Genital herpes is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It causes herpetic sores, which are painful blisters (fluid-filled bumps) that can break open and ooze fluid.
Causes of genital herpes
Two types of the herpes simplex virus (HSV) cause genital herpes:
HSV-1. This type usually causes cold sores, but it can also cause genital herpes.
HSV-2. This type usually causes genital herpes, but it can also cause cold sores.
The World Health Organization stated that in 2016, about 3.7 billionTrusted Source people under age 50 years had contracted HSV-1. In the same year, around 491 million people ages 15 to 49 years had an HSV-2 infection.
The viruses enter the body through skin abrasions or mucous membranes. Mucous membranes are the thin layers of tissue that line the openings of your body. They can be found in your nose, mouth, and genitals.
Once the viruses are inside the body, they incorporate themselves into the cells. Viruses tend to multiply or adapt to their environments very easily, which makes treating them difficult.
HSV-1 or HSV-2 can be found in bodily fluids, including:
Recognizing the symptoms of genital herpes
The appearance of blisters is known as an outbreak. On average, a first outbreak will appear 4 daysTrusted Source after contracting the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, it can take as little as 2 days, or as much as 12 days or more, to appear.
General symptoms for those with a penis include blisters on the:
buttocks (near or around the anus)
General symptoms for those with a vagina include blisters around or near the:
General symptoms for anyone include the following:
Blisters may appear in the mouth and on the lips, face, and anywhere else that came into contact with areas of infection.
The area that has contracted the condition often starts to itch, or tingle, before blisters actually appear.
The blisters may become ulcerated (open sores) and ooze fluid.
A crust may appear over the sores within a week of the outbreak.
The lymph glands may become swollen. Lymph glands fight infection and inflammation in the body.
The viral infection may cause headaches, body aches, and fever.
General symptoms for a baby born with herpes (contracted HSV through a vaginal delivery) may include ulcers on the face, body, and genitals.
Babies who are born with genital herpes can develop very severe complications and experience:
It’s very important to tell a doctor if there’s a current genital herpes diagnosis or HSV is contracted while pregnant.
They will take precautions to prevent the virus from being transmitted to an unborn baby during delivery. If there are herpes blisters along the birth canal, the healthcare team may opt to deliver the baby via cesarean rather than a routine vaginal delivery.