Genital herpes is an infection caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). In 80% of cases, the disease is caused by HSV type 2; in 20% of cases – HSV type 1. It is worth noting that HSV type 1 is the causative agent of herpes simplex (the so-called cold on the lips).
Infection with genital herpes
Infection with genital herpes is possible through sexual contact in the vagina, mouth and rectum. The most infectious are people with symptoms of the disease. However, the most common infection occurs from persons with asymptomatic disease. In addition, it is possible to transmit infection from a sick mother to the fetus during pregnancy.
Other methods of infection are unlikely. Therefore, the cause of infection can not be toilet seats, swimming pools, baths, general dishes and towels.
Incubation period of genital herpes
The incubation period for primary genital herpes ranges from 1 to 26 days (most often 2-10 days).
Symptoms of genital herpes
There are primary genital herpes (the first case of the disease) and relapse (the second and subsequent cases of the disease).
The first symptoms of primary genital herpes are usually burning, pain and swelling in the affected area.
These symptoms may be accompanied by indisposition, fever and headache (as with the flu). After a few days, small bubbles appear, filled with clear liquid.
Pic 1 Genital herpes at the stage of vesicles, photo. © Illustration provided by permission of the publisher BINOM.
The bubbles burst with the formation of painful red sores. If the sores are located on the genitals, painful urination is possible. Rashes heal within 14 days.
Pic 2 Genital herpes at the stage of ulcers, photo. © Illustration provided by permission of the publisher BINOM.
The recurrence of the disease occurs more easily in comparison with the primary genital herpes. With relapse, there is usually no malaise, fever or headache; rashes less. Infections, hypothermia, alcohol use and emotional stress contribute to relapse. Relapses, as a rule, occur in the same place. Rash on relapse heals faster – within 7-10 days.
Patients with primary genital herpes and relapse (that is, patients with symptoms of the disease) are most contagious.
Very often, genital herpes is asymptomatic. In this case, infection of sexual partners is possible in the absence of symptoms.
Complications of genital herpes
The most serious complication of this disease is neonatal herpes, which can cause the death of a child or persistent neurological disorders. The probability of herpes newborns is highest when infected with genital herpes mother in the last 3 months of pregnancy.
Prevention of herpes newborns
To reduce the risk of herpes newborns allows the determination of antibodies to HSV in pregnant women and their sexual partners. If the pregnant woman does not have antibodies to HSV, and the sexual partner has, they are recommended to refrain from sexual intercourse (including oral sex) without a condom in the last 3 months of pregnancy.
When symptoms of genital herpes appear, a cesarean section is indicated immediately before delivery. Prophylactic treatment with acyclovir, started shortly before the expected delivery, allows you to avoid a caesarean section for pregnant women with frequent recurrences of genital herpes.
Diagnosis of genital herpes
With typical symptoms, the diagnosis is based on the clinical picture. In doubtful cases, resort to laboratory tests. Laboratory tests used to diagnose this disease are divided into two groups: (1) methods for detecting HSV and (2) methods for detecting antibodies to HSV. For methods of detecting HSV, the material is taken directly from lesions suspicious of genital herpes. The test material for detecting antibodies to HSV is blood.
Methods for detecting HSV are used to answer the question: are rashes in this patient genital herpes? Methods for detecting antibodies to HSV answer the question: is a person infected with HSV (including asymptomatic disease)? Moreover, among the methods for detecting antibodies to HSV, the most informative are methods that detect antibodies to a specific type of virus (type 1 or type 2).
Treatment of genital herpes
Modern methods of treatment do not allow to completely get rid of HSV. Outside of relapse, the virus is in an inactive state. When immunity is weakened, genital herpes recurs. The treatment accelerates the healing of the rash, reduces the risk of recurrence and reduces the release of the pathogen, but cannot completely destroy the virus.
The basis of the treatment of genital herpes are antiviral drugs – acyclovir, valacyclovir and famciclovir. At the same time, valacyclovir and famciclovir are more modern, but also more expensive drugs compared to acyclovir. Local application of antiviral drugs (in the form of creams and ointments) is ineffective.
1. Commercial names of acyclovir: Acivir, Acyclovir-Acre, Acyclovir BMS, Acyclovir Hexal, Virolex, Herperax, Herpesin, Zovirax, Lizavir, Lovir, Medovir, Sufravira, Cevirin, Cyclover, Cycloxax;
2. Commercial names valacyclovir: Valtrex;
3. The commercial names of famciclovir: Famvir.
Taking antiviral drugs, started in the early stages of the disease (when only burning and pain are concerned, but not yet a rash), can prevent the appearance of rashes.
If the rash has already occurred, antiviral drugs shorten the healing time of the rash. With frequent relapses, prophylactic treatment of genital herpes is possible (within a few months).
In some cases, treatment is prescribed, supplementing antiviral therapy (immunotherapy, fortifying drugs, physiotherapy, etc.).
Prevention of genital herpes
Prevention comes down to using condoms for casual sex.
If you have genital herpes (even if you currently have no symptoms), you should warn your sexual partner and have sex with a condom. Remember that infection is possible even in the absence of rash.