Genital Herpes Symptoms And Testing

Herpes Simplex: A Common Disease with Serious Implications

Genital herpes is a common viral infection spread through sexual activity. The virus is passed through skin to skin contact and through all forms of commonly practiced unprotected sex. Kissing, foreplay, anal and oral sex are all as capable of spreading herpes as is vaginal sex. Condoms provide some degree of safety, but are unlikely to provide complete security for most people under most circumstances.

Facts of Genital Herpes

Oral and Genital Herpes

Herpes is caused by two closely related variants of a single type of virus: herpes simplex virus type-1 and type-2. HSV-1 usually causes cold sores and other oral irritation. HSV-2, however, is the more common virus involved in genital herpes. Both are, under most circumstances, non-life-threatening, and in fact they often present no symptoms at all. In these cases they are detectable only through testing.

Symptoms of Herpes

However both forms of HSV are capable of causing recurring outbreaks of sores, with related symptoms. The most common symptoms of genital herpes include small open sores clustered on the vagina or penis, on surrounding skin, on the anus, and even on the buttocks. There can be accompanying cold-like symptoms: fever, ache, itching, burning from urine contact on the sores, swollen glands, and, in rare cases where the sores interfere with the urethra, difficulty in urinating or even rare cases of blockage.
The sores associated with genital herpes are the most common and quickly recognized symptom.

Genital herpes have certain associated risks. Herpes increases the chances of contracting HIV. Under certain circumstances herpes also can infect a child in the process of birth. Under most circumstances, however, herpes are a highly infectious life-long nuisance once contracted. Herpes flare-ups can cause repeated discomfort. Open sores can develop secondary infections, leading to scarring and occasionally to greater dangers.

There are treatments to reduce the discomfort of HSV-2. There is no cure, however. Once contracted the disease remains with you for life. A confirmed diagnosis means that even during times when you are not presenting symptoms, you are a carrier and may pass the disease to others.

How to Find Out if You’re Infected

The one sure way to establish whether you’re infected is to be tested. If you have reason to believe you’ve been exposed to HSV type-2 the only reliable way of confirming the infection is through blood tests or through sampling of fluids from the sores. These tests must be performed by medical professionals: no home testing system is in production at this time.

One of the most vital reasons for testing is to confirm that an infection is HSV, rather than another STD. Syphilis and other STDs can present similar symptoms, and can do far more damage over time. By taking a blood test for HSV you can start the process of ruling out other conditions that might require more attention.

Once you’ve confirmed that you are infected you can begin the process of learning how to manage the disease responsibly, without spreading it to others. The social obligation of practicing safe sex and informing partners can become an automatic part of your sexual behavior.

Finding Counseling and Testing

While your primary care provider can offer testing and counseling, many people would prefer to deal with another doctor during the testing and initial educational phase. In many cases the best answer is to get a referral for a reliable clinic dealing in STD testing, and proceed from there.

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