ineffective against viruses residing within the neurons. Due to antibodies circulating in the blood, repeat outbreaks are milder than the first. Therefore, repeated outbreaks can remain asymptomatic, but the infectivity of the disease does not change.
Genital Herpes Symptoms
The first symptoms most commonly occur after the 12th day after infection but maybe no symptoms develop at all, or the genital herpes symptoms may occur months or years later.
Fever and enlargement of lymph nodes, burning pain, tingle, itching may appear before the skin symptoms.
Typical skin lesions are redness and swelling, with small, initially clear blisters. The blisters will soon get filled with pus and will eventually burst. In their place, painful ulcers remain. The sores will heal in about ten days. Occasionally, new blisters appearing on the inflamed skin, which may prolong the healing time. Sometimes, the blistering stage is absent. In women, vaginal discharge is common.
The symptoms may be milder, especially in those who have obtained partial protection by already having cold sores (Herpes simplex virus type I).
Returning inflammation does not occur to everyone. For most, the outbreak is milder than the first disease. The severity and frequency of the explosions may decrease over time. In 80 percent of the cases, we have at least one recurrent outbreak. Atypical forms of appearance are common.
At least 60 percent of the infected individuals are free of symptoms. Naturally, they are also able to spread the disease.
Reasons for recurrences
The reactivation of viruses is the cause of the repetitive outbreaks of genital herpes, which is the result of the weakened immune system.
Recurrences may have both physical and psychological reasons.
Physical causes may be fatigue, other genital infections, menstrual periods, large amounts of alcohol, chocolate, sunburn, immune depletion, etc. Psychological causes may be anxiety, persistent stress, which also increases the risk of recurrence.
Sometimes, the virus spreads to the cerebrospinal fluid and the tissues surrounding the brain and may result in meningitis. Meningitis is life-threatening especially when these symptoms develop: changes in vision, photophobia, drowsiness, and seizures.
It is a life-threatening complication. It can lead to coma and death. However, viral meningitis is rare.
Complications occur in people with a weakened immune system. Urinary retention, which is mainly due to painful urination, can be common.